Best Ways You Can Demonstrate a Strong Work Ethic

Get ahead by working hard

Business woman demonstrates a strong work ethic with the results she has achieved and is presenting to a group.
••• andresr / Getty Images

While some people just appear born with a strong work ethic, most people have to work to gain that focus. Some people who are extremely hard workers don’t achieve a positive work ethic naturally. They find it difficult to focus and work, but they do it anyway.

What Does a Strong Work Ethic Look Like?

An employee’s work ethic is judged based on his output. A person who displays a strong work ethic takes these actions:

  • Shows up on time, every day. This doesn’t necessarily mean that you need to work a 9:00 to 5:00 job. But when you're supposed to be at work, you're at work.
  • Does what needs to be done. A person with a strong work ethic will tackle the less pleasant tasks as well as the interesting ones. It may not be “your” job, but if it needs to get done, you will make sure it gets done. And no whining!
  • Works through bad situations. A person with a strong work ethic doesn’t call in sick because of a mild cold or bad weather. However, if an employee is really sick or there's a whiteout blizzard, he shouldn't share his germs in the workplace or drive under unsafe conditions. It's not fair to his coworkers or himself.
  • Gets the job done. A good work ethic means you deliver the expected finished product at the end.

What Does a Manager See When an Employee Has a Strong Work Ethic?

Most managers prize employees with a strong work ethic. They reward them properly with raises, praise, and promotions. They give hard-working employees the best projects because they’ve earned them.

However, bad managers sometimes see people with a good work ethic as a resource they can exploit. If you give the task to Heidi, she’ll whine and do a lousy job, but if you give the same task to Jane, she’ll work extra long hours and knock it out of the park.

This can result in overburdening Jane and praising Heidi for simply successfully completing a standard task.

Managers need to managing their strong-work-ethic people carefully so they don’t overburden them. Eventually, every employee burns out, and the last thing you want to do is cause your best worker to quit because she can’t get a break.

Managers should reward their hard workers with promotions, praise, and raises—not more grunt work that no one else wants.

Managers should use their hard workers as examples for their other employees. This doesn’t mean a constant comparison, as that will breed resentment, but as a standard for what they should expect from others. If Jane can come to work every day, on time, and Heidi doesn’t have any extenuating circumstances that make on-time work impossible, the manager needs to hold Heidi to that standard.

How Do You Gain a Strong Work Ethic If It Doesn’t Come Naturally to You?

If the siren song of your iPhone is too much for you to handle, and you find yourself checking messages rather than working, you may think you’re a hopeless case, but you’re not. You just need to plan how to accomplish tasks. Here are five suggestions:

  • Turn your phone off and store it in your desk drawer.
  • Make a list of tasks you need to do and stick to them—don't do anything else until you've completed the list. Place this list where you'll see it.
  • Ask your coworkers to say something if you’re off task. You don't need to ask them to say something like "get back to work." You can use a simple code word: "Task, Heidi."
  • When you finish your tasks and don’t know what to do next, ask your boss or a coworker how you can help.
  • Install a time tracker on your computer that will shut you out of your time-wasting websites after a pre-programmed amount of time. For instance, if you waste time on Facebook, you can set a 20-minute limit for the day, and when the time is up, it’s up.

    All of these actions are easy by themselves, but they can feel difficult to do as a group. Pick one and start with it, and when you’ve mastered it, add the next. You’ll gradually build a strong work ethic.