You’ve often heard the words “work ethic” being bandied around. In fact, it has become one of the many phrases often included in many want ads and job descriptions, as a trait that you must possess so you can be considered for an open position.
Something about how you must have a “strong work ethic”, or something along those lines.
And then, once you are already part of the company or organization, they’d go on and on about how all employees must have a good work ethic so they can contribute to the achievement of the organization’s goals.
But what is work ethic, really? Is it a personal trait that must be possessed by individuals? Or is it a standard of behavior that everyone should follow so they can actually be of use to the organization?
- 1 DISSECTING WORK ETHIC
- 2 ELEMENTS OF A STRONG WORK ETHIC
- 3 HOW TO DEMONSTRATE A STRONG WORK ETHIC TO YOUR EMPLOYER
DISSECTING WORK ETHIC
Let’s start off with defining work ethic. There are so many definitions attached to the phrase. If we’re going to use a simple definition for work ethic, we could go with the one describing it as a set of moral principles that an employee uses in the performance of his job.
Another business definition describes work ethic as “the belief in the moral benefit and importance of work and its inherent ability to strengthen character.”
Basically, work ethic can refer to how you feel about your job or career, so it covers your attitude and behavior. It also pertains to how you do your job, or the responsibilities that come attached with it. The level of respect you show your co-workers and people you come into contact with at work, and how you communicate and interact with them, also defines your work ethic.
From that definition, we can also surmise that work ethic is also used to refer to key characteristics that you should have, and they include honesty, integrity, humility and accountability, among others. These traits or characteristics will dictate how you will react or do in a certain situation, or when you are faced with a particular circumstance. How you respond will reveal the kind of work ethic that you have.
Obviously, work ethic is important in defining your identity. It becomes part of who you are, and there is no doubt that a huge part of how people will view and know you will come from what they perceive to be your work ethic.
Why is it so important to have a good and strong work ethic? Ultimately, it will show the strength of your character and present you as an all-around positive person. In the workplace, this will be to your advantage. If you are looked at favorably by your co-workers and superiors, you’d have better chances at advancing your career. You’d be viewed as someone who can interact with, and even lead, other people very well. This show of leadership will increase your chances of rising up the ranks of the organization.
From the point of view of the organization, it will be to its benefit to have employees with solid work ethics, because their traits and personalities will contribute to the attainment of the vision and goals of the organization.
Work ethic, on its own, isn’t going to be of any use to any organizational setup, though. If you want to become effective as a contributing member of the organization, then you should have a good and strong work ethic. Then, and only then, can you hope to be viewed and recognized favorably by your employer.
ELEMENTS OF A STRONG WORK ETHIC
But when can you describe your work ethic to be good and strong? Several authorities named key factors, and we’ll try to name all the elements that serve as a solid foundation for a strong work ethic.
Integrity should permeate every aspect of your job, from how you deal with your clients to how you treat your co-workers and your superiors. It means doing the right things, at all times, even if no one is watching, much less your boss. Its greatest impact is seen in your relationships with the people around you, which is why integrity is seen as one of the most important ingredients of Trust.
According to Robert Shaw, you can earn a certain level of trust if you are able to achieve results while demonstrating concern for others and acting with integrity the whole time. Hence, the formula:
Results + Integrity + Concern = Level of Trust
Acting with integrity, in this context, also means behaving in a consistent manner. For example, if you are part of a team, your behavior should be in tune with everyone, in accordance with a clear set of guidelines in working together toward a clear purpose.
Emphasis on Quality of Work
If you show dedication and commitment to coming up with very good results in your work, then your work ethic will definitely shine. While some employees do only the barest minimum, or what is expected of them, there are those who go beyond that.
They do more, they perform better, and they definitely go the extra mile to come up with results that surpass expectations. Clearly, these employees are those who belong to the group with a solid work ethic.
The word “professionalism” is often seen as something that is too broad or wide in scope, covering everything from your appearance to how you conduct yourself in the presence of other people.
It is so broad and seemingly all-encompassing that many even go so far as to say that professionalism equates having a solid work ethic.
Work ethic is something that emanates from within. You can tell an employee to do this and that, be like this and like that, over and over, but if they do not have enough discipline to adhere to the rules and follow through with their performance, then there is no way that they can become the productive employees that the company wants.
Discipline involves focus, dedication and determination on your part to do what you should.
Sense of Responsibility
The moment you became part of the organization and assigned tasks and duties, you have a responsibility that you must fulfill. If you have a strong work ethic, you will be concerned with ensuring that you are able to fulfill your duties and responsibilities. You will also feel inclined to do your best if you want to get the best results.
Sense of Teamwork
As an employee, you are part of an organization. You are simply one part of a whole, which means you have to work with other people. If you are unable to do so, this will put your work ethic into question.
Work ethic is also continuously shaped by relationships, specifically on how you are able to handle them in achieving goals, whether shared or individual.
HOW TO DEMONSTRATE A STRONG WORK ETHIC TO YOUR EMPLOYER
It is one thing to proudly declare that you have a strong work ethic to your boss, but it is another totally different thing to convince him that you really do. In fact, bosses are not inclined to take such claims at face value, instead wanting you to convince them with actions and not just words.
So what are the things that you can do in order to convince your employer that you have a strong work ethic as you claim?
1. Put the company first.
Trying to demonstrate a good work ethic if you don’t actually care about the company will be acting, and no matter how good of an actor you are, it won’t be long before you are discovered. You need to actually have the good work ethic before you try to show it to the world.
And this starts with putting the company first in your thoughts and actions. Once this is done, half the battle is won.
2. Manage your time wisely.
Time management is not limited to being on time for work and meeting deadlines. It actually involves more than that.
- Be punctual. They say that punctuality is one of the first indicators of professionalism. Brett and Kate McKay pointed out several reasons why punctuality is very important. Important points were made on how punctuality strengthens and reveals your integrity while also demonstrating your level of discipline, humility and dependability. It is also one way to show your respect for others, while allowing you to build your self-confidence and always put your best foot forward. For many managers and supervisors, lack of punctuality is a deal-breaker. If a new employee is habitually tardy in coming to work, this is likely to drive them to have a low opinion of the capabilities of that employee to continue working in the company.
- Maintain a good attendance record. It’s not just your punctuality and how you observe work hours that will be closely looked into. A high rate of absenteeism certainly does not bode well, even if it is unintentional or there are unavoidable circumstances, such as if you are frequently ill that you have to take days off from work. If this is the case, it is important to take up the matter with your superiors in order for both parties to come up with a solution that will benefit everyone. If there are truly unavoidable circumstances causing you to miss work, bringing it up before you are confronted shows that indeed you are concerned about the company and it makes your bosses more open to suggestions that you might have. An example would be allowing you to work remotely from home. Your bosses will know if you are taking a day off work to avoid performing a particularly rigorous or complicated task. This will not reflect positively on you, and any chance you might have of getting a raise or a promotion won’t look too good.
- Observe deadlines. Between an employee who barely beats the deadline, rushing at the eleventh hour to get things done and finishing his task just as the clock hits 12, so to speak, and an employee who finishes his task well ahead of time, without any rushing and stressing out, who will be more favorable in the eyes of the supervisor? Obviously, it is the second employee.
If you are able to finish your task ahead of time, that means you are able to manage your time wisely. That will also give you ample time to make any adjustments, if necessary, since there is still some time left before the actual deadline. Better yet, you should take the initiative to set your own deadlines.
If there is a timetable provided by the company, it will be to your advantage to create your own timetable. This will enable you to prioritize better. You’ll be able to avoid distractions easily, and any potential delays will be dealt with before they can actually arise.
3. Be honest.
Although the phrase may seem a bit of a cliché nowadays, there is still truth to the adage “Honesty is the best policy”. The esteemed Warren Buffet said it best when he cited three qualities to look for when hiring new people: integrity, intelligence and energy. There is no way that a person can hide his dishonesty forever. Sooner or later, it will manifest itself, and that will not do your work ethic any favors.
The biggest problem that a dishonest employee will encounter is the lack or absence of trust from other people. Therefore, if you want to go far in your career, or go up the hierarchy in the organization, then you should make it a point to be honest in your dealings so that you can be trusted by your seniors and fellow colleagues.
Since we are on the topic of honesty, other things that you can do are:
- Give honest feedback. This shows that you are capable of objectivity. Managers, co-workers and even clients will value you more if you show that you are able to provide honest feedback. Sure, this may be a sensitive area, which is why you have to take extra care on your delivery of your feedback. If you are able to get your message across without openly offending anyone and igniting hostilities, then that will prove even further the strength of your work ethic.
- Own up to your mistakes. If you did something wrong, it is best to man up and own up to it, instead of denying all blame and, worse, pinning it on other people. This is a sign that you are unable and unwilling to take responsibility, a sure sign that your work ethic is less than solid.
4. Maintain a balanced and consistent performance in performing your work.
An employee with a strong work ethic is a productive employee. This productivity is seen in the pace of work and your persistence in maintaining that pace. If you can work at a fast pace, that means you’ll be able to accomplish more within the limited time that you are given. You are not the type to give up just because you are exhausted or you suddenly feel lazy. You do not quit until you have completed what you have started.
As an employee or worker, your main concern is to perform your core functions, or the tasks and duties that are in your job description. Therefore, that is the first thing that you should focus on. It doesn’t make a whole lot of sense if you score high in punctuality and have a perfect attendance record, but you’re only churning out what is needed, instead of producing great work.
- Do quality work. Employers want employees who care about the quality of the work that they churn out, going a step above and beyond the minimum of expectations with regard to the quality of their work. An employee who is committed to quality in his own work is an employee worth keeping because, at the end of the day, his work will form part of the overall quality of the output of the organization.
- Be organized. A disorganized employee is seen as someone who may have trouble meeting deadlines and producing quality work. It’s similar to how your personality is often judged by your personal hygiene. If you have dirty nails or unkempt hair, you’d be immediately judged – especially by those you are meeting for the first time – to have problems keeping things together. It’s the same thing if you are disorganized, say, in how you maintain your work area. If you are working with tools and machines, leaving them lying around may even result to accidents and injuries. Being organized shows how you are able to prioritize, and will also provide an indication of how you can contribute to the achievement of the goals and objectives of the company.
- Be consistent. You have to continue working at your peak, getting the best results, even when no one is watching. Some employees, in their desire to impress their bosses, will only visibly put in more work if they know they are being watched. This is not how you demonstrate a strong work ethic. On the contrary, it will only paint you as pretentious, which is one of the worst things that can taint your work ethic.
It is “do, not say”, and “act, not tell”. At the end of the day, it is your output and your work that will speak the loudest volume about your work ethic. Show great results, and you’ll be seen as someone with a great work ethic.
5. Always show respect.
Respectfulness is, sadly, becoming more of a rare commodity these days. But it remains to be one of the traits that supervisors are looking for to indicate whether an employee has a strong work ethic or not.
Using proper etiquette is basic for humans, which is why it is valued greatly in the workplace. Even a slightest shift away from proper etiquette can potentially destroy a relationship that has been cultivated and nurtured for a very long time.
What if you are under too much pressure? Does that not give you a bit of a leeway, so you can use it as an excuse to be rude or let your temper fly?
In the workplace, there should be no excuse to be disrespectful to other people, whether it is with a peer or a subordinate. Tight deadlines? Impossible demands from impossible clients? They’re part and parcel of a regular “day at the workplace”. Therefore, you should not let your temper get the better of you.
- Stay calm and poised. Good and rational decisions are harder to come by if anger is clouding your judgment. If you show that you are frazzled, this will also fluster the others, and soon you’ll be dealing with a roomful of panicking and co-workers.
- Be diplomatic. Choose your words carefully, and be careful not to offend others. Even a misplaced word here and there can potentially lead to a blowout, which you’d definitely want to avoid as much as possible.
- Listen to others’ opinions. Even if you might not 100% agree with them in the end, giving them time to voice out their opinions and listening to them is already a sign of respect. Besides, you may just find solutions in those opinions.
- Avoid gossiping and harmful talk about, and against, others. Idle chit-chat is unavoidable at the workplace, but there is a difference between chatting idly about this and that, and gossiping maliciously about other people. This can potentially blow up and lead to conflicts and even bigger problems. Negative talks will definitely affect teamwork if it’s not avoided.
- Show fair treatment to others. If you are in a supervisory position, you might not be aware that you are favoring one worker over the others. If you are dealing with clients, you might be showing a bias toward one client while acting passively toward others. This inequity is an indication that you may have a skewed judgment, especially when it comes to dealing with bigger issues.
Demonstrate grace under pressure, and you can definitely convince your boss that you have a work ethic strong enough to merit further notice during promotions to higher positions.
6. Follow the rules.
If you can’t follow even one simple rule, such as keeping your work area neat and orderly, or properly clocking in when you get to work, your boss is likely to take that as a sign that you’d find it even more difficult to keep the rules that do matter.
How can you show that you are a law-abiding employee?
- Be aware of company policies. There’s bound to be an employee handbook or company manual that covers policies, rules and regulations that employees must abide by. Make it a point to read through it and know the finer points, because you certainly cannot argue ignorance if, at some point, you are called out for violating a company rule. Making the effort to learn about these policies and regulations will also put you in a positive light. Your boss will see this as a sign of commitment on your part about wanting to do good in your work while sticking to the rules.
- Follow the dress code. This is another key characteristic of professionalism. Appearance may not be all that matters in the workplace, but it DOES matter to a certain extent, regardless of the actual work that you do. Even laborers and those who are doing manual labor have a prescribed dress code that they must adhere to, not just for purposes of safety at the workplace, but also as a member of the organization. As employees and workers, they are still representatives of the organization, and if you are able to dress properly, this will reflect positively to the organization.
7. Work with others.
No matter how much you think you are better at working alone, or that you can provide more and better results if you work by yourself, the very nature of being an employee of a company means that you are merely one of the cogs in a larger machine. Therefore, you have to work with the other employees.
- Cooperate. Cooperation is very important. Even if you have personal differences in opinion with a co-worker, or you do not see eye to eye about a matter entirely separate from work, you should still be able to cooperate and work together with him. Set aside those differences, at least for the time being. Your boss will appreciate you more if you are able to prove that you can separate the personal from work and still be able to cooperate with others.
- Socialize. Yes, you read that right. Socialization is also very important. You can’t be all work and serious talk all the time. Once in a while, you have to take a step back, relax, and socialize with your co-workers. This is one way to cultivate your social skills while strengthening your relationship with the other employees or members of the team.
8. Stay fit and healthy.
Believe it or not, being sound and healthy in mind and body also contributes to your work ethic. Let me explain why.
If you are healthy, you’ll be able to think more clearly, so you can make better decisions and exercise better judgment when doing your work. Being healthy also ensures that you won’t have a problem with your attendance record. You’d be able to report to work on time, and absenteeism won’t be an issue.
In the same manner, if you are fit and healthy, you won’t have problems socializing with your co-workers. You will also be in a positive mood, so tempers and frustrations will not get in the way.
Therefore, make it a point to exercise regularly. Eat your meals properly and maintain a balanced diet. Get out for some air once in a while. If you have vacation days, make the most of them, so you can rest your mind and body. If you’re the type to enjoy the great outdoors and commune with nature, make it a point to do that whenever you have the opportunity to do so. This will refresh and strengthen you for when you go back to work and carry on with your tasks and responsibilities.
If you think about it, these things are not all that difficult to do. In fact, they are relatively easy. It is the execution that most people find complicated. Still, it is a fact that building and maintaining a strong work ethic is not a walk in the park. It takes a lot for a person to prove that he has one, but if you are committed and dedicated enough, then you will no doubt be able to convince your bosses that your work ethic is one of the things that make you an asset of the company.