Monday Mornings with Madison

Pride In One’s Work

Pride is often thought of as a flaw or sin.  “Being prideful” is considered synonymous with being conceited, haughty or egotistical.  It is the opposite of humility.  There are few personality traits more distasteful than a person who is prideful or boastful.  “Pridefulness” is seen as a shortcoming or failing of character.  However, there is another kind of pride.  “Taking pride” in one’s work is actually a virtue or quality.  It is one that employers should seek in new hires, and it is a trait that every employee should embrace and emulate.

What does it actually mean to take pride in one’s work?  Abraham Lincoln once said that “whatever you are, be a good one.”  At the core of his message was the concept of taking pride in one’s work.  And that is no small thing.  A job well done is a meaningful accomplishment.  In theory, this is a valuable quality in any person.  In reality, it may be hard to distinguish between someone who takes genuine pride in what they do and someone who does the bare minimum except when the boss is watching.  What does “pride in one’s work” look like in practice?

Defining Pride In One’s Work

First, let’s determine what “pride in one’s work” is not.  It’s not about being perfect or being a perfectionist.   There is a difference between doing a job the right way, and shooting for perfection.  People are not perfect and doing a job perfectly all the time is unrealistic.  Those who try to be perfect may take so much time on a task that it is wasteful.  Perfection is not the goal.  Pride in one’s work is about doing each task with care and precision in the most efficient way possible.

There is also something that is implied in taking pride in one’s work.  One should do one’s work with care and precision even when no one is watching.  Some employees take pride in their work only when the boss is watching or when a supervisor is nearby.  Everyone knows someone like that.  Consider a company with two employees.  One is a naturally talented person who does his job well just to get acknowledgment from others.  That job will be well done only as long as he is praised for it.  That person only brings his “A-Game” when others are watching, but slacks off when he is alone.  Is that really pride in one’s work or is that showmanship?  The other employee – for the sake of comparison — is perhaps less talented but takes pride in his work.  He will do the job well – even if he is less talented — because of an internal pride of doing a job right. The less talented employee’s pride in his work will ensure that he consistently does his best, even when no one is watching.  The real measure of pride in workmanship, then, is to see how an employee does the job when there is no one to see, comment, applaud or praise the work.  That is genuine pride in one’s work.

Pride in one’s work speaks volumes about a person’s character. It shows that the person has the drive to complete a task and do it to the best of their ability. Being able to say that a job was completed with all one’s effort speaks of dedication and self-respect.

To determine if an employee genuinely takes pride in their work, ask:  Is that person the very best at what they do?  Can he do his job better?  Is the quality of his work as good as it can be considering his workload?

How to Take Pride in One’s Work

How to take pride in your work may seem like something that is easy to do…. even obvious.  But it’s neither obvious nor easy for everyone to take pride in their work.  In truth, pride in one’s work is really not something that can be easily taught to employees.  There are some traits that will affect job performance that are only learned through observation and recognition.  A person’s work ethic and pride in his work is something that is gleaned through the observation of and example set by others…. Such as parents, family, and close friends over time.  It is part and parcel of how kids almost always do what their parents do, not what their parents say.  First, kids emulate their parents’ example of workmanship by striving to do their best in school, sports or other activities, and then in college and eventually at their own job.  That’s why it’s essential to hire for this skill.

That said, taking pride is one’s work is something that should be desired from all employees:  young and old; new and experienced; entry level clerk and manager; employee and boss.  And when spotted, it should be rewarded.  So what does pride in one’s work look like in practice?

1. Work = Reputation

Whatever the task, no matter how small it is, has the doer’s signature on it. Even if it is not physically signed (which of course most work is not), it still passes through that desk, station, or assembly line, and thus has that person’s name is on it.  Unless the person could not care less about his own reputation, then taking pride in that work is key.  A person who takes pride in his work knows that his work is a reflection of who he is.  His work and his reputation are both impeccable.

2. Is Patient to Receive Recognition

A person who takes pride in his work understands that quality and consistency are valuable and are happy to wait for recognition when it’s time for a promotion, raise or bonus.   They don’t just live for the pat on the back or constant praise.

3. Knows Each Role Is Important

Each employee has a role in the workplace.  A person who takes pride in his work knows that no matter how small that role may seem, it is important in the grand scheme of things.  He recognizes that there is value in what he does; in his part of the big picture.  From the janitor to the CEO, each person plays a role.  The janitor maintains the hygiene and therefore the happiness of the people in the company.

4. Strives to Improve

To take pride in work, a person must know what he does know and what he doesn’t know.  Then he can seek to improve. A person who takes pride in his work is constantly taking steps to improve.

5. Knows the Job

A person who takes pride in his work recognizes that he or she carries some knowledge that only he/she has. He knows that his experience and someone else’s experience are different and thus, what each person brings to job is also different. That is a unique point. He is confident in his own contributions and skills.

6. Builds Trust

A person who takes pride in his work trusts in others and knows that this trust is being returned.  Even when it seems like no one is watching, the person who takes pride in his work knows others are depending on and trusting in the quality of his work.

7.  Takes the Time Required

A person who takes pride in his work will take the time not only to do a job right, but also to explain what he is doing and why it is being done that way. That person is generally proud of the techniques or skills used and why those techniques result in a superior outcome.

8.  Doesn’t Cut Corners

A person who takes pride in his work doesn’t cut corners. Because of the pride he takes in his work, he makes sure it’s done right. Even if a customer or boss asks for the person to take a shortcut for the sake of time or for whatever reason, a proud employee will explain the ramifications and reasons for not taking the shortcut.

The ultimate goal should be to take pride in one’s work, not in oneself.

Quote of the Week

“Every job is a self-portrait of the person who did it.  Autograph your work with excellence.” Jessica Guidobono


© 2016, Written by Keren Peters-Atkinson, CMO, Madison Commercial Real Estate Services. All rights reserved.

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