Skip to content

Why working hard is not enough

Why working hard is not enough

Stack of papers

I was always told that if I worked hard I would do well. My parents told me this, my teachers at school and managers when I started work. It seemed like a fair exchange on the face of it. Yet around me at work, many people worked hard but only a proportion of those progressed.

If I work hard, I will be rewarded – right?

Wrong, unfortunately. 

Working hard is a good start but on its own it is not enough. Working hard demonstrates your work ethic, shows commitment to your company, and is an essential building block in a very competitive marketplace for good roles that offer further opportunity.

There are many people that work hard but don’t progress or who progress to a point and then get stuck. So, what does matter to the employer?

Creating Vale for your employer

The value that you create matters a lot. What tasks do you do, what projects do you manage, what skills do you display that creates value for the business in which you work? What is more valuable in these examples?

  • Doing a task as you have been told to do over and over OR working out a better way of achieving the same end using less time, resources or risk and then carrying out the task in the new way.
  • Being a valued team member, OR being a team leader that can motivate and maintain team direction as well as undertake their work well
  • A person that is negative most of the time OR a person that is positive most of the time
  • A person unwilling to make decisions, OR a person that makes decisions and gets a good result more often than not.

Don’t think “I must work harder”. Do think “How can I add more value to my company”.

You need to demonstrate that you can do your current tasks well AND that you have the potential to do the new tasks just as well. This will put you front of mind for your manager to give you new opportunities.

Relationships matter

It is human nature to help those we like more than those we don’t. Humans also follow the social / cultural rules of reciprocation. i.e. “you scratch my back, I’ll scratch yours”. Both behaviours have strong historical roots in our dependency on each other for survival and are deeply ingrained.

Your manager decides which staff members to assign tasks and projects to. If you are well liked by your manager, you are more likely to get the tasks that give you more opportunity to develop your skills. If you make an effort to help your manager succeed, then they are more likely to help you to succeed.

In nearly every role in our society, we interact with other people – colleagues, suppliers and customers among many stakeholders. How well we interact with others has a direct impact on how successfully we can carry out our roles. If we are positive towards others and help others, we are likely to be more effective in our own roles as other staff members reciprocate our approach and help us.

These social skills become more and more important as we progress in an organisation. If we demonstrate our abilities in these areas, we become managers and then leaders.

People management is a critical skill

As you progress upwards in your career, more and more of your time is spent dealing with people. Those in your team, the other teams around you, your customers, suppliers and other parties.

If people skills including management and leadership become more important as you become more senior, then it is likely that these skills are more valuable to your employer.

We believe that leadership and management are two critical skills that allow you to add more value to the company in which you work. Both are skills that can be learnt with will, effort, feedback and practice. Reading books and going on courses are useful to a point. Practice is critical to hone both skills.

In summary,

  1. Think “how can I add more value” rather than just “working hard”. Both are needed to progress
  2. Your ability to get on and interact effectively and positively impacts your career directly
  3. People management, including team management and leadership, are critical skills to enable you to add more value to your company

Enhance provides leadership coaching and career promotion coaching for executive to mid-level managers. Visit us at or call us on 0203 500 6300 to find out more