Work Ethic and Success in the Workplace

By Indeed Editorial Team

Updated November 5, 2022

Published May 17, 2021

The Indeed Editorial Team comprises a diverse and talented team of writers, researchers and subject matter experts equipped with Indeed's data and insights to deliver useful tips to help guide your career journey.

Good work ethic is a personality trait that employers look for in candidates. Showing values related to it can improve your employability and make you eligible for more opportunities. In this article, we define work ethic, explain characteristics of good work ethic and discuss how to use and develop this valuable attribute.

Related: 54 Motivational Quotes for Inspiring Work Ethic

What is work ethic?

Work ethic is a belief in the principle that hard work and dedication lead to success. Good work ethic is an important trait that motivates an individual to uphold high moral standards at work. Typically, work ethic encompasses a set of behavioural principles or attributes such as excellent punctuality and organization, a dedication to producing quality work and being respectful towards your colleagues. A good work ethic suggests the job candidate takes their tasks seriously and behaves responsibly in a professional setting.

Employers appreciate candidates who possess a strong work ethic because they can be a positive influence on their coworkers. Having a team of people with a good work ethic is also desirable because an employer is more likely to achieve their company goals, and they don't have to spend time micromanaging their employees.


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Characteristics of good work ethic

Characteristics of a good work ethic can include being:


Being self-motivated is a sign of an excellent work ethic because you can tackle problems on your own and work independently of others. Managers will know that, in their absence, this type of employee will meet all of their goals and complete work on time.

A self-motivated employee rarely procrastinates. Employers appreciate this as it allows them to focus more time and energy on growing their business.


People who have a good work ethic manage their time wisely. Staying organized in the workplace shows employers you are disciplined and dedicated to producing quality work. Keeping your workspace tidy suggests to others that you respect your work environment. Those who are organized can meet deadlines and achieve company objectives more effectively.

Good organization means you are likely staying on top of your assignments and have a good handle on your workload. Organized employees are typically early or on time with everything that they do. Fellow employees can depend on them for maintaining good communication and for responding to emails promptly.

Organized individuals also know how to schedule their day for optimal productivity and can stay on top of new information that comes in from their supervisors.


Individuals with a strong work ethic put a high value on punctuality. Being on time, whether it's completing an assignment by the established deadline or showing up to a board meeting early, means you are reliable and that you respect others' time.

Establishing a reputation for being on time will make you a valued and likable asset to any organization. Being punctual suggests you are an organized individual and stay on top of your work. Your excellent punctuality also implies that you care about your job and wish to succeed in it.


Good work ethic is also measured by an employee's ability to generate quality output. Productive individuals are unlikely to be idle at work, take advantage of longer lunch breaks, ask for extensions or dedicate time to tasks that are low on the company priority list. They are well prepared, organized and not intimidated by a large workload.

Productive employees are quickly recognized by their superiors as strong contributors to the team who use their time wisely and care about producing good-quality work. When employers observe this, they are reassured that they made the right decision during the hiring process.

Related: 10 Simple Ways to Be More Productive at Work


Employers value ambition in the workplace because it means their employees are committed to achieving success. An ambitious individual puts in the extra time and effort to complete projects and assignments to the highest possible standards, at times surpassing the expectations of others.

An ambitious attitude contributes to a company's growth and puts a person with a strong work ethic into a position for career advancement or promotion. Someone who always strives to do their best earns the respect of their colleagues and can be trusted to produce quality work regularly.


A strong work ethic is partly characterized by an individual's ability to focus on the tasks at hand. This type of employee prioritizes their work for maximum productivity and is not easily distracted. Focused individuals are goal-oriented and possess a clear vision of the steps they need to take towards accomplishing a task. They pay attention to detail and stay abreast of workplace expectations.

It can be said that a focused employee enjoys their work and uses their focus as a means to expedite and complete any task to the best of their abilities.


Being responsible is an esteemed character trait that is typically found in people with a good work ethic. Responsible individuals hold themselves up to a personal moral code within the workplace and usually develop a reputation for being dependable, committed, trustworthy and accountable for their actions.

Responsible employees don't make excuses and always pull their weight. Colleagues can count on these individuals because they have proven they have reliable follow-through.

Related: How to Take on More Responsibility in the Workplace


Someone who behaves professionally is deemed to have a good work ethic. Individuals with a professional demeanour typically avoid negative workplace gossip and don't indulge in unnecessary conflict. They also abstain from taking personal phone calls during office time or taking too much time off.

Individuals who act professionally take care of their physical appearance and respect the company dress code. Employers value professionals in the workplace because they contribute to a positive work environment and are more likely to encourage better behaviour in other employees.

Professional behaviour is the mark of a well-composed individual who is well-mannered and takes instruction and constructive criticism well.


Honesty in the workplace is a desirable trait. An honest employee admits their faults and acknowledges mistakes without blaming others. They also apologize if they are in the wrong and avoid holding grudges. Someone who is honest doesn't get defensive when they are given constructive criticism and makes genuine efforts to fix their shortcomings. Telling the truth is important to maintain a productive and friendly work environment.

Related: What Is Honesty and Integrity in a Workplace Setting?

Team Player

A strong work ethic is exhibited through an individual's ability to get along with colleagues. A team player doesn't hesitate to compliment others and willingly admits when they have received help from a fellow employee. They always give credit where it is due and put aside personal goals to benefit the team. Team players can work with their teammates to achieve a common goal.

Related: What Are Ethics at Work? With Definition and Examples

How to improve work ethic skills

Follow these steps to improve your work ethic skills:

1. Act as your organization's ambassador

A great way to develop your work ethic skills is to seek ways to further your employer's business outside the work environment. For example, a product manager may tell customers about their organization's brand.

2. Respect others

While being friendly and approachable is important, be sure to keep your interactions professional and speak politely to others.

3. Review your work

Double-check your work for consistency and quality before you submit it. Also, make sure you give each task the attention it deserves.

4. Look for professional development opportunities

Seeking ways to improve your performance, such as attending workshops and taking courses, can help you improve your work ethic skills.

5. Prioritize your work duties and responsibilities

Be punctual for meetings and events. Try to meet deadlines and follow all instructions your employers provide.

How to show employers your work ethic skills

Follow these steps to show your work ethic skills to employers:

1. Include your work ethic skills on your resume

While it may be challenging to express a good work ethic on your resume, you can highlight the values associated with it. Relating these values with your experience is a great way to show your interview that you are the best fit for the role. For example, providing examples of how your previous employer recommended you for a prestigious project shows you're trustworthy and honest.

2. Mention your skills on your cover letter

In your cover letter, you can mention skills related to a strong work ethic. For example, including that you're looking for challenging opportunities tells an employer that you're a hardworking candidate who wants to make an impact in an organization.

3. Express your work ethic skills during interviews

Interviews are the best places to show employers your work ethic skills. You can express them by:

  • Arriving early for the interview

  • Dressing professionally

  • Speaking politely and respectfully to interviewers

  • Responding appropriately to questions

  • Practising open-body language

  • Mentioning your eagerness to work at the establishment

  • Providing examples of your work experience and how they relate to your work ethic skills

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