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Work ethic is the attitude to perform a job with high standards while aligning with the values of the workplace. It has to do more with the individual’s inherent nature than a skill that is taught. However, good work ethic practices can be learned, which we will explore in this article. 

What Is A Work Ethic?

As defined by the dictionary, work ethic is the principle that hard work is intrinsically virtuous or worthy of reward. Ethics can also play into the company culture of the cohesiveness and supportiveness of a team. Work ethics include: 

  • Accountability
  • Comradery 
  • Consistency
  • Dedication
  • Dependability
  • Determination
  • Fairness
  • Honesty
  • Humility
  • Integrity
  • Kindness
  • Loyalty
  • Organization 
  • Professionalism
  • Punctuality
  • Respect
  • Responsibility
  • Timeliness
  • Trustworthiness

Why Is Work Ethics Important?

Work ethics help keep everyone accountable for their actions, which makes working as a team easier and more efficient overall. Additionally, companies with a specific ethical code can then use that code to guide the decisions they make to help their clients, their employees, and the company as a whole. Some of these ethics can bleed into policies like: 

  • Advertising 
  • Anti-discrimination
  • Anti-harassment 
  • Client interaction
  • Hiring
  • Safety

At a more personal level, work ethics are beneficial in these ways: 

What Is A Good Work Ethic?

A good work ethic means that a person behaves in those manners positively and greatly. Examples include: 

  • Taking accountability for all actions
  • Working with a team
  • Delivering high-quality work regularly and consistently
  • Being dedicated to a project or the job
  • Being reliable and dependable 
  • Seeking improvement wherever possible
  • Being honest and trustworthy 
  • Showing humility 
  • Making fair decisions
  • Showing kindness to clients and other employees
  • Organizing their workspace and projects in a way that others can follow
  • Showing up for work on time
  • Being respectful to clients and other employees

Signs Of Poor Work Ethic 

The above list shows many behaviors indicative of a good work ethic. Below is a list of behaviors that show poor work ethic and why they should be avoided. 

Always Late

A person who is always late will inevitably make other people on the team cover for them because they cannot be responsible for tasks if they are not there, costing the company time and money. Their inability to be on time is proof of their low work ethic. 

Has Lots of Excuses

Someone who always has excuses for why their work is not done slows down projects. The same goes for if these excuses are for why they are always late. At a certain point, these excuses will become less believable. 

Low Engagement

A person whose poor work ethic means they do not engage with their work adequately ends with the work finished in a sub-par manner or is not completed at all. This puts the responsibility on others to make up for it, costing the company time and money again. 

Shows a Passive-Aggressive Attitude

Someone who is passive-aggressive will cause conflict in all areas of the workplace. They are hard to work with and, in general, not a good team player. 

Resentful With Peers 

A person who gets resentful of their fellow employees will also cause conflict because they will either be trying to one-up their peers or be looking for ways to make their peers look bad to cover up their poor work ethic. 

Invokes Customer Complaints

Some people go out of their way to cause customer complaints, and some people do it while others do it unintentionally. Either way, it is a sign of poor work ethic when they are constantly causing problems. 

Frequently Gossips

Another sign of a poor work ethic will be in the person who is always gossiping. This not only means they are paying attention to the gossip more than their job, they are also going to cause problems with the gossip. 

How To Improve Work Ethic? 10 Proven Ways

Below are some ways to improve your work ethic, even if the basics are already there. This list will get the ball rolling for some great new habits to increase overall work ethic and, thus, performance at a job. 

Treat Your Body Right And Exercise

Part of having a good work ethic is being in the right headspace and being comfortable with your body. This means eating the right food and exercising appropriately. You will not be able to be your best at work if you don’t take care of yourself first. 

Start Your Day Strong

Getting the day started right is essential to getting the work day started right. A strong start to the day will increase your work ethic on the job. As we discussed in the previous point, you need to take care of yourself before you can do your job. Do not run ragged trying to work, be reliable, and be reasonable with yourself. 

Have A Coachable Attitude

Your work ethic will be considered higher if you are open to being taught and coached about your job and new skills. A willingness to learn from constructive feedback will showcase a positive attitude and a growth mindset. This also sets you up for leadership positions because being coachable means you are willing to move up. 

Commit To Punctuality

A big part of a good work ethic is being punctual to the job, so if you commit to punctuality, your work ethic will be higher. 

Be Efficient With Your Time

When you are efficient and effective with your time, your work ethic will shine through because you will not be wasting your time on unnecessary tasks or excessive task switching. There are only so many hours in the day, so your goal is to be efficient, not overworked. You can help set yourself up for success by creating to-do lists, ranking tasks, and setting deadlines. 

Cultivate Self-Discipline

This attitude spreads across many areas, including punctuality, organization, dedication, and others. If you have self-discipline, you will have a higher and better work ethic. This means following through with your projects and not getting sidetracked by other unimportant tasks. People who are self-disciplined set goals for themselves and work to reach them. 

Commit To Excellence And Professionalism

Much like the previous point, if you commit yourself to excellence and professionalism, your work ethic will improve alongside the other attributes. Professionalism includes the aspects of accountability, integrity, respect, responsibility, and timeliness. By committing to professionalism, you enhance your reputation and success, and your work ethic shines. 

Eliminate Distractions

This goes into being efficient with your time. If you eliminate distractions, you will not be off task or switching tasks when you could otherwise be working. Set up your time for work, and do not let distractions seep in. On the flip side, when you are done with work, set it aside so you can enjoy your time away from work and be refreshed. 

Have A Reputation For Responsibility And Reliability

This goes alongside being punctual and professional. If you build yourself up to be responsible and reliable, you will be viewed as having a higher work ethic because all of these aspects and attitudes are intertwined. 

Don’t Dwell On Past Mistakes

Let the past be the past. Your previous mistakes are over with, and it is time to move forward. By looking toward the future, you can dedicate yourself to being the best employee and team member possible. 


Now you know how to differentiate between a poor work ethic and a good work ethic, as well as how to improve your existing work ethic to be the best possible work ethic it could be. Use the tips we gave for improving your work ethic to improve yourself. Similarly, watch out for signs of a bad work ethic in yourself and others – and when you see others with a poor work ethic, you will know who to avoid. 

Bio: Veselin Mladenov is the Content Manager of ThriveMyWay. He has more than 10 years of experience in corporate marketing and sales, and he decided to pursue his passion – digital marketing and content creation.