I’ve been complimented by several people recently about my work ethic, and while I appreciate those compliments, I’m still trying to figure out whether that work ethic is a blessing or a curse. Really, what is a good work ethic? I’ve heard a lot over the […]

I’ve been complimented by several people recently about my work ethic, and while I appreciate those compliments, I’m still trying to figure out whether that work ethic is a blessing or a curse.

Really, what is a good work ethic?

I’ve heard a lot over the years that younger generations don’t understand the value of hard work, so if we don’t understand it, how would we know what constitutes hard work these days?

In my own life and business, I’m simply searching for the right balance — not being a workaholic, but also not being lazy or afraid to get my hands dirty, break a sweat, or pay my dues. Where is the happy medium between those two extremes?

I’ve heard many times that “overnight success” takes a long time and a lot of effort to achieve. There are times when I think, “Will I ever get there?” (wherever there is), and I usually follow that question with, “Am I just expecting too much too quickly? Have I really worked long enough and hard enough to deserve success?”

There are many times when I know that I work very hard for long hours, but then the internal debate becomes, “Am I a workaholic?”

I know I have the strength to bring seemingly huge projects to completion in short amounts of time with very concentrated effort, but what does that mean? Does it mean I have a “feast or famine” work ethic, or does it mean I’m hard-wired to work intensely for a certain length of time and then be completely off for a certain length of time to recoup? I don’t know the answer.

Maybe it’s a crazy debate, but I think it’s easy for web workers especially to become workaholics and not have a healthy mix of work, physical health and relaxation and fulfilling relationships.

What are your thoughts? What do you think constitutes a good work ethic?

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By Amber Singleton Riviere

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  1. Phillip Flores Monday, January 11, 2010

    Personally, I think good work ethic is simply doing your main job (whatever that is e.g. being a gardener or ceo of a large organisation) in the best manner possible (some even say ‘professionally done’); working intensely, not giving in to useless distraction, being available to provide assistance at work, happy to take and give suggestions, etc. It also means that your work has its place in your entire life i.e. family life, social life, and other obligations also have to be attended to.

  2. amber – i think it’s the actual definition of “work ethic” and the actual work being done that causes the generational rift. my grandfather doesn’t see a computer as a facilitator of output. at the end of the day, there’s no tangible product for him to evaluate. therefore, me cranking out 14 hours at my desk working on multiple projects doesn’t resonate with him. so for us web folk, your work ethic as viewed by your peers/colleagues is what’s important. it’s not what’s solely “important” in life, but if we want to set any sort of scale for “work ethic,” we should define it according to the audience.


    1. That’s a good point, Dave — older generations don’t understand a lot of the work that’s done today to be “work.”

  3. Barbara Saunders Monday, January 11, 2010

    I think what’s important is getting things done. Period. If one can get things done with a “bad work ethic,” no need to change it!

  4. This is a good post. I think it is important to have good work ethic, but not to forget that a smart work ethic goes just as far. You’re right about web workers too. I know a few people who work on web ventures from home and they end up working an additional 5 hours after their day job. Unfortunately, none of which are very successful and their hourly pay comes out to about $4.00…

    I’m not sure that is smart work ethic :)


  5. I think being able to ask (and someday answer) those questions is part of having a good work ethic!

    I think this is a topic that deserves more consideration, certainly, but at the end of the day I’d say that a person with good work ethic:
    1) Knows how to figure out WHAT needs to be done
    2) Gets things done consistently and
    3) Knows how to take breaks and unwind… because you can’t keep up your “good work ethic” if you’ve had a nervous breakdown!

    Great post, good luck with your work!

  6. J.T. O’Donnell Monday, January 11, 2010

    Hi Amber,

    I think your observation about how more seasoned workers (from older generations) are complimenting you is very interesting.

    Generational differences are a bigger deal that most people realize these days in the workplace. Definitions of terms like “professional,” “loyalty” and “work ethic” actually vary widely between age groups.

    I think I would respond like you if someone from an older generation complimented my work ethic. Many of us from younger generations (I’m an Xer)don’t agree with Boomers or GI generations definitions. (i.e work long hours, sacrifice your family, health, etc.) So, to your point, the compliment could cause someone worry.

    I don’t see myself as a work-o-holic, but like you, I’m able to ‘kick it in gear’ when needed. Also, I feel grateful to have a career that I love so much that I don’t mind working long hours.

    Do I struggle with the balance? Yep. I’ve come to accept that it will always be something I have to work on. But, at the end of the day, I think I’d take my situation over someone who has no drive, ambition or excitement for their work.

    How about you?

  7. What’s wrong with being a workaholic? If you have a passion and drive for your business or profession than perhaps you don’t need “balance” and distractions. Of course, keep the priorities first. Making time for loved ones is essential, what’s the point of success if you can share it with the people you love?

  8. What Makes One Have A Good Work Ethic? « I Begin Again Monday, January 11, 2010

    [...] Makes One Have A Good Work Ethic? A blog entry at WebWorkerDaily is the inspiration for this post. “What is a good work ethic?” [...]

  9. If you take into consideration “work ethic” and sports, I think it’s something a little easier to envision. Somebody who works tirelessly at their trade and puts in the work that is often not glamorous or fun but ultimately necessary.

    You can have the greatest work ethic but personal incompetence, narrow mindedness and the inability to learn from your mistakes will all work against you. Yet I still feel that work ethic is by and large the greatest precursor to success, more so than talent cause it’s doing the necessary but “un-fun” work that contributes the most to overall success.

  10. Hi Amber – great post to make us all think about how we work and how hard we work. I try to work on things that energize and excite me (thereby adding to my life vs. taking away from it). It’s not always possible – sometime you have to slog through some drudge work – but if I find that my work is draining my life away I make a change. I agree with J.T. though – our generation holds different values than others and part of my balance includes working flexible hours so I can be there when my son comes home from school. To me a person with a good work ethic is someone who is passionate about their work AND their home life and finds ways to integrate both things successfully. A friend of mine once said that he doesn’t have a work/life balance anymore, he has a work/life blend.

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