A to Z of Soft Skills: W for Work Ethic

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The morning assembly is an unforgettable memory from school times. Mine was an especially strict one. We all had to line up outside the prayer hall 15 minutes before the morning routine started. There were volunteers and prefects who’d walk along the lines checking for neatly cut nails. polished shoes, ironed skirts and hair tied into plaits with ribbons. (Or short hair neatly tucked away from the face) Late comers were left out of the morning prayers. Students who did not meet the exacting standards were punished in the hope of teaching them discipline.

Job interviews are another set of ordeals that stay with us forever. It is now that we realise how the lessons of punctuality and tidiness taught in school will come in handy in real life. In fact, interviews require us to go a step further and showcase our skills that convince our prospective employers that we will succeed in the job we are being interviewed for.

Whether it’s the school or job interviews – we are trained and tested for a strong work ethic all our lives. In today’s post we will look at what exactly does it constitute and how can use it to enhance our credibility as employees.

What is work ethic?

There are many definitions to the term. I’d say, it is simply a set of skills or principles that a working person should practise to become a good employee. There are a whole set of skills that combined that make for a work ethic – your attitude and behaviour, honesty, integrity, interpersonal skills, professionalism, punctuality, hard work etc. I know that’s a long list but if you scratch the surface, it’s all relates to respect for others and being responsible for your work – without an external authority holding you responsible.

Why is it important to have a strong work ethic?

We all are punctual and hardworking, well, most of the times. So we already have a working standard we work with. But let’s look at how some of the qualities I mentioned above can make a huge difference to your performance and building on them can only help:

  • Professionalism reflects in the way you dress up and how clients see you
  • Punctuality makes you dependable – you start meetings on time and meet your deadlines
  • Great interpersonal skills are great for team work
  •  A positive attitude is handy at any bad time at work and in life
  • Honesty and integrity creates trust and long term relationships

So, you see that all the qualities here go towards creating an impression of the kind of person you are – someone with strong and dependable work principles.

How do we develop a strong work ethic?

Be answerable for yourself: Being the best version of yourself is a gift you give yourself. Don’t get into the “What has the company done for me?!” debate. Make it your business to turn up on time, look professional and be courteous to others. Companies may change but steady, strong standards that you apply to your work can take you miles ahead in your career.

Believe in quality of work: Have high standards for the work you turn in. Everyone gets work done but cutting corners doesn’t quite make the cut with a great ethical system for work. So make sure that you hold yourself responsible to quality in everything you do.

Practice honesty and integrity: Even when no one is watching. That is the true meaning of being a person of integrity. This builds long term trust and is worth the effort.

Be professional: At all times! Give respect to everyone alike. Listen when people share things with you. Don’t indulge in malicious gossip or crib needlessly. This will only create negative vibes around you.

Take responsibility: This is a big part of a strong work ethic. As a team member and employee of an organisation, we are a part of the whole. And everything that happens in the organisation is each individual’s responsibility. Shirking your own or not stepping up to help a team mate who goofed up brings your credibility and commitment to question. Being accountable to what happens in your area of work or immediate department/team is equally important to build trustworthiness as being honest.

Go the extra mile: This is taking your commitment for your work to the next level. A person comfortable in one’s skin as an employee can effortlessly walk that extra mile.

What are the steps that take us towards the ideal ethics at work?

1. Note the values that are important to you in your work. The most important and uncompromising ones come on top. (Although each of the skills/principles mentioned in this post is important, the value you attach to them might differ in degree)

2. Get feedback from others: Ask others about what they think you do well at work and the qualities they think are your best. Also, ask for areas they think you can improve upon

3. Determine your standards for each – current and desired. And start working towards it.

With the world becoming more virtual, a strong work ethic has become even more important. For instance, there is virtual information that can be passed on easily but shouldn’t be. Our teams are remote but deserve the same respect and courtesy as the ones that work out of cubicles around us.

How to develop a strong work ethic at the organisational level?

When an organisation itself has high standards of work, let’s accept that it makes it easier even at the individual level. Here are a few things that can be done at an organisational level to promote a strong working ethic:

Have a uniform code of conduct. Make sure that rules and policies are clear to everyone. Preferably write it all down and make it available to the employees.

Promote the code of conduct. Let it not be a document that gathers dust online or off it. Hold training programs (eLearning modules also can work well) to make this code common knowledge. Make it mandatory for everyone to finish these training programs to ensure people take it seriously.

Create role models. An organisation is the sum total of the people who run it. A lot of times, participants complain during training programs that the senior management doesn’t practice what they are being trained to follow. A contradiction like this will just not work. Walk the talk is essential to building a worthy culture in the company. The management itself needs to be courteous and respectful, support team work and co-operation and value quality and punctuality.

A strong work ethic goes a long way in building your personality and also the career path ahead of you. It is independent of the people you work with or the company you work for. It is one’s own interest to work on these set of skills and behaviours.

 

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