If you’ve ever had a conversation with your boss that’s left you thinking, “I have no work ethic,” you are not alone.
Many people find that they are disengaged from work. In fact, Gallup’s State of the Global Workplace reports that 19% of people are miserable at work and 60% of people are emotionally detached from their jobs.
If you’ve ever wondered, “why don’t I have a work ethic?”, it may simply be that you are disconnected from your work. But before we delve into how you can improve your work ethic, let’s first consider what a poor work ethic looks like.
Signs of Poor Work Ethic
If you’re the type of person who struggles to arrive at work on time, hates when you are assigned work outside of your typical job duties, and somehow always seems to be less productive than your coworkers, you might suffer from a lack of work ethic.
Consider whether or not the following poor work ethic examples ring any bells:
- Your attitude could be better
- You’re a gossip
- People complain about your work
- You make excuses
- You look for distractions
- You call off frequently
- You make a lot of mistakes
- You resent your boss
- You don’t ask questions
Can You Change Your Work Ethic?
In short, yes. Work ethic is about attitude and motivation, both of which are in your control. It only requires a little reflection and self-awareness on your part.
As you probably already know, the first step to addressing a problem is admitting you have the problem to begin with. Since you are reading this article, I’m going to assume that you have already decided this is something you need to work on.
So how do you fix no work ethic? The solution is different for everyone, but read on for tips that might offer some practical insights.
1. Choose the Right Pond
First things first: know thyself. If you work for a company that doesn’t value what you do, you’re in the wrong pond – and your work ethic will suffer. Figure out what you are good at and choose the environment that works for you.
It’s difficult to feel motivated when you have no curiosity, pride, or enthusiasm for what you do.
As Howard Thurman once said, “Don’t ask yourself what the world needs. Ask yourself what makes you come alive, and go do that, because what the world needs is people who have come alive.”
2. Be Punctual
Punctuality doesn’t only mean showing up to work on time. It also means meeting deadlines, helping your team move timelines forward, and respecting project management goals.
If you struggle with sticking to schedules, practice making a conscious effort to be on time. Develop an enjoyable morning routine so that you look forward to waking up early. Motivate yourself with checklists so you can visually track your progress as you scratch items off your list.
3. Check Your Attitude
Everyone makes mistakes, and most of the time they can be fixed. Forgetfulness or mixing up steps in a process are forgivable, and usually no big deal.
However, there are some things that cannot be fixed. Your attitude is one of them. If you show up to work carrying a chip on your shoulder or expressing disdain for authority, you’re not likely to make many friends around the office – which, of course, does your work ethic no favors.
Work ethic plummets when you need help with something and no one is willing to extend a hand. People tend not to engage with coworkers who bring down morale. (Also, if you think you’re the smartest person in the room, you’re not. Just saying.)
Be that person who is willing to help coworkers even if it’s outside your typical responsibilities. Developing a can-do attitude goes a long way toward improving your relationships at work and building a team dynamic that improves everyone’s work ethic.
4. Stop Making Excuses
Trust me, your boss has heard it all. They don’t care if you go swimming after dying your hair and it turns green. Unless it’s falling out in chunks, come up with a funny story to share and go to work.
In the same vein, frequently coming up with excuses to call off or leave early or avoid work on the clock doesn’t win you any brownie points. Practicing personal responsibility is a necessary step toward developing a stronger work ethic.
Offices are full of distractions. Even if you work remotely, interruptions are inevitable. And believe it or not, these interruptions are costly.
According to a University of California Irvine study, it takes an average of 23 minutes and 15 seconds to fully shift your attention back to a task from which you were distracted. If you already struggle with focus and multitasking, this is a sobering statistic.
Focus leads to productivity, and without it, your performance will suffer. By taking the time to reduce distractions in your work space, such as wearing headphones while you work or powering off your phone, your work ethic will improve.
6. Give Up Gossip
If you’re already feeling disconnected from work, it can be tempting to engage in casual gossip with coworkers. However, not only does this damage work relationships, it’s also a huge time-waster.
Personal responsibility involves good time management and communication skills. Being considerate of other people at work boosts morale and allows you to feel better about yourself, which enhances your own work ethic.
7. Set Goals
Imagine you have a team in charge of making paper flowers. You could tell each member of the team that they have ten minutes to make as many paper flowers as they can, and to simply do their best at the task.
Alternatively, you could give each team member a specific, yet challenging, number of flowers you expect them to complete during that time.
Intuitively, which scenario do you think will be most successful? If you guessed the latter, you are correct. Research shows that specific, challenging goals improve motivation and work ethic. According to a study in The Academy of Management Journal, people with specific goals almost always outperform those who don’t.
8. Avoid Procrastination
The previous tip on goal-setting also applies to procrastination. Putting things off can make your job more stressful, which in turn will derail your motivation.
Making lists or keeping a planner is an easy way to keep track of your tasks and ensure you are meeting deadlines. Getting organized will improve both your productivity and your work ethic.
9. Do the Easy Things First
Building momentum in the morning can go a long way to boosting your work ethic. Completing a few easy tasks at the beginning of your day can ease the mental burden you might feel as you consider your to-do checklists.
If you have several tasks on your list that will only take five to ten minutes to finish, doing those first can give you that dopamine rush of accomplishment.
10. Practice Integrity
We all have a “fudge factor” for things like telling little white lies or putting off work that someone else is relying on. It’s human nature to give ourselves wiggle room for doing things outside our integrity. However, if this becomes normal practice, it can invite a negative mindset.
Making morally sound decisions allows you to develop a positive regard for yourself, enhancing your determination and thus, your work ethic.
11. Reward Yourself
Giving yourself something to look forward to at the end of the day is a good way to enhance work ethic. Making deals with yourself to participate in a little self-care once you’ve completed your tasks on time will give you a reason to stay motivated.
Self-care looks different for everyone. Maybe you can reward yourself with a favorite meal or set aside some time after work for a hobby such as reading or gardening.
Whatever you choose, keeping this reward in mind as you move through your to-do list adds a little extra motivation to your work ethic.
A Matter of Mindset
Many people struggle (for various reasons) with motivation and lacking the desire to work. Turning “I have no work ethic” into “I am a motivated and responsible worker” is mostly a matter of mindset.
Engaging with a friendly coworker or even finding a mentor in your field can help you practice accountability while developing an ally that will cheer you on. Also, it is important to acknowledge milestones and reward yourself as your work ethic becomes stronger.
It will likely take some time and discipline to make improvements to your work ethic, but it will be worth it in the long run. Observe those who model the kind of behavior you would like to emulate.
With a little reflection and self-awareness, you will soon discover that you have complete control over your desire and motivation to work.
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