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Are you the flaky employee?

  • Story Highlights
  • Do you continually start projects at the last minute?
  • Do you take a liberal approach to the term "lunch hour"?
  • Or do you call in sick on a weekly basis?
  • If you answered yes, your co-workers think you're a flake
  • Next Article in Living »
By Mary Lorenz
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CareerBuilder

Editor's note: CNN.com has a business partnership with CareerBuilder.com, which serves as the exclusive provider of job listings and services to CNN.com.

As a student, you excelled in art, music, drama and creative writing, although your excessive tardiness and inability to finish a project by its due date kept you at a steady "C" average.

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Today, despite your creative genius, your chronic inability to prioritize and adhere to deadlines continues to curse you in your professional life.

It's not that you don't have good intentions; you simply have more brilliant ideas than you have time allotted to complete them. Even you have to admit you can be a little flaky sometimes, but is that so bad?

Not necessarily.

True, flakiness can be associated with odd behavior, unreliability and forgetfulness, but it's also often used to describe eccentric, artistic and innovative thinkers.

Dr. Leslie Bracksick, a career consultant and co-founder of a Pittsburgh-based executive strategy firm, defines flakiness as "the degree to which a person's behavior does or doesn't conform to the culture of the company."

"A 'flaky' employee may need better work habits, but may also be a free spirit with untapped creativity to contribute," Bracksick says.

Oftentimes, these people simply need to find a work environment where they can let their creativity and innovation run free. More often than not, the employee with these traits doesn't have the problem, the company does.

"I'd been consulting with a retail company who had a creative designer who didn't meet his budget or stay on project plans," Bracksik recalls. "But the problem was that he was exactly the type of person you'd want in that role."

Creative types may not necessarily conform to a company's culture, but it's that noncomformity and ability to think outside the box that makes them good at what they do.

In the corporate world, what is seen as "different" is often mistaken for strange or ill-fitting, and that is often an unfair assessment. Industries where the jobs require flexibility and spontaneity, such as advertising and entertainment, encourage such behavior, while flakiness wouldn't fly in jobs such as law enforcement or air traffic control, which require steadiness, focus, attention to detail and consistency.

"The ultimate question is, 'Is that behavior problematic?'" Bracksick says.

Someone who disrupts the flow of work, has a problem making decisions, is passive, shows poor leadership skills or has a short attention span can be a toxic presence in many office environments.

Certainly, if a person's behavior interferes with the goal of the company, the company needs to deal with that. But companies also need to realize that certain jobs will attract -- and benefit from -- people who are going to be different from the rest of the employees.

"In a manufacturing or process-intensive company, someone has to be working on research and development. If you have the right person for that job ... they'll likely be different from the other people," Bracksick says. "The key is to be ever mindful of what the goals of the company are."

Are You the Office Flake?

If you find that you continually start projects at the last minute, spend more time updating your MySpace page than you do on your upcoming presentation, take a liberal approach to the term "lunch hour," or call in sick on a weekly basis, chances are you're wreaking havoc on your boss and the co-workers who have to make up for your flaky behavior.

Whether you're not challenged enough in the current job you have or you simply find that the standard nine-to-five job doesn't jell with your schedule, perhaps you should try a career that's more in keeping with your personality traits.

As Bracksick mentioned, you may just have untapped creativity that you need to let out.

Sites like CareerPath.com, which offers personality and career assessment tests, may help you find a career that is more compatible with your unique interests and performance style. E-mail to a friend E-mail to a friend

Copyright CareerBuilder.com 2009. All rights reserved. The information contained in this article may not be published, broadcast or otherwise distributed without the prior written authority

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