What employee traits do you value in your shop? Have you ever thought about this?

Just to be can-of-gasoline-on-a-bonfire dramatic, what if today it was announced that everyone in your company was terminated? All employees would need to be rehired based on how they contribute to your success and growth.

Would you rehire 100% of your current staff?


That’s fantastic!


Why not?

What makes or breaks the success of any company is the level of awesomeness of their employees. 

Part of that awesomeness comes from top-quality employee traits that a good team possesses.

Do you have what I call “deadwood” employees on your payroll? Deadwood employees are those staff members that just are constantly at the top of the cut list.

These knuckleheads aren’t contributing much to the velocity of your company’s success.

Sometimes you don’t even know why, but you never get around to doing what your gut tells you is necessary.

You just put up with these bozos.

Take the Employee Traits Survey

For this article, we’ll outline the ten key employee traits that should guide your outlook.

To me, these are the core values to use when thinking about your current staff and even some possible hires in the future.

For these employee traits below, I assigned each one ten points. That’s a total of one hundred.

If you use a standard letter grading system where anything above a ninety is an “A”, anything above an eighty is a “B”, and so on, what grade would each of your staff members receive?

For your staff, how many make the A or B list?

What about C, D or even F employees?

“It’s not what you preach, it’s what you tolerate.”, is one of my all-time favorite quotes and from ex-Navy Seal Jocko Willinek.

Are you tolerating below average in your staff? Don’t you think that this may be the boat anchor that is holding you back?


9-10 points. These are your go-to people for anything critical, as you know that they will consistently hit that home run for you. Everything runs on time, every time. Anything that is thrown their way is handled perfectly.

7-8 points. Then there is the “almost always” group. These folks almost always will be there or complete tasks on time. But sometimes, they just don’t quite make it.

5-6 points. These team members always struggle. They might be great for a bit but go through periods where you’ll have to constantly remind them about tasks or deadlines. They can do the work, but you’ll have to stay on top of them in order to see it finished.

0-4 points. Always late. In fact, they often miss work entirely and have an excuse for everything. I imagine your blood is boiling right now just thinking about them.

Work Ethic

9-10 points. These employees are like machines. No matter the task or circumstances they crank it out. They are always at the top of the charts for performance too.

7-8 points. They work hard, but sometimes you’ve caught them not being as productive as their past capabilities have shown.

5-6 points. I call this group, “clock punchers”. They are just here for a paycheck, and anytime near a break, lunch or the end of the day, you can see them drift into cruise control mode.

0-4 points. You have to always find tasks for them to do. They talk instead of work. Finding the right playlist is more important than finishing the job. If you can’t find them, they are probably in the bathroom.


9-10 points. These employees are the easiest to manage as you hardly have to talk to them at all. When they run out of things to work on, they will start helping someone else or even work ahead on future projects. All without asking. They solve their own problems.

7-8 points. They generally don’t need any follow up with management, but sometimes they have to be pushed a little bit. They work better when it’s busy, but when the schedule slows down, they tend to need more hand-holding. You always have the feeling they could do a better job if they wanted to, and you’ve probably had that discussion with them at least once.

5-6 points. Self-motivated? Not unless it is performance review time or they know they might be in trouble. Your managers are on their case sometimes. They seem to always have another gear that they can drop into but rarely use it. They have actually said to you, “If you pay me more, I’ll work harder.”

0-4 points. Your managers spend a big chunk of their day making sure these employees are actually working and doing a good job. They can’t do the next task unless someone tells them what to do. If you have used the word “babysit” with an employee at least once, they are in this group.

Team Player

9-10 points. They always have your back. Whatever is needed, they are quick to jump in and help out. If you need someone to stay late or work on a Saturday, you know all you have to do is ask. No argument.

7-8 points. They will help out but are quick to mention their extra support come pay raise time. They help the team overall, but altruism isn’t their first thought.

5-6 points. Will grudgingly help out but won’t do so enthusiastically. Can be a drawback when added to a team when the task isn’t something they are comfortable with or if they work with a new group of people. Won’t ever be your first choice to pick for a team but is accepted as the “fill-in” to round out some numbers for the group.

0-4 points. Doesn’t play well with others. Other staff members have actually complained about this person being grouped with them as they negatively affect their performance. They may have problems working alongside other people in your shop. You have to keep them separated.


9-10 points. This person exudes friendliness and positivity all the time. They only have an “On” switch. Just having them around makes everyone feel good. When they aren’t there, it seems like something is missing.

7-8 points. They are mostly positive. If things are going well, they play along too. When times are tough, they will probably step up. But, they’ve let you down a time or two as well.

5-6 points. They are split about half and half with being positive or being a Grumpy Gus. Mood swinging staff members live in this group.

0-4 points. You would like to remind them that Teddy Roosevelt said, “Complaining about a problem without proposing a solution is called whining.” These folks bring everyone down usually. They like to argue and will often point out other people’s deficiencies but won’t admit to their own. They are the disrupters, and not in a good way.


9-10 points. This rating is for the best active listeners on your staff. These people are great communicators. Whether in person, on the phone, by email, or maybe even with a text. They raise the bar in your shop with how they handle challenging situations by using effective communication to sort it out. Your customers love them.

7-8 points. These folks do a good job. Sometimes they are little off in how they write or speak, but for the most part, they communicate adequately. Most people probably fit into this camp.

5-6 points. You don’t quite understand these people. If they are giving instructions, there often will be a bunch of follow up questions. You may have had to discuss with them better ways to communicate in a review before. If this is your sales or customer service team, you may be in trouble with orders being delayed because the instructions have been inaccurate.

0-4 points. Their inability to listen or communicate has brought big challenges to your staff. Management has stepped in more than once with hard discussions about missing information, how they talk or treat other employees, maybe even the language they use at work.


9-10 points. Ambiguity is commonplace in the decorated apparel industry. Most orders use familiar decoration methods but are completely custom in nature. Great staff members can be flexible in how they think and solve problems. They just need a starting point for their rocket ship of awesomeness to launch. This group is your creative thinkers that solve problems.

7-8 points. They can be flexible, but sometimes need some guidance or help to make sense of the challenge. These folks like to involve others in the decision or instructions.

5-6 points. Willing to give new things a try (with an “I guess” after you ask), but will always start off very skeptical that it will work out, or be a success. They won’t comment with suggestions or ideas initially but afterward, will have a long list of opinions.

0-4 points. Very uncomfortable with anything they haven’t tried before. They hate anything new and will even go out of their way to sabotage or argue about the process change so they won’t have to try it. Sometimes they have been known to refuse to learn something new, even though it is in their best interest.

Customer Service

9-10 points. Whether it is internal or external customer service, these staff members are the very best. They work proactively to solve problems for others. Support is the blood in their veins.

7-8 points. They like helping, but only up to a point. Sometimes they appear disorganized, and they may have made a mistake or two along the way.

5-6 points. They are slow to respond with answers and may need some follow up to actually get the challenge handled. Even then, there may be another question or two that’s missed so that prolongs the challenge resolution.

0-4 points. Usually, they aren’t the person you turn to for answers. In fact, they seem insulted that they have to help out at all. Sometimes they are “too busy” to help, even though you know they have the time and the answers.


9-10 points. Highly skilled in their area. They are the best you have in the company, and in fact, could teach the material. You may even advertise that they work in the shop, as they are known for their skill level.

7-8 points. Not quite the masters of the subject, but they are still skilled enough where they can work independently without much help. They have started to work on the more difficult tasks, but are doing them carefully.

5-6 points. They have gained basic skills but there is a big chunk of things they are still learning. They just need the experience and some training to be good. You don’t give them advanced or complicated projects yet.

0-4 points. Either they have just started with their position, or they operate at a very basic level. Brand new employees live here while you are training them.


9-10 points. They bring a lot more to the table than what you initially hired them to do. In fact, you are constantly amazed that they even work for your company. Customers give you business just because they are in your building.

7-8 points. Normally, they outshine the work group or department by leaps and bounds. They constantly suggest ideas for change. When someone asks “Hey, whose idea was that?”, the response is more often than not from this particular employee. They often are driving the bus for the changes that you need.

5-6 points. They make a difference because of some sort of positive cultural aspect they bring to the mix in your shop. You like keeping them around because they are such a wonderful, happy person. Meetings go smoothly because of their sense of humor. They often bring in home baked cookies, or stop off and grab a box of doughnuts “just because”.

0-4 points. They sometimes do something nice for others, but it isn’t consistent. They are generally liked and are pleasant to work alongside every day. Give zero points if this person rates at this level, but is a pain in the butt.

Take the Survey!

Here’s the next step. Take the survey with the focus on your staff. Or, for the brave, have your staff complete it too and compare the answers.

Remember to keep your bias about each person out of your thinking. You may really like or dislike someone on a personal level. Don’t let that color your rating. Think of actual examples for each trait before you record a score.

Click Here to Download

Use the definitions above for the rating. Remember a score of 100-90 is an A, 89-80 is a B, 79-70 is a C, 69-60 is a D, and 59 or less is an F.

  • How do your troops stack up?
  • After you’ve graded a few people, where are your weak spots?
  • For anyone that is rated a D or an F, what is the argument for keeping them on staff?

Next Steps

After you have the grades, think about how you can use this as a tool for improvement in your shop. What strategies can you implement to keep the grade A team members happy and motivated? How can you push your B and C staff folks to bump up to the next level?

Your managers should be actively working on improving your staff in deficient areas. There needs to be a plan. Remember, “a goal without a plan is a wish.”

Anyone that is rated as a D or an F, think about your hiring process. Why did you decide to hire them at all? Can you change something in your hiring practices to get more A and B type people?

Remember, this is a subjective tool. Your score was entered for each person based on how you think they align with the number rating for that trait. People can improve, or you can get more information about them if you were unsure on how to rate them.

Discuss this with your leadership team and use the tool to make a positive difference with your staffing decisions.

You can do it!


“An employee’s motivation is the sum the interactions with his or her manager.” – Bob Nelson

“Corporate culture matters. How management chooses to treat its people impacts everything – for better or for worse.” – Simon Sinek

“I think it is absolutely essential that people that work for a company need to feel that they are part of something bigger – that it’s not just a job.” – John Mackey