Work Ethic – What Does It Mean?

Work Ethic – What Does It Mean?

Corporate team working together in a co working space at a board table

According to the internet’s equivalent of an encyclopaedia – Wikipedia – a work ethic is “a set of moral principles a person uses in their job; people who possess a strong work ethic embody certain principles that guide their work behaviour, leading them to produce high-quality work consistently and the output motivates them to stay on track.”

Of course, we all want people on our teams who have a strong work ethic, and we would take pride in saying that we have a good work ethic ourselves.  It is one of the most sought-after attributes in recruitment.

The most common principles of a good work ethic are:

  • Punctuality
  • Self – discipline
  • High level of efficiency and productivity
  • Dedication to organisation, role, and team
  • Reliability
  • Professionalism
  • Respectfulness
  • Customer service excellence – internal and external


However, while work ethic is a noun, is also wide open to subjectivity.  Using the Wikipedia interpretation above – it is based on a ‘moral set of principles’. So as an employer what happens when your moral principles differ from those of your prospective new employee? Employers, before stating they are seeking someone with a strong work ethic to join their team, must have a clear understanding of what the foundations of work ethics mean to them and be able to articulate them.

As a potential new team member, having stated you have a strong work ethic – you need to be able to back that up.  A great way to do this is by sharing an example or examples of times where you demonstrated your work ethic.

It is universally agreed that good work ethics provide benefits to not only employers, but also the individuals who possess them.  Don’t take work ethics for granted – if you value work ethics, take the time to reflect and evaluate your current organisational or individual work ethic rating.  Would you rate a 10 out of 10? Or is there a particular principle or area of your work ethic that needs improvement? The best way to foster a strong work ethic in existing and new employees is to lead by example.