Sunday, October 13, 2013

The importance of a work ethic

This week Don has been employing Enola Gay's oldest son, Master Hand Grenade, to help build an awning on our barn for additional shelter for our cattle this winter.

This young man is doing a lot of stuff he's never done before, but he attacks each step with enthusiasm and willingness. More importantly, he's courageous. Due to some birth difficulties, Master HG's sense of balance isn't the best, but that didn't keep him from tackling heights and climbing on roofs. Don has come away with a deep appreciation for Master HG's work ethic.

I never worry about people who have a work ethic, because that alone will carry them far in life, no matter their age. I know a couple in their 50s who, despite high levels of education, kept body and soul together by pulling weeds after the husband lost his job. He later found a position commensurate with his work experience and education, and I would like to think his present employer was impressed that he preferred to pull weeds than take easy government money while unemployed.

It's those who lack a work ethic that concern me. The lack of a work ethic isn't just an annoyance that someone refuses to pull his weight. It's an attitude that permeates one's entire life and has repercussions on everything from employment potential to how you raise your kids. And above all, a solid work ethic impacts how you fare in a bad economy.

The problem is that too many people don't know how to work. I don't mean they're physically or mentally incapable of doing the job; I mean they don't see the need to apply themselves any more than they want to.

Over at The Dependent Independent, Lee discusses how a work ethic could impact things if the bleep hits the fan. Worth a read.


  1. A lot of people have never learned the pleasure of working and accomplishing something. Work gives some purpose as long as the work isn't a waste of time or made to be a punishment. It is a wonderful day to get a bunch of guys together who want to work.

  2. At one point my adult daughter was having financial difficulties. When I asked her what she was going to do, she replied, "Get a second job, of course." I was so proud.

  3. I wonder (as an intellectual exercise) if a growing lack of work ethic is a trailing indicator of a changed economy. In general, the industrial age was largely built on the agricultural age's work ethic e.g. if you do not do the work, no-one eats. As the industrial economy took over and parents raised their own children, the urban age created a situation where much of the work which was used to build the work ethic was "outsourced" to others.

    I wonder if a second contributor is simply the current work place. Too often, the reciprocity which is portrayed as "work hard, and you will do well" has been replaced with "Work harder and nothing will change". This tends to deflate the initiative of the work ethic as it too often goes into a bottomless pit.

    Related to this (possibly) is the replacement of the business culture of meritocracy (success based on accomplishment) with the culture of success based on some other factor. Office politics and the rewards that are distributed as an outcome of something other than merit will quickly work to undermine the morale of any working environment.

    A fourth thought (and then I am done): as a culture we no longer celebrate a work ethic and the rewards it generates. Could this also be a factor?

  4. I think part of the problem is that its a generational problem. A lot of kids now that are graduating high school have seen their parents not work and get free money from the government, so they don't see a need to work. And when those people do get jobs they don't want to work hard, don't show up, and really have a crappy work ethic and often get fired; or if a place does keep them, they won't get raises, more hours, etc. because of that bad work ethic. I've seen many girls that intentionally get pregnant right after graduating high school because they don't want to work. Then they can get WIC, SNAP, medicaid, clothing vouchers, and other monetary help to sit at home and do nothing.

    Actually the thing that really frustrates me a lot is what I have read on certain baby related forums by people who either are stay at home moms or want to be. Many of these stay at home moms said that they are not a maid or a cook so they refuse to cook, clean, and do anything around the house, they only take care of the kid and then pass it off to their husbands when they get home from work. To me it just shocks me how lazy these women are. I am a stay at home mom now and while I take care of my toddler and currently am pregnant again, I still cook meals, keep the house clean, garden, take care of animals, etc. And in no way am I a slave to my husband as many of these women would claim, its just I feel its my job and do it with pride just as I would with past jobs I have had.

    This country is raising an entitled generation that wants everything for nothing. They don't want to work for anything, they just want everything handed to them. Good examples of this are when you see parents with kids in stores. A kid throws a fit and the parents give them whatever they want. Many kids have no chores and sit around and do nothing but their parents still buy them tons of stuff they don't need.

  5. Over the years all I have heard about my children is how hard they work when they are called to a task. I respond in the manner you have, saying that teaching a strong work ethic when children are young...will carry them throughout life.

    We homeschooled as well so we were able to teach our children the values, morals, and standards in the way that places the Bible as our foundation. As of a few days ago, I am the mom of four adult children that were homeschooled all of their lives. Oldest son joined Army at 18, served in Afghanistan, was honorably discharged this year, and a week later entered the police academy and will graduate in December. Currently he is #1 in his class. Second son joined local volunteer fire department at 17, rose through the ranks and is now an officer, then at 20 joined the city fire department as his paid position. He remains a volunteer fire fighter, volunteer ems, and is training while in department to become fire marshall for area. Third son at age 18 started in local ER and is now head technician, while training to become either a nurse or even a doctor. He is not sure yet, but that is his direction. The sons are 24, 21, and 20. Daughter just turned 18. She has been working for several years. She completed her associates degree at 16 while babysitting to help her dad and I pay for it.

    When they come home they all roll up their sleeves and help on the farm. Teaching people how to work is a true guarantee that the first action in a crises will not be one reaching for a handout, but one offering a hand to others.

    Good post and I love Paratus Familia Blog!


  6. How do you get someone to do "common labor" when they've been told all their lives they're "special"?

  7. He seems like a good kid and this is an interesting topic.

    Upon a touch of reflection it seems people who have work ethic and are reliable (show up on time, ready to work, sober or close enough) seem to do OK in life. This has certainly proven true for folks I know. Even if they do not start out with a lot of skills or advantages in life they seem to find a decent niche.

    Folks who have work ethic, are reliable and live below their means (saving the difference) do well in life. Unless I am mistaken based on his parents this kid is probably frugal and a saver, in some form or another.

  8. Newt Ginrich made a comment once and he took a lot of heat for it but it is absolutely true. We have at least two generations of Americans who do not know how to be productive because they have never had an example to see how it is done. They do not understand getting up early every day, getting dressed and getting to work on time. Then while at work putting out 100% effort to put in a good productive day. Then go home, feed the kids, help with homework, clean the house, go to bed early then get up the next day and do it all over again. All they have ever seen is an adult that sleeps half the day, lounges around watching TV and drinking beer and waiting for the Government check to come in. They have no concept of what a good work ethic entails.

  9. Teaching the work ethic seems to be considered an old fashioned parenting device, but most of my parenting has been old fashioned.
    One organization that really provided a great work experience for our teens is a non profit called Northwest Youth Corps. It is one of the few places that hires inexperienced young boys and girls 14 and up and puts them to work for 5 week sessions and gives them a pretty good paycheck at the end. NYC does work for the forest service and other mostly forest based organizations and sends the teens out to tent camp in the woods, take turns doing cooking, and work 6 hours every day doing hard physical jobs like
    building wilderness trails, etc. They work 5 day weeks and spend 1 hour each day learning practical experience skills like how to apply and get a job. On weekends they do recreation like raft trips, swimming in lakes and hikes. They cannot take any tech items like cell phones etc with them. At the end of their session these teens are so proud of what they have accomplished and so full of self confidence. Our own teens each did at least one session of NYC. They take teens from all areas
    of the US but most come from Oregon, Washington and Idaho.
    Look at their web site and take my word as a parent, it made a lasting affect on all of our children.

  10. Here is a good example! God help us.

  11. Sounds like Master HG had some good parenting.

    And I'll bet that, rather than thinking something like
    "Gee, why do I have to work so hard ?",
    this young man knows that for the next 50 years, he can point to that awning and think to himself
    "I helped build that. Did pretty good, didn't I ?".

    - Charlie

  12. Employers are begging for people that will just show up and do what they are told. Education is good but without work ethic is WORTHLESS.

  13. This seems a great start for a great topic.

    I remember in 9th grade hearing my history teacher explain the reason why the Puritans were so successful was because of their work ethic. I was interested to hear more and she moved on to another topic.

    I believe a work ethic is biblically based. Here are some of the principles:
    1) Stewardship of private property is a basic foundation. (Thou shall not steal or covet. We are stewards of what God gives us.)
    2) All work is noble. (Even the janitor, or especially the janitor.)
    3) God has a divine calling for each of us.
    4) We work so we can provide for our own, tithe and give charity.
    5) Honesty is critical.
    6) We work so we can save and invest. (Debt is slavery.)
    7) Creativity as God was creative.
    8) Optimism. All things work together for the good of those who love Him.

    Are there other elements? I would love to hear them.