How to Improve Your Work Ethic

did you know newsletter
  • Did You Know that employee engagement numbers in the workplace remain low and unimpressive? According to a 2017 Gallup poll51% of the U.S. workforce is not engaged. 
  • Did You Know that employers have a very difficult time finding employees with the strong work ethic that they really desire?
  • Did You Know that your work ethic plays a role in your employer’s bottom line?
  • Did You Know that if you were to improve your work ethic, you could potentially inspire others around you to do the same?
  • Did You Know that both co-workers AND management take notice when an employee's work ethic is exceptional?
  • Did You Know that you possess a unique opportunity to take the reins of your career and do something to be the change that is desperately needed in today’s workforce?
happy and professional employee

Employers like to hire certain types of people. You know this because there are times when you’ve been hired and times when you’ve not been hired. Even in a job market bursting with competition, it is still quite difficult to find qualified candidates who really care about the job they are being hired to do, much less care about the company that is paying them to do that job. Sometimes the vice-versa scenario is also true. Employees struggle to find companies who truly care about them or the effort they make to do their job well.

I get it. The world is tough. Not so nice. Lots of competition. Money matters. When business is good, you’re in. When business is bad, you’re out and job hunting again, struggling to pay your bills.

All that aside for the moment, suffice it to say, we just want to help you move your life and career forward and believe you can do this, in part, by having a dynamic work ethic – one that is constantly improving and showing signs of experience and maturity.

Here’s how you might go about making a difference by increasing your engagement with your job. Forgive me for pointing out the negative as well as the positive in these methods of showcasing your work ethic, but I wish readers to fully engage with all that is being inferred.

1)  Do not be lazy. Be energetic. Discover the joy of working.

Show an uncommon vitality when you enter a room. Whether you are engaged in customer service calls, marketing company products, doing tedious accounting work or any other task, find a way to enjoy it and do it well.

Do not be not lazy in your approach to work. Treat this instruction like one of the 10 Commandments of the Workplace. While in the office, don’t ever walk at a snail’s pace to your desk; rather, smile and move with purpose as you go about getting your work done.

Is your work more isolated? Do you sit all day doing the monotonous work of entering or manipulating data? Or stand all day ensuring the security of your environment?

Finding joy in these types of jobs can be a challenge, but it all comes down to attitude and finding something to break up the monotony or the lack of motivation you may feel at times.

laughing with coworkers

Try these suggestions:

  • Say good morning to a few more people than usual and be sure to introduce yourself
  • Take a slightly different route to your work area
  • Tell a story to make people laugh during your break
  • Invite a different friend or co-worker to lunch every week; always build new relationships while maintaining the old ones
  • Keep a healthy snack to enjoy at your desk (grapes, popcorn, pretzels, nuts, etc.)
  • Text a quick “thinking about you” note to family members during your morning (if the company allows time for quick texts)
  • Offer to get your co-worker something to drink
  • Get up and walk to the bathroom or the printer
  • Listen to music (if allowed and doesn’t compromise your ability to work/think quickly and accurately)
  • Choose talking in-person over texting or emailing because face-to-face interaction with others tends to improve your disposition much more than cellphones and computers
  • Step outside periodically just to look at the world and stretch your legs; invite a friend along
  • Checkout the company’s website and stay up-to-date on what’s going on; then share what you learn
  • Volunteer to help in any way you can (especially doing what no one else wants to do)
  • Step up and be a problem-solver
  • Brainstorm ways to make your tasks more efficient and effective; then take the initiative to share your new ideas 

And there’s still so much more you can do!

2)  Do not act miserable at work. Be a kind person who is more focused on others than on yourself.

Practice being just as courteous and considerate as you can possibly be to your co-workers and supervisors. Display a prepared-to-meet-and-talk-to-anyone type of attitude.

being considerate of others during meetings

Whether you are super tired, sad or simply feeling emotional about something going on inside or outside the office, do your very best to continue giving 100% at work. But if you can't, it may help to confide in your boss or a close co-worker so they will not assume that they are doing something to make you behave differently.

Be willing to engage with your co-workers! Some people think that doing great work is all there is to being a great employee, but how WRONG that way of thinking is. Doing good work, in and of itself, does not make you the ideal employee.

The engagement process also involves your interactions with others and what extra effort, enthusiasm, and even kindness you bring to the table.

3)  Do not be known for being unorganized, tardy, or unreliable. Instead, be punctual, dependable and organized!

  • Are you always running a minute or two behind everyone else in your circle?
  • Do you find yourself making excuses over what you couldn’t find or didn’t complete by the given deadline?
  • Are you the person people come to when they have questions or problems?
  • Are you the dependable one?

Tardiness can be difficult to conquer, but it can be conquered if you set your mind to change this bad habit. Add all your meetings and appointments to your daily agenda in MS Outlook, then set a 10-15 minute alarm. Set your phone alarm. Write yourself a Post-It note. Go to the bathroom 30 minutes beforehand instead of 5 minutes beforehand. Plan to arrive 3 to 5 minutes early instead of on-time, then plan accordingly.

time, timers and tardiness

If you are rigid, even compulsive, about remaining organized 24/7, you might be living out an OCD issue. If you are somewhat unorganized, you might be an average human being. Somewhere in the middle is probably a good place to be.

If you are less than organized or need to be more punctual, figure out how to make those important changes in your life. Do you need a briefcase? A planner? A clock? An assistant? (I’m serious about that one!) A file cabinet? A day off? A shredder? A white board? 

Whatever it takes, find a way to go there and make it happen. It can be a game-changer!

Being dependable and trustworthy are strong, positive traits for anyone to possess in life, yet because of them, one may deduce that you have a stronger work ethic than the next person – and that you may work harder than another would if given the same responsibilities.

Are you that person – the one always there and willing to step in and get the job done no matter what?

4)  Do not be rude and uncaring. Be polite, diplomatic, fair, and a good listener.

black professional woman
  • Are you approachable?
  • Do you walk around distracted, with your mouth closed and nose stuck up in the air?
  • Can you be trusted not to yell, fuss, or act completely annoyed with your co-workers and managers when they have issues?
  • Do people want to be around you?

The looks you give, your reactions, demeanor, words, and your willingness to listen and respond all play a role in how others will choose to interact with you and will affect your general reputation.

If you desire your career to go anywhere at all, you should be especially aware of this aspect of the work ethic. Don’t just speak offhandedly to people and be done. Be sociable and engage with your co-workers! Speak, ask good questions, listen, show respect and true concern, then do something constructive in response when possible.

5)  Don’t be unproductive. Don’t be a slacker! Let your performance be top-notch.

Work hard. Think hard. Be consistent. Always follow up – with everyone, on both problems and ideas.

weekly planner

Set priorities and check them off one by one. Start with the most difficult tasks; otherwise, they tend to get delayed indefinitely. Don’t go to the next until the first one is complete (or as complete as possible). When you finish, share what you have completed with someone else and be happy, even celebrate. Then start the next project or item on your agenda.

Let your approach to work include dedication, determination and discipline. Take ownership of your work, even while maintaining a sense of teamwork and setting the standard. See the job through to completion – emphasizing quality and excellence all along the way.

6)  Don’t ever act clueless, apathetic, or arrogant. Bring your intelligence, curiosity, myriad interests, and experience to the table. You never know how this will be perceived and received by management.

When you interview for a job, that’s the thing, you typically interview for ONE JOB, not multiple ones. However, as time goes by, opportunities outside of your specific job duties may arise in which you may showcase new or additional interests, skills, and knowledge. Don’t wait until a new job opportunity is on the table before you prove yourself; that comes beforehand. Step up each time you have the chance.

career - ready set go

Also, don’t be afraid to step out of your comfort zone! A little risk and fear generally go before doing something truly new and different. Opportunities to shine do not come along very often, so be ready.

Develop your skills (even those not currently used at your place of employment), read up on a variety of topics, increase your understanding of the company, its products, services and goals.

It’s so easy to text, “IDK,” or to say, “Don’t know, don’t care.” But what a poor impression this makes on others, even if it’s true. Instead, offer to investigate and do some research. Show some interest in something outside of your own little world! Engage!

Bragging comes a little too easily to most of us. But it is most assuredly NOT the way to win friends and influence people. Instead, brag about the successes of those working around you or wait for an appropriate time to share your own experiences, then do so with the utmost humility and enthusiasm, allowing your personality to shine through. Better to let your success and joy of living be revealed to your co-workers through a well-timed story than a quick, boastful comment and arrogant attitude over your accomplishments.

In Conclusion:

So, are you ready to work on your work ethic? Will you start today? Does it seem like too much effort and not enough return? You must decide for yourself. But I tell you the truth, hard work does have its merits. Are you willing to work toward creating a win-win situation for both yourself and your employer?

win win work situation


You are a job seeker. You show up at Brannon Professionals. You qualify for a job and get an interview. The client wants to hire you. So, we call your references. Your most recent reference tells us that you have an incredible and uncommon work ethic. We share that insight with the employer, and of course, who would not be thrilled with that kind of candidate? And you get the job!

woman competing and leaping into new job

But whether you get the job or not, it is a sign of strong character to have a good work ethic. And a candidate's character typically plays a role in the hiring decision, so always give your best!

Contact Brannon Professionals today to learn more about our clients who are seeking skilled, professional, and hard-working individuals to fill their jobs.