How to Help Clients Strengthen Their Work Ethic

Word Ethic word cloud

Have you ever experienced that feeling of not wanting to go into the office? Do you sometimes feel overwhelmed or unmotivated by the pile of work on your desk? These feelings can hinder productivity, raise stress levels, and lower career satisfaction and growth. They also cause a weak work ethic and loss of forward momentum. The good news for our disengaged clients is that we can help them strengthen their work ethic and regain career momentum.

What is Work Ethic?

According to, work ethic can be defined as:

“….an attitude of determination and dedication toward one’s job. Those with a strong work ethic place a high value on their professional success. They exhibit moral principles that make them outstanding employees in any position. If you have a strong work ethic, you believe in the importance of your job and typically feel that hard work is essential to maintaining a strong character.”

Characteristics of a Strong Work Ethic

A good work ethic encompasses certain traits and behaviours such as:

  • Reliability
  • Dedication
  • Discipline
  • Productivity
  • Cooperation
  • Integrity
  • Responsibility
  • Professionalism

A Global Problem: Disengagement from Work on the Rise

These days, many people are disengaged from work. Gallup’s 2022 State of the Global Workplace report reveals that 19% of people are miserable at work and 60% of people are emotionally detached from their positions.

Even with the current economic uncertainty that 2023 will bring, 50% of Canadians are reporting that they will be leaving their jobs in search of higher salary, more flexibility, and a better work culture.

So, if your client is unmotivated, they may be feeling disconnected from their work. In such cases, it’s important to remember Maya Angelou‘s famous quote; “Nothing will work unless you do.” When we’re dissatisfied or unfulfilled, we have to put in the work to make a change. A better life, at home or work, isn’t going to be handed to us.

Poor Work Ethic or Something Else?

As helping professionals, one of the thoughts we keep top of mind is that life and work don’t happen in isolation. Our work life affects our personal life and vice versa. Someone may be experiencing a major life transition—the illness or loss of a loved one, relationship challenges, or financial troubles—which can affect their work and their current outlook. So, before we look at our clients’ work ethic, we need to gain big-picture insight into what is going on in their lives by asking a few open-ended questions:

  • What is inspiring you right now?
  • What are your biggest current challenges?
  • Was this work / company aligned with your values at some point? Did something in particular happen to change that?

If this conversation reveals something outside your scope of practice, you can support your client by referring them to helpful resources, such as a therapist, a support group, or a community resource.

However, after your initial conversation, if you believe that the issue concerns work ethic more than anything else, there are many ways you can help.

Telltale Signs of a Weak Work Ethic

By asking clients detailed questions about their work habits, you may reveal a poor work ethic. Here are some telltale signs:

  • They arrive late to work.
  • They dislike it when they are assigned work outside of their usual job responsibilities.
  • They tend to be less productive than their co-workers.
  • They demonstrate a poor attitude.
  • They gossip a lot.
  • People complain about their work quality or style.
  • They tend to make excuses.
  • They look for distractions or tend to daydream on the job.
  • They call in sick or are frequently away from work.
  • They make a lot of mistakes.
  • They resent their boss or supervisor.
  • They fail to ask questions.

How do we help cultivate a healthy and balanced work ethic that works for our clients? The answer may be not to change the nature of the work but the method, style, or environment first.

The Good News: Work Ethic Can be Changed

If your clients fail to exercise a strong work ethic, which impacts their performance, there is good news. Work ethic can be changed and improved over time.

LinkedIn offers seven helpful tips for developing an outstanding work ethic:

  • Cultivate self-discipline – “Self-discipline allows you to stay on top of your work without taking on too much or too little. Self-disciplined workers are accountable to themselves above anyone else. Before any work is reviewed by superiors, a self-disciplined worker has already put their work through a rigorous internal quality assurance process.”
  • Adopt time management strategies to be more productive – Be punctual, try starting the workday earlier than usual, schedule tasks, focus on urgent, most important tasks, work longer than normal when necessary.
  • Eliminate distractions – Put your smartphone away or turn it off, set boundaries with colleagues, keep personal communications to your free time, block online distractions, shut the office door if you have one, create a schedule for responding to emails.
  • Focus and be persistent – Have a focused, positive mindset, and take consistent action. And as you learn and master new skills, and apply them regularly to what you do, you attain expertise and productivity simply through repetition. 
  • Start the day out right – Know your energy high points and low points. It may seem like a good idea to front-load your day with important tasks, but if you’re not a morning person, that might not be a great tactic. To cultivate good workday habits, you could try establishing a start-of-the-workday routine that positions you to be energized and productive.
  • Take time for self-care to rest and avoid burnout – Get adequate sleep, attend to your overall health, monitor and keep stress levels in check, “turn off” your work at the end of the day, don’t work every day of the week.
  • Learn from mistakes – We all make mistakes. Analyze what caused the failure and turn it into fuel. Take action to prevent the same mistake from happening again.

Call to Action

Work forms an integral part of our lives. Work that aligns with our values, goals, skills, and interests can give us a greater sense of purpose and meaning. The essence of a solid work ethic really is determined by our attitude, mindset, and action. Remember, building up a work ethic takes time and even small steps make a difference.

If you want to learn more about supporting your clients to maximize their work performance, enrol in CPC’s Certified Work-Life Strategist course and become a Work-Life Coach.

Lori Jazvac is a passionate, award-winning Master Certified Résumé Strategist and Certified Employment Strategist through Career Professionals of Canada. As a multi-certified Master Résumé Writer and Certified Career Transition Coach, she specializes in helping clients navigate challenging career transitions. In 2013, an empowering vision inspired Lori to launch Creative Horizons Communications, a holistic career services firm where she virtually supports jobseekers around the globe to embrace their next career milestone. In her spare time, Lori enjoys dance, blogging, watching comedies and reality shows, yoga, and taking long walks in nature.

Conny Lee is a Certified Holistic Narrative Career Practitioner, Online Business Manager for coaches, Certified Career (CCS), Employment (CES), and Résumé Strategist (CRS), Trauma of Money Facilitator, and Sacred Money Archetypes® Coach. She focuses on supporting people to create the career, business, and life they truly desire and love. To learn more, visit Conny’s website at When she isn’t working, Conny enjoys reading, listening, learning anything related to personal development, spending time with her family, and working out.

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