How Do I Encourage Employee Work Ethics?

Dan Cavallari

Work ethics can vary significantly from worker to worker, but in most cases, if the employer and management team sets a good example, the employees will follow suit. If employers and managers want employees to work hard and act professional, the employers will have to do so as well. The employees will learn by example, and if the employer tends to avoid work and fosters confrontation, the employees can generally be expected to do the same. Employers can improve their employees' work ethics by providing rewards systems as well, and recognition for jobs well done.

Recognizing good work encourages all employees to follow suit.
Recognizing good work encourages all employees to follow suit.

Sometimes all an employee needs to improve his or her work ethic is the potential to be recognized for the work being done. Many employees complain they work exceptionally hard for little recognition or gain, so by simply saying thank you for a job well done, or granting a certificate of appreciation you may give him or her the incentive to work harder. Public recognition is important; employees should be recognized in front of other employees not only to give that worker a sense that they are being shown as an example of exemplary work, but also to motivate other workers to follow suit and improve their own work ethics.

People are more motivated when they feel like part of a team.
People are more motivated when they feel like part of a team.

Of course, this technique will not work if the employers do not first set clear goals for the workers. By defining clear goals, work ethics can be improved since employees will have clear guidelines as to how to improve their own performances and help the company become more efficient, productive, or generally better. When an employee reaches one of the set goals, the employer can recognize that person for a job well done, giving other employees even more motivation to perform better.

Managers who expect employees to work hard and act professional must do so as well.
Managers who expect employees to work hard and act professional must do so as well.

Monetary rewards are, of course, good motivators as well. Raises are one way to encourage employee growth and performance, as are bonuses, though smaller rewards can go a long way as well. Gift certificates or monetary rewards for reaching goals or increasing productivity can give employees a concrete reason to work harder and more efficiently.

More than rewards, however, employees often need to feel as though they are being included as part of a team. Including an employee in a decision-making process will give him or her a sense of ownership over a project or even over the business in general, regardless of how important that decision may be. Allowing the employee to participate in his or her own evaluation and allowing that employee to help set his or her own personal and career goals will also help that person feel more invested.

Defining clear goals can help workers and managers understand expectations and objectives.
Defining clear goals can help workers and managers understand expectations and objectives.

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Discussion Comments


I think that the social part of work ethics is just as important as the performance part. Everyone wants to work with people who are friendly and considerate of others, so encouraging this attitude is essential, as well.

My employer has made it a policy to do little things to let people know they are appreciated, and this goes a long way toward keeping the friendly atmosphere alive. We buy cupcakes and take up money for a gift for anyone who has a birthday in the office. The boss also hands out certificates of appreciation after we have particularly long and hard projects behind us.

The little things like this really do matter. It's important to feel like you are a valuable member of a team of people who care about you, because if you do, you will treat them with the same respect and care.


@JackWhack – I think that the potential for getting a raise works in the same way. Everyone in my office knew that they would be up for consideration for a raise once a year on the anniversary of the date they were hired. I think this kept them from slacking and skimping on work.

There was always the chance that only a few people would get a raise within a given year. If money was tight, then only those with the best work ethics would receive the raises. So, there was always a little subtle healthy competition.


Bonuses go a long way if you offer them to people who will compete to receive them. Nothing encourages good work ethics in the workplace than money up for grabs.

My boss offered a $1,000 bonus to the sales rep who could sell the most advertising slots between the first of the month and the end of the month. Of course, this meant they would all be trying their very best to sell ads.

The first month that he tried this, the sales reps sold more ads than ever before. Though the company might not be able to afford such a bonus every month, it could offer this bonus a few times a year to increase revenue while promoting good work ethics.


I've always had good work ethics, but my employer encourage me to maintain those ethics by making me feel valuable. He allowed me to sit in on the interview with a person who might be replacing my coworker when he left, and I really appreciated that.

He also considered my input and my impression of the guy. He allowed me to tell the guy a little bit about the job and to ask a few questions.

Just knowing that I wouldn't be totally surprised by my new coworker or stuck with a dud made me desire to keep up the good work. I didn't want to disappoint a boss who treated me with respect and valued my opinion.

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