21 Traits of the Alpha Employee

The Alpha Employee in the Office

The Figure 4 – My Favorite Wrestling Move

It was my first day on the job, and I was ready to take the office by storm.

I walked into my very first staff meeting and instantly noticed that it wasn’t being run by my boss…but by another co-worker.

This guy really seemed to be in command of the situation, and I was surprised to see the boss (who I really liked) sitting off to the side of the room.

When my co-worker came around to me, I decided to share my “brilliant idea” that I’d planned to lay on them my very first day.

As soon as I uttered my cost savings idea, the guy running the meeting said:

“God, you’re green.  That’s a stupid idea.”

Then the room filled with silence.

My pride and enthusiasm were torn to shreds

I instantly realized who the Alpha was in the office that day…and it wasn’t me.

The Alpha at the Office

So whose the Alpha Dog is your office?

Most employees can instantly name who it is.

I’m talking about the one that everyone looks to for leadership in tough times; the one who models the traits of what the ideal employee behaves like for the organization.

The Alpha sets the default behaviors for the rest of the office even if the employee handbook says something entirely different...particularly in these areas:

  • Checking your personality at the office door
  • Truly disconnecting from email while you’re on vacation
  • Talking about your personal life at work
  • Experiencing shame for not having the perfect answer
  • Keeping your head down and pay your dues
  • Making bold offers for change

Also the Alpha sets the tone for every staff meeting, influences the outcome of every significant project, and has a major impact on performance in meeting their annual goals.

People look up to the Alpha and most look to them as someone who has it dialed in and is doing things “right”.

They’re often a symbol of greatness for what they “could be” one day.

But there’s a downside.

What the Alpha Used to BeChimpanzees-alpha

When I started my career, the Alpha was the professional who dominated the conversations, got their way, and crushed by the opposition.

They’d work their way to the top by self-sacrifice (as well as sacrificing a few careers of others).

Their road to the corner office was paved with the blood of direct reports they stepped on as well as other executives they’d forced out through early retirement, RIF’s, and dramatic re-orgs.

Life as the Alpha was full of paranoia.  There was always a young buck lurking somewhere down the totem pole waiting to take your place.

To remain the Alpha you had to defend yourself daily and that sets off an immense amount of undesirable stress.  I can personally remember being afraid to go on vacation because I was concerned that someone would “steal” my new account right from underneath me or hijack credit for my successful project.

This path served it’s purpose and wasn’t all bad.

But now thankfully there is something more powerful emerging in the Corporate World…

The Emergence of the New Alphawho_to_hire1

The reign of the Alpha as we know it is coming to an end, and welcoming the rise of a new kind of professional….

The Old Alpha:

  • was isolated
  • saw everyone as a potential threat
  • obsessed over making strategic moves in the bureaucratic political structure of the organization

They experienced the Office as a chess match.

The New Alpha:

  • builds alliances
  • seeks collaboration
  • focuses on grass roots movements
  • and making bold offers

They see the Office as a place of possibility.

The New Alpha doesn’t focus on getting to the top, then defending their position; instead they focus on making an impact in their current role and letting the chips fall where they may.

They recognize if they don’t reach the level the want, they’ve got leverage and plenty of options.

The New Alpha gets a good night sleep while the Old Alpha stays up at night stressing over what move they’ve got to make next to stay a float.

And in case you’re wondering, I’ve been both…

The 21 Traits of the New Alpha

I’ve been putting a lot of thought into this, and I think you’re going to find this helpful.

Here are the 21 Traits of the New Alpha at the Office.

Identify which ones you find in yourself and then identify the ones you’d like more of:

  1. Grit – Recognizes that life’s not always easy and doesn’t expect it to be. When life get’s tough they don’t throw the towel in and say “that’s just the way it is”.  They respond with it’s just a matter of time”.
  2. Laughs (at themselves) – It’s almost impossible to make fun of the Alpha because no one can make fun of them like themselves.  They have no problem making jokes at their own expense.
  3. Optimistic – They’ve learned to be optimistic about working in Corp despite the red tape and frustration.  They know that optimists are higher achievers and have better health.    They realize that learned optimism is real and that you’ve got to work at it.
  4. Negotiates (in every moment)- The Alpha doesn’t just accept anything on their to-do list.  They rarely deal in “yes” or “no”.  They understand that there’s always a window to create a win-win versus win- lose.
  5. Listens Deeply – They practice listening for the real story behind the story.
  6. Self-Knowledge– They’re fully aware of their own strengths, passions, and values.  This knowledge allows them to make confident decisions about their career and know when to ask for help.
  7. Leads (before They’re Ready) – They show up at work acting like the boss even before they’re appointed to the position.  They embody the mindset of the business owner even from their cubicle walls versus being stuck the mindset of the employee.
  8. Speaks up – They’re not afraid to call out the elephant in the room.  Speaks openly about the taboo, insidious issue infecting the office (burnout, working conditions, a crushing work load)
  9. Vulnerable – Being vulnerable and laying it on the line is one of the most courageous things you can do at the office.  It’s the Alpha’s secret weapon for connecting in almost any situation.
  10. Tells a Good Story – They believe in the value of a well told story and don’t let knit-pick facts get in the way.
  11. Generous – Seeks to serve first before seeking gain.  The Alpha points out the strengths and contributions of others yet is not afraid to toot their own horn as well.
  12. Maintains Integrity – They know deep down that they must keep their integrity of everything else doesn’t amount to much.
  13. Lifts up Others – Only crushes them when playing on the corporate basketball and softball team.
  14. Takes InitiativeThey move a head in spite of their own fear to solve the problem plaguing the office.  They starts “doing” when everyone else is still waiting for permission.
  15. Rests – The Alpha doesn’t judge himself/herself or others for resting long and hard.  In fact, they look up to fellow employees that can ignore the judgement and call it an early night.
  16. Seeks Collaboration – They can go it alone but find joy in working with collaborators.
  17. Intelligent Risk Taking (and knows which risks to take) – The recognize a smart gamble when they see one and take pride in going for it.
  18. Intentionality – They avoid meaningless goals and sets daily intention for making things happen versus getting this done.
  19. Maintains Mentors – The Alpha identifies strong mentors along the way.  They know they have blind spots no matter how far they rise.
  20. Authentic – The Alpha hates compartmentalizing life.  They finds work much easier and more fulfilling when they bring their entire self to work.  A bright spot in their day is modeling this for others.
  21. Humility – The Alpha believes in karma and finds grounding and comfort in “this to shall pass”

As a next step, write down the top 1 Alpha trait the resonated with you.

Write it down on a post-it note and keep it beside your computer as a reminder of what you’d like to bring to your work day.

Please put in the comments below what else should be included in this list.

To your success!

Ben

PS: Found the article helpful? Please send the link to this article to two friends. It’s inspirational.

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9 Comments

  • Sonny Milholland

    Reply Reply June 19, 2013

    Encouraging Piece……..I want more! How do I get in on your valuable no-cost resources?

  • MARIO BANKSTON

    Reply Reply June 19, 2013

    THIS IS A GREAT READ, IN A WAY IT SOUNDS LIKE THE CORPORATE VERSION OF THE 48 LAWS OF POWER.

    • benfanning

      Reply Reply June 20, 2013

      Thanks, Mario. Happy to be considered in those ranks!

  • Johm-Michael

    Reply Reply June 20, 2013

    Nice work here, remarkable how much of this I recognize immediately, & a few things I’m still working toward. ;}

    • benfanning

      Reply Reply June 21, 2013

      Thanks, Johm! Another trait of the New Alpha is that they realize it’s always a work in progress 😉

  • Gwen

    Reply Reply September 3, 2013

    I liked your article. I’m 4 months into a new job that is very corporate and completely different than the job I had for the last 15 years. So I’m going to cut and paste your list so I can refer to it as I feel my way in this new “world”. (But you should let me be your proofreader.)

    • benfanning

      Reply Reply September 3, 2013

      Hey Gwen, thanks for your comment. Glad to hear that these are going to be great reminders!

      I think I’m going to compile of a list of my favorite typos for a future article, so if you’ve got a few let me know 🙂

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