Building a Strong Work Ethic

                                         By Helen Godfrey, MA, NCC, BCC, LPC


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No matter how tough life gets, if you give it your all at work, sooner or later, it will pay off.  Staying positive, refusing to procrastinate, and maintaining your focus are all necessary ingredients in building a strong work ethic. You will find that the time, effort and discipline involved in doing this will be extremely rewarding to you in many ways.


Other strategies to become a great employee and colleague are to be dependable, meet deadlines and step up to fill unmet needs.


Let’s look a little bit closer at each of these methods needed to construct a sturdy work ethic:

 1. Stay positive. You’ve probably heard the expression, “Attitude is everything.” That’s definitely true when you’re working on creating a resilient work ethic. Your work improves when you approach it with a positive attitude.

No matter what, staying positive about your tasks will help you become a rock star at work. You’ll not only stand out to your supervisor, but your colleagues will notice, too. Being positive will help you personally too. If you wake up feeling cranky, that’s ok. You know the saying, “Fake it ‘til you make it.” This can definitely be applied to your attitude.  

2. Refuse to procrastinate. Although you may be tempted to put off doing certain tasks or projects, make “Do it right now,” your mantra. You’ll find that jobs are often done more quickly and easily that you expected. Instead of spending time obsessing and making yourself miserable thinking about it just get ‘er done!  

3. Keep your focus. When your plans are clear, you’ll get more work done in less time. Put a sticky note on your calendar and computer. Organize your desk the day before you plan to start that huge project. Start focused and stay focused. Prioritize and give yourself mini-deadlines throughout the day. You’ll work like a machine when you devote your full attention to the subject at hand.

4. Set a goal to be dependable. When you go the extra mile to complete your work, people will learn to trust that when you’re given a job, you’ll do it.

5. Always meet deadlines. This point is crucial to developing a strong work ethic. Do whatever you have to do to meet a deadline. Of course, the best way to ensure you consistently meet deadlines is to negotiate in advance of taking on the task, so you have a bit of a say in the schedule.

  • Endeavor to be known as the one whom your boss and co-workers can always depend on to get the job done.
  • In the event your supervisor assigns you a project that must be done by a certain date in the near future, clarify right away with your boss what he/she sees as your priorities. Have a dialogue about altering the due dates on some of your other tasks so that you can take on the urgent project.
  • Especially if you are new to your position or don’t have a good relationship with your boss, send a follow-up email that summarizes what you agree upon and ask for feedback about the email. That is, say that you understood ABC from your meeting and that you agreed that your new deadline for such and such a project is…. . Ask if there is anything you missed. Clear communication from the start will save you a world of frustration later on.  
  • If you communicate any concerns you have about deadlines right away, you’re in a better position to negotiate some of them. The bottom line is you’ll ultimately be in alignment with your supervisor’s priorities and you will be meeting deadlines already approved by your supervisor.

6. Step up to fill unmet needs. Volunteering to take on gaps in labor makes every supervisor you work for the happiest person in the world.

  • We’ve all been on a committee where jobs were being assigned, the moderator got to a certain task, and everyone shrank up or whispered, “Oh, I’m not taking that job!” A person with a strong work ethic views these situations as opportunities to stretch him/herself and show what he/she can do.
  • You may even discover you possess some additional talents when you volunteer to take on a job outside of your normal realm of responsibilities. Consider it another line on your resume when you agree to write the department manual or perform some other task. Learn to step forward to fill unmet needs.


When you follow these suggestions, you’ll develop great confidence in your work. Plus, you’ll discover that you built something durable for your future: a strong work ethic that will bring you pride, joy and enhance your professional brand.  

Additional Resources

10 Things that Require Zero Talent

5 Ways to Get Motivated

10 Healthy Habits to Reduce Stress

Manage Your Time Like a Boss

The Main Reasons for Procrastination and How to Overcome Them