A good work ethic is key to success on the job (and in life). Much has been made of Millennials’ entitled attitude towards work while Baby Boomers are often considered old-fashioned because of their ‘it’s not really a job unless you’re suffering’ view of the world. The ideal is probably somewhere in the middle — it’s pretty hard to have a good work ethic if you hate your job but don’t expect everything to be handed to you on a silver platter either.

Instead of complaining about the workplace newbies, older employees can make a huge difference by mentoring and giving them tips for how to improve work ethic. In a 2015 study, researcher in the University of Illinois Department of Human and Community Development, Jill Bowers advises, “Adults who are complaining about the new generation of ‘slackers’ should build relationships with students and young colleagues and actively model a professional work ethic for them.”

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Even if you consider yourself to be the most dedicated employee in the office, you may still have room to grow. According to a recent survey by market research platform, Qualtrics, “Nearly 11% of US workers overestimate how productive they are relative to their compatriots, according to a survey of more than 6,000 respondents in 14 countries.” So all of us should periodically think about what comprises a good work ethic and whether we’re measuring up.

There are several things you can do to improve work ethic and general wellbeing. First, don’t make excuses. And the easiest way to avoid making excuses is by not needing any to begin with. Punctuality and missing deadlines are probably two of the biggest excuse generators at work. Even if you make up the time at the end of the day, regularly showing up late makes a bad impression on your superiors and coworkers. Get plenty of sleep by going to bed early, don’t hit snooze and come up with a realistic schedule so you can manage your time effectively. In the event that you are late (it happens to the best of us), don’t make excuses; apologize and say it won’t happen again.


Two important elements of a good work ethic are perseverance and initiative. When you get stuck on a project, don’t give up or complain to anyone who’ll listen. Take a break, ask for input, then keep at it until you find a solution. Don’t sit back and wait to be assigned tasks — when you’ve got extra time or see a project that plays to your strengths, jump in and offer to take on more responsibility.

Finally, be professional and look professional. Don’t drop F-bombs right and left; don’t complain; don’t gossip; and don’t hang out with your feet on your desk chatting with everyone who walks by. You don’t need to be totally stiff and buttoned up but, even in casual offices, keep your look neat and put-together. Think about how slipping into pajamas instantly makes you feel like crawling under the blankets or wearing sweats and flip flops feels like a lazy Sunday. What you wear affects your mood as much as it affects how people perceive you so dress like a go-getter at work.