How to Build a Strong Work Ethic at your Place of Work

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images-115In our previous post, we discussed the elements and principles of work ethic in an entrepreneur, their team and organisation. We will now discuss how the entrepreneur and their employees can build the strong work ethic that is required for both personal and corporate success.

The first thing to realise about the need for developing a strong work ethic is that it is individual and collective attitude at the work place that is the basis of corporate integrity and success. There are therefore three levels on which the effort to develop a strong work ethic must be applied, as follows:

  • Individual: This is the first level at which a strong work ethic must first be established,
  • Team: It is not enough for a few individuals in an organization to have strong work ethic. All other team members must also have strong work ethic if the individual and team efforts are to yield the desired results. Remember: A chain is only as strong as its weakest link,
  • Corporate: All individuals and all teams within an organisation must pull in the same direction. That is the only way the whole organisation can create its own ‘living’ credibility and achieve its objectives.

To engender strong work ethic in yourself and your employees, you should strive to develop the following:

Know thyself: The entrepreneur and their senior executives must understand themselves first. This involves understanding your personal strengths and weaknesses; your motivators and de-motivators; personal preferences and dislikes, etc. Understanding your character traits will help you position yourself for maximum productivity. Understanding yourself will also help you understand your staff and in turn help them understand themselves. You will then be able to lead them in the best possible way to maximize the productivity of the whole enterprise.

Build everything on integrity: The first and most important thing to entrench in your organization is integrity. The entrepreneur must have and demonstrate their personal integrity in all their dealings, both with their staff as well as with outsiders. This is a necessary condition to be met if the entrepreneur is to morally expect or demand reciprocation from others. To make this easy, the entrepreneur should deliberately work to attract and employ only people with the highest levels of integrity as employees (who also have the competence and passion for the job as discussed in our previous post).

Beyond individual integrity, all teams must also operate on the same moral principles. This will then permeate throughout the organisation and consequently show outside as corporate integrity and strength.

Be fair to your employees: For the entrepreneur, being fair in all situations with your employees is a necessary but sure way of earning their loyalty and further commitment. As much as we do not seem to realise it, most people are quite reasonable and appreciate when they have been treated fairly. Other times, a little explanation will do the job. When, as an entrepreneur, you meet the contractual terms of employees’ engagement, you have all the moral and even legal basis to demand reciprocation from them. Transparency and sincerity is also very important in dealing with your staff as you need them in the best frame of mind to be able to contribute the most they can. Similarly, this approach should be extended to other external parties. 

Demand punctuality: Nothing so much tells the commitment of individuals in an organisation as to the extent to which they are punctual in all their undertakings and appointments. From getting to work on time, to getting to internal and external appointments, it is extremely important that the entrepreneur and their team take this singular expectation seriously. People do not seem to realise that the moment you get to an appointment late, you have already weakened your negotiating position unwittingly, as you are very likely to start by apologizing for your lateness. The entrepreneur and their senior executives must show and demand punctuality from all staff in all engagements.

Encourage professionalism: Our daily activities involve solving series of challenges and providing solutions. To be able to do this successfully, the entrepreneur and their team must be competent by having the right knowledge, skills and experiences. Next to these three basics, everyone must be professional in the discharge of their duties. Being professional means you have the competence as well as the demeanour, attitude, carriage, positivity, confidence, cordiality, firmness, etc., to get your job done.

To engender professionalism, entrepreneurs should continuously train their people to gain the necessary knowledge and skills they require in the discharge of their responsibilities. In addition, employees should be exposed to varying experiences that will enrich and develop them even further.

Enforce work planning: Being professional also means the entrepreneur and their team must always plan their work and then work their plans. This also needs a separate mention because it is really important. Being able to plan your daily, weekly, and monthly routines enforces discipline and significantly enhances your personal efficiency and effectiveness. It makes you use your time wisely. It is therefore key that the entrepreneur and his senior executives must plan their work and teach their subordinates the same approach to handling issues. Obviously there are times when exigencies overtake our plans. These can always be handled very well if staff are sufficiently trained. 

Communicate: Another key behavior of professionals that need special mention is communication. There are times when as individuals and organisations we fall short of our own expectations or the expectations of others. In such situations, we should always communicate to those who might be affected by our failure. If for instance you will not be able to deliver the goods to your client on Monday as earlier agreed, you should immediately communicate and discuss with the client, and agree when you will unfailingly be able to deliver. Offer necessary compensation if the failure might affect them negatively. What is key in such situations is that you should be the one to promptly contact the customer and communicate your challenges. Do not wait for them to contact you before your communicate the failure. Teach yourself and your staff to handle unwanted situations in such a way as to even beneficially gain from them.

Develop individual and corporate resilience: We have mentioned that a lot of what we do involves solving challenges on a daily basis. These can be internal challenges within our organisations or with external parties. Sometimes also, issues can drag on for weeks, months and even years. As entrepreneurs and employees, you have to have the mental stamina to remain interested, focused, resolute and determined to stay on top of issues to their logical conclusion.

Create excitement: As an entrepreneur, you should realise that you and your employees spend most of your waking hours at your place of work with your colleagues. It is therefore very key to make the work place exciting, interesting and challenging. You can do that from at least three perspectives viz: socially (by having the right mix of people around), physically (by creating a very conducive and safe working environment) and mentally (by making the work mentally challenging and interesting). If you can get your people to be excited coming to work every morning, half your job is done. 


Administratively, entrepreneurs and their senior executives should adopt measures that will engender and monitor the measures mentioned above. These include:

Set standards: As an organisation, you have to set standards of behaviour expected of all staff. This should cover issues such as character, attendance and punctuality, attitude, cooperation with others, respect, communication, appearance, etc. Your staff should then be monitored regularly on the basis of those yardsticks and encouraged where further improvements are required. 

Review performances: Actions and activities should be reviewed regularly to assess how projects are going on and how individuals and teams are doing within the scheme of events. The entrepreneur and their senior executives must constantly demand for the highest standards of behavior from all staff. Those that do well should be commended and rewarded no matter the short-term ‘costs’ of the behavior whilst those who have fallen short should be corrected and if necessary reprimanded no matter the short-term ‘benefits’ of the undesired behavior. Simply put, people should be held responsible for their actions.

Behavioral reinforcements: Having the highest levels of integrity may come at short-term ‘costs’ to both the responsible officers and the organisation. It is therefore very easy for the officers and entrepreneurs to be carried away by these short-term ‘costs’ and fall short morally. To overcome this tendency, the entrepreneur and their senior executives should realise that the benefits of taking the moral pathway is always in their best long-term interests. This should also be clear to other staff. Sometimes, the beneficial payback actually comes back to us much earlier than expected. It is just the human mind has a way of exaggerating difficulties whilst underestimating blessings.


Developing a strong work ethic is key to the long-term success of any organisation. It is also one of the primary responsibilities of an entrepreneur and their senior executives, and must not be taken lightly. 





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