Seeking a recipe for work ethic
THERE is so much noise in the news these days the education system is failing; companies are leaving; tourists aren't spending; unemployment is rising, and as I said last quarter, folks want the jobs but not the work. After my last article, I received a tremendous amount of feedback (thanks!). Sadly not one reader contradicted what I had written which left me sad and mystified at the same time. Having grown up working and in a working culture where everyone did something and often several 'somethings', I began to question when and why did it change and can we change it back.
Thinking of the old poem, “What are little boys made of” I began to wonder, is there a simple recipe or formula for work ethic? Perhaps two parts responsibility, one part willingness and a dash of initiative or some other trait?
I believe work ethic starts with awareness, it requires a person to have actually thought about what they want to accomplish, irrespective of the type of job they are in. Work ethic continues with a desire to feel satisfied with the contributions made and finally work ethic finishes with the ability to self critique and evaluate his or her contribution against the goals that got them working in the first place.
On the flip side, how is it lost? Many of you who have the responsibility of hiring others have experienced persons who start with a bang, floating on a cloud of stellar references and eager to make their mark. Shortly after the end of probation but before their first anniversary the change occurs. Heels are replaced with flip flops (or some other Birkenstock type footwear that allows the person to shuffle); breakfast is no longer eaten elsewhere, lunch hours are taken for many reasons other than to eat lunch as that must be done back at the office and work as the priority seems to fade away in the face of any and all non work matters than can be attended to.
I have given this phenomenon a great deal of thought and have decided that the blame rests heavily on the employer and the environment that is allowed. The key here is “allowed”. A company cannot foster work ethic just through the development of a company manual or code of ethics. While your handbook may state which policies and practices you would like to see in the workplace, how you manage makes all the difference.
There is an old adage, “start as you mean to proceed”. Once you allow that first coffee roll with chopped egg to be eaten in clear view of everyone, it is not long before the pancakes, sausage and warm syrup show up. So how do we turn this around? Ironically for the many who have studied work ethics and its origins (thank you Google) all appear to agree developing a sound work ethic starts in school. Fix the schools/ raise the work ethic. As that is a far larger issue than I can address here, my advice is simple (perhaps simplistic), state your expectations, and then reinforce them. To continue the metaphor, get rid of the coffee roll!
Kelly Francis is the founder of Performance Solutions Limited a professional services firm specialising in human resource consulting and immigration management. Contact Kelly on kelly_francis[AT]psolutions.bm, or visit the website www.psolutions.bm