How to be a good employee

As I travel around the country meeting people and experiencing many different types of aviation operations, there is a common complaint I hear from employees. Employees complain regularly about their bosses, peers, or the company they work for. We have to ask ourselves; is this a legitimate, justified complaint?

Aviation technicians are highly skilled professionals. I fully respect the industry and all the people in it. Aviation maintenance technicians progress through their aviation maintenance career by enhancing their technical knowledge and skills by means of technical training, on-the-job training and self-improvement. It is mandatory to improve technical skills in order to grow into better technicians.

However, what about interpersonal skills (soft skills)? Most technicians are not formally trained in this area. Unfortunately, many companies or technicians themselves do not make an effort or take the time to train employees in the soft skills area. Soft skills include communications, teamwork, conflict resolution, time management, delegation, management understanding, and more. All the skills are non-technical and everyone needs to improve their soft skills to enhance safety and efficiency in operations. Therefore, today it is vital to recognize that soft skills are a critical piece to running smooth and efficient aviation operations.

Management’s perspective

Let’s look at this situation from management’s point of view. I have been in management just about my entire aviation career and I have seen many incidents of employee negativity. Here are some examples:

• A company spends money and time to provide a company function such as a summer picnic or a Christmas party. These functions are to promote teamwork and to show appreciation. Yet many employees simply do not show up to these functions. By not showing up, the employee is sending a very clear message — they don’t care about the team, the company, and/or their boss.

• When I was visiting one company, pizza and soda were provided to each employee every Friday. Two of the technicians complained to me by saying, “pizza again!”

• Another company took the entire staff, including their spouses, to Disney World for the weekend, paying for the hotel, meals and an all-day pass. Two employees complained to their boss, asking,“Do we have to go?”

• One company boss invited their top performers to a five-star hotel for four days every quarter. In this particular incident, the location was the Waikiki Beach Hotel in Honolulu, Hawaii. During the dinner, the boss went around to everyone’s dinner table, visiting and making small talk. One couple complained to the boss that the hotel quality and meals were not up to their standards.

After seeing incidents like those above, we soon realize that maybe employees are at fault as well. Yes, there are bad bosses out there and I have seen plenty of them. This is not a game of blame. What we need to concentrate on is how we can become better team members for the company we work for by simply doing the right things.

Manage your boss

The importance of learning how to manage your boss can’t be overemphasized. In today’s busy aviation industry, employees are becoming increasingly more responsible for maintaining good working relationships with their bosses. Ultimately, how well you manage your boss will have more direct bearing on your current working conditions and your future career moves than your education and expertise.

Here are the 10 commandments for effective boss management. Please keep in mind that the same principles will apply to your peers as well:

1. Have a good grasp of your own strengths and weaknesses, as well as your boss’s strengths and weaknesses. You’ll know where you two complement each other, where you conflict, and where you need help.

2. Know both the work needs and the emotional needs of your boss. When they are legitimate needs such as loyalty, feedbacks and support, provide them without having to be coached. Never criticize him or her in front of others. Never underestimate him or her.

3. Understand the rules of team play. Be willing to be a good team player. Your individual contribution has value, but it’s greatly enhanced as a part of the group effort. Help your boss become a good team leader.

4. Learn how to build trust. Show your boss you’re trustworthy. Demonstrate your trust in him and he’ll come through for you. Let your boss know when he/she has violated your trust, or he/she has gone beyond the call of duty.

5. Keep the lines of communication open. Give him/her feedback on their performance. Ask him/her questions and rely on and his/her guidance. Don’t take his or her criticisms personally.

6. Share your expertise, innovation and creativity with your boss. He or she can learn from you, too. He or she relies upon you as a problem solver and as a source of ideas and skills.

7. Take the initiative, look for solutions to problems and avoid complaining.

8. When problems arise, be straightforward in dealing with them. Develop the confidence and skills to discuss problems with your boss and, if necessary, how you expect his or her behavior to change. Always stay objective, concise, professional and calm.

9. If your boss is trying to help you, use him or her as a mentor or networking source. Even good bosses need managing in spots where they’re weak. Find out where your boss needs help. Reward his or her investment in you by performing well. Volunteer for extra projects.

10. Show your boss you understand the duties of management and leadership by incorporating as many of these qualities as you can into your present role. Support his or her role as manager and leader.

Following these 10 steps will make us all better employees. We have an obligation to the companies that we work for to improve our soft skills so that we can make a positive difference.

J.D. McHenry is the President of Global Jet Services. He has been involved in numerous aviation maintenance and flight operation programs for more than 31 years. His background includes aircraft manufacturer, corporate flight operations, FAR 91 & 135 operations, aircraft management, repair stations, and fixed base operation. He holds and A&P, IA and Doctorate of Business Management. Global Jet Services goal is to lead the way in aviation maintenance training standards. Global Jet Services and FlightSafety International are business partners offering the “Shared Resources” program. For more information, visit

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D.O.M. magazine is the premier magazine for aviation maintenance management professionals. Its management-focused editorial provides information maintenance managers need and want including business best practices, professional development, regulatory, quality management, legal issues and more. The digital version of D.O.M. magazine is available for free on all devices (iOS, Android, and Amazon Kindle).

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