(CareerBuilder.com) -- It's easy to think you're a good worker. At least, you would like to think so.
You show up on time. You get your work done. You go home. Not much to it, right?
But have you ever stopped to consider that just because you're following the rules, doesn't mean you're doing a good job?
"The number one group who fall in the category of thinking they are good workers is the one who does what their job requires and no more," says Ian Coburn, author of "Choice - The Meaning of Life: How to Have More and Better Choices in Business, Relationships, Government and Life."
"These are the people that can do their job, fulfilling their duties to the fullest; however, they never go beyond. If something falls outside their job scope or they run into a bump, they run to management for help or to report the situation. In turn, they typically hurt the work of others because once they fulfill their duties, they wander around, disturbing other employees by visiting them, etc."
Many times, employees who aren't engaged and passionate about what they do are also the culprits of not working up to par, says Tom Gimbel, founder and CEO of Chicago-based staffing firm LaSalle Network.
"It's easy to simply go through the motions," he says. "Although many employees think they are excelling at work, many are simply doing the bare minimum."
But other experts say that it's not only the fault of the employee -- in fact, sometimes, workers believe they are doing a good job because their bosses don't tell them otherwise, says Vicky Oliver, author of "Bad Bosses, Crazy Coworkers and Other Office Idiots."
"People hate to be criticized and [bosses] hate to sound harsh. As a result, you have a situation where everyone is walking on eggshells," Oliver says. "Knowing the raise of a mediocre employee will be nominal, if existent at all, the employer goes light on the review, white-fibbing his way through it. The employee does not receive honest criticism. Then when the business slides a little more, the employee gets laid off, never sure why."
So, how can you be sure you're actually doing a good job, instead of just assuming?
Here are four signs to look for:
1. Give yourself an honest self-evaluation
Workers should honestly compare themselves with their fellow colleagues down the hallway. In the absence of top-down honesty in performance evaluations, it devolves to workers to evaluate themselves, Oliver says.
"The signs of doing good work are what they have always been: Bringing in new business, convincing a client to spend more money, figuring new ways to add value to an old service, closing deals, making sales and being well-regarded, both at your company and in your field," she says.
2. Ask the right questions
When employees don't take the time to ask specific question, they run the risk of not living up to expectations, says Joellyn Sargent, president of BrandSprout.
"The employee [should] ask specific questions when given an assignment [and not] wait until after the work is done," she says. "Questions like, 'What's the core problem that needs to be addressed?' or 'What's your biggest concern about this project?' will help uncover what the boss is really looking for.
"If an employee misses the mark and gets sent back to re-do the work, they need to be doubly sure they understand what's expected, or there won't be many more chances."
3. Keep ego in check
"Very smart and talented employees just [can't] get over the fact that they [are] smart and talented. These are the folks that always think they have a better way, overlooking the fact that the boss has reasons and accountabilities beyond their view," Sargent says.
"It's a real shame when these employees fail, because they should be highly successful. They block their own growth by refusing to take direction, or taking personal offense when coached on how to improve.
"My suggestion for people who might be in this group is to listen objectively to what you are hearing from your boss and co-workers. If you feel yourself bristling when your manager corrects you, or if you think, 'He just doesn't know good work when he sees it,' you might have an ego issue that is holding you back."
4. Evaluate if you actually enjoy your work
And if you don't, ask why, says Gimbell.
"Discerning your emotions towards your employer, positive or negative, is the first step to changing your work performance. Negative emotions towards your employer, work environment and duties lead to lower productivity, which leads to a mediocre work product.
"Changing your attitude can do wonders to increase productivity and improve your work product. Employees can find out whether they're doing their best work by simply asking their manager(s). Within most organizations, management will appreciate your efforts to improve and will, hopefully, give you an honest answer regarding your performance."
Once employees recognize they have been producing sub-par work, there are several ways to improve. Gimbell gives the following tips:
Set goals for the day/week/month/year, and create an action plan to achieve those goals.
Schedule regular meetings with your manager to discuss your progress.
Continue to evaluate your professional passions, and strive to do one thing each day to become better at what you do.
© CareerBuilder.com 2011. All rights reserved. The information contained in this article may not be published, broadcast or otherwise distributed without the prior written authority.