Three Signs You’re A Bad Employee

Bad Employee Signs To Avoid
Written by James C. Gammage

It took about 10 years for me to discover that I was a bad employee and had no business working on someone else’s payroll. The journey began when I first crossed the podium to collect my college degree. After four years of studies, 21-year-old me awoke to the terrifying realization that I had no useful skills for the world of tomorrow, or at least, that’s how it seemed.

There was the journalism thing, but knowing the reporters and editors that I did from class and my work as a stringer, failed to sell that as a welcome proposition. Most of them were train-wrecks and likely destined for an early grave.

Eventually my career led me down several roads: paralegal, teacher, retail manager, business analyst. I hated each and every one. Even the jobs that started out okay eventually turned into an exercise in boredom and bitterness.

Finally, in 2010, I connected with one of the few journalists I ever met who had his crap together. Living in a town with an institutionalized newspaper that put out their daily 365 days per year while bleeding buckets of money left a significant opportunity for Michael Tilley to turn his contacts and business experience into a lean, mean, online newspaper called

At TheCityWire, Michael gave me opportunities that the newspaper industry had refused me for a number of years. Feature writing, political reporting, news, and a chance to cultivate a name and sources of my own in the local community. It was a tremendous growth experience professionally, and after coupling the skills I learned there with my freelance blogging work, I realized the best thing to do would be to freelance full time.

One year removed from TheCityWire, I am now earning the most I ever have in my life. It hasn’t always been easy, especially when it comes to retirement, taxes, and health insurance, but I’m finally at that place where every business owner wants to be: where it makes more sense to go it alone than to join a payroll. With that said, here are my top signs for how to know you’re not employee material. 

It’s Not You, It’s Them.

There’s not a doubt in my mind that some of the jobs I’ve held down truly sucked. However, much of that was because of the attitude I brought in with me. After working for myself five full years, I can look back now and realize that something always ended up being wrong with my employer. 

The Reality? No one is perfect, but I often zeroed in on my employer’s imperfections because, deep down, part of me wanted to hate the job. And I wanted to hate it because I didn’t wish to be anyone’s employee. When you have this attitude, you should redirect the passion wasted on hate toward finding something you can do on your own. You’re much more likely to find a calling that way. 

You Don’t Like Being Kept In The Dark.

Working for someone always brought with it the fear of being laid off. I’d seen too many people blindsided by their employer over the years to ever feel truly comfortable in my position. As a result, it infuriated me to watch the typical cycle of a layoff. First, the rumors would start. Next, the denials. Finally, the bosses would announce a “company wide” meeting and promptly do exactly what they had denied they were going to do — make cuts. I got to where I didn’t trust a word that came out of anyone’s mouth. As a business owner, I’m drawn to the control factor — to knowing exactly what it takes to be profitable, and then putting a plan in action to make sure that happens. I don’t like being intentionally kept in the dark, and I’m always skeptical of anyone in a position of power. That’s one of the big reasons why I make a lousy employee.  

You Hate Excuses.

Follow any politician long enough, and you’ll quickly realize that the idea of taking full credit when something goes wrong just never occurs to them. Likewise, in business, it always seemed that the people who were the worst at their jobs ended up with the most power, prestige, and pay. Employee-me believed that was because they were always handy with excuses and willing to pass the buck to someone beneath them. I don’t know if that’s true or not, but it was my perception. As a business owner for the last five years, I’ve loved the idea that the buck stops with me — that there’s no one to blame when things go badly. While it means you sometimes have to “face the music” on a project or goal that didn’t turn out how you envisioned, it also means that no one else can take credit for your successes but you.

Being a bad employee isn’t a bad thing unless you stay in a  position for which you’re not suited. Either change your attitude, your career, or start your own business. But don’t be complacent.

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About the author

James C. Gammage

James C. Gammage is an aspiring science fiction writer who also serves as part of the active duty US Army. He is currently working on a degree in clinical psychology and is an avid reader of all things science fiction.