By: Fred Coon, Chairman, CEO
Work ethic used to mean that you took pride in your job. Typically, most people think of a work ethic as being honest, trustworthy, respectful, diligent, and above all, extremely hardworking. The old adage of putting 110% into all that you do, all ties into the work ethic norm.
The New York Times reported in detail that American work ethic has gone down the tubes. For instance, they profiled a Colorado farmer who wanted to replace his migrant foreign workers with locals form the town he lived in. He was surprised that not a single local wanted the job. It was hard work, picking corn in the summer heat – but if this job had been posted 50 years ago, he surely would have had a lot more local takers. “When Americans complain about the lack of jobs today, they are drawing a line somewhere,” the Times stated. The American worker today sees more sense in drawing in unemployment then working in a corn field.
The article also raised an important question: How has the definition of American work ethics changed? Executive coaching ties into this; it asks the executive, “what potential do you have to be a leader?” In most cases, executive job seekers are the ones who have good work ethic – or are the ones willing to work hard in all capacities. American values have changed. It makes sense for many to collect unemployment, because they actually compensate more of their past salary doing so. If they elect to work in a farmer’s field, they will have harder days and less money.
Despite this, American’s in the job field still have a newly evolved sense of a work ethic. The Modern American Work Ethic:
- Based on a positive attitude, not simply honesty
- Takes initiative, works with ambition.
- Creates a team atmosphere
- Demonstrates individualism
These modern ethics are imperative. While it is still important to be honest, trustworthy and diligent, the more up-to-date take on work ethics should be intermingled with these new ideas. Work ethics change, but do not throw the old thoughts away. Instead, keep them with you and change them to meet the current standing. If you want to create strong business ethics, then you have to create an open line of communication.
- Look at your core values and then define them. Perhaps you value transparency and honesty – it may be the best of what you believe should be a part of the team or culture of your work environment – build on this, embrace this, and treat those around you with the same standard.
- Always ask for feedback. Without it we leave ourselves open to failure. Feedback is the bread and butter of business, if a company is happy with the way you work don’t stop asking, because it’s guaranteed that they cannot be happy all of the time.
- Work harder and go that extra furlong to get those points in. You may find yourself working in a new atmosphere or perhaps a regime change. These dynamic shifts can cause an employee to become stagnant. Avoid that pitfall by working out of your comfort zone and embracing the new challenges set before you.
Benjamin Franklin described work ethic this way: “Remember, that time is money. He that can earn ten shillings a day by his labor, and goes abroad, or sits idle one half of that day, though he spends but sixpence during his diversion or idleness, ought not to reckon that the only expense…”
Industry has not changed – the concept that we need to work as hard as we can to garner the returns is still the same. But not determining where you stand in the work field can set you up for failure. Ask yourself where you first learned your work ethic. Also question this: would you be one of those people who works in that farmer’s field just to be useful and productive? If yes, then count your ethics as seemingly and sadly now outdated. But don’t throw them away – instead be proud that you display the qualities of a true leader in the field. Many people are willing to work, but as the New York Times states, they work within boundaries. That is, if they feel that making money with welfare is more lucrative, then they choose that. Remember, an executive is a leader with ambition and perseverance.
What does this all mean? It means as a corporate or executive leader you will indeed be out in the farmer’s field, because you are an example of hard work. You know that your work will perhaps gain you a reputation for excellence. It’s a do-all and be-all attitude that should seep into your work ethic.
Now, it is not easy to live this way, but if it were, everyone would be an executive. If it were easy, then everyone you meet on the street would be a manager. But they are not, because it is not. The true qualities of a leader shine with honesty and hard work.