Qualities of Workplace Superstars: Work Ethic/Motivation

Some people dream of success while others wake up and work hard at it.

~Winston Churchill

The harder I work, the luckier I get.

~Samuel Goldwyn

It’s supposed to go like this: We convince the employer we’re the best person for the job. The employer agrees and offers it to us, complete with a compensation package. We accept the offer and celebrate, recognizing they could have easily offered the position to someone else. In return for the paycheck, we work our tails off, do our best, and… WAIT, STOP THE TAPE! Not so fast!

In my conversations with employers of young people, I hear more complaints about work ethic and dependability than any other traits. Among the issues they cite: absenteeism, late arrivals, distractions, failure to meet deadlines, deficient work, whining (especially toward more “menial” tasks), and entitlement attitudes. Some employers have given up and are now recruiting retirees to avoid the “baggage.” (Their word.)

And, they’ll tell you it wasn’t always this way.

To be honest, I think the responsibility for this generational shift lies primarily with parents. We do our children’s chores, either to keep them happy or because we can do them better or quicker. We overcommit them with one activity after another and feel guilty if we also ask them to sweep the garage. We allow play to come before work. We permit hours and hours of time with their endless technology, media, and entertainment options. It all adds up and manifests itself in a big way during the teen and young adult years.

Oh, and, educators will tell you the lack of motivation is apparent in their classrooms, too.

There are many, many reasons why a strong work ethic and motivation (both inextricably linked) are so important in the workplace and in life:

  • It is an admired character trait and a MUST for a productive life
  • We owe it to our employers who are paying us for excellent work
  • It directly affects our job performance, pay potential, reputation, job security, and promotability; also, several careers pay directly by output and sales, which are heavily influenced by our work ethic and productivity
  • Our team members are depending on us
  • It is a necessity for building grit and resilience
  • We make ourselves easier to manage in the eyes of our supervisor
  • Businesses are much more “bottom line” focused than in the past and less tolerant of mediocre performers; we have to compete to keep our jobs!
  • A strong work ethic can overcome an average skillset
  • We receive the “psychic benefits” from a job well done
  • And, we accomplish so much more

Individuals with a strong work ethic and motivation:

  • are self starters and needn’t require reminders
  • don’t require rewards each time for hard work; it’s intrinsic
  • are proactive and take initiative
  • are productive and efficient with their time; they focus just as much on working smart as working hard and accomplish more than others during their work time
  • are conscientious, take directions, and follow policies and guidelines
  • are lifelong learners
  • avoid complaining about the less interesting aspects of their job
  • meet or exceed the requirements of the job
  • give their employer a high return on investment

Parents, here are some tips to help build these essential qualities:

  • Instill the values of a strong work ethic and motivation by modeling it yourselves and teaching your children why it’s so important
  • Have your children do age-appropriate chores and message that doing them is not optional (this is where your tough love really pays off!). Introduce them to a wide range of chores, but be somewhat flexible when choosing which ones they are routinely responsible for. Use chores as a learning experience. They’ll be on their own soon!
  • Limit the amount of time they spend on technology and media and adopt a “work before play” strategy
  • When it comes to career selection, encourage them to choose options they will enjoy and be interested in. We are naturally more motivated when we do the things we like.
  • Encourage them to choose friends who take these qualities seriously. Peer influences are huge. If our kids surround themselves with positive and productive people, it will rub off. And if they don’t, that will rub off, too!

Let’s do everything we can to build an intrinsic work ethic in our younger generation and reverse these trends. Today’s tough love will pay dividends in the long run, and, one day, they might just thank you for it.

Next up: Resourcefulness. Have a great week!

Don’t Allow Work to Consume Your Life

Last week we talked about work ethic, and the need to educate our young people to work hard, take personal responsibility, and say “no” to the entitlement mentality. All important!


On the other hand, there is an equally insidious trap we want to help them avoid: workaholism.
My own father worked very hard at his job of coloring the bright construction paper at a Wisconsin paper mill. But when his work was done, it was done. He was able to devote his free time to family and interests by not taking his work home with him.
Today’s workplace is completely different. We’re now a service economy in the information age. Consequently, our work life today is much more knowledge-based and open-ended. While this makes for a more exciting work environment, it does have its downside. We tend to take our work home with us, and, if we’re not careful, it can easily consume our free time.

And now with our cell phones becoming virtual appendages, we’re always “on call” –a new source of overwork and distraction.


Don’t get me wrong. Your career will be a key component of your life. However, more than any other aspect of your life, it has the greatest risk of taking over if you’re not careful. And, if you’re a student, remember there’s more to life than your books. Your studies, too, can be all consuming if you let them.
If you allow your work or studies to dominate, and can’t let them go during your free time, you’ll suffer burnout and starve your relationships. (Recall from a previous blog that the most common life regret of elderly people is not spending enough time with loved ones.)
Always remember to stay balanced and invested in other areas of your life to keep things healthy and happy. People need you and you need them!
Are you able to leave your work behind and “switch off” at the end of the work day? Consider passing this along to a friend or young adult for them to consider, “tweet” it, or share it to Facebook. And please share YOUR thoughts with US by commenting below; we’d love to hear from you.