by T. Katz
Q: As the owner of a company, it’s important to me that employees have a good work ethic. A lot don’t. I’ve got young kids at home and wonder if they’ll grow up that way, too. Is that something you’re born with?
A: Hard-working. In a nutshell, that defined the Greatest Generation born between WWI and WWII, the hardest working people on the planet. Their work ethic was borne out of tremendous hardship, because of economic issues and shifts in world powers that resulted in war. Forced to roll up their shirtsleeves to earn everything from shoes on their feet to food on the table, it formed their character in a way that had nothing to do with how they sprung from the womb. So, you could argue that those folks had a good work ethic, because of WHEN they were born.
Because my grandparents and parents were members of that generation, my work ethic was drilled into me early. Almost daily. I remember being told that it didn’t matter what I chose to do in life, as long I put effort into it. My dad said, “Even if you’re a ditch-digger, you be the best little ditch-digger you can be!” There was such pride in a job well done, even if it was shining someone’s shoes (which I did for a quarter, using Grandpa Andy’s tin of Kiwi Paste kept under his bed in a metal box). So, I suppose being in that household did mold my work ethic, because of WHERE I was born.
Now, there are people who believe you’re born with all your character traits, but I think that’s hogwash. None of us pop out fully formed, like Venus on the half-shell. We learn what we live. It doesn’t matter if you’re brought into the world with a silver spoon in your mouth or a steel shovel in your hand; how hard you work comes from what you learn. And … what you learn comes from what you hear, see and do. If your existence teaches you that your ultimate well-being is in your hands, by the effort you put forth, that develops a work ethic to apply to every area of your life. Now, let’s look at the synonyms for work: Effort! Exertion! Drudgery! Grind! As parents and caregivers, we must become comfortable with our child’s discomfort, so that they can grow into strong adults who understand and appreciate a job well done. If you want your children to develop a work ethic, then create tasks at home that live up to that word: WORK – and have them see it through to completion. Then, praise them for their efforts. You can reward them for jobs well done, too. Earning an allowance or a “paycheck” for chores is good, but I can tell you that when they hear the pride in your voice and see it on your face? They’ll want to continue honing their work ethics. You might want to try it with your employees, too.
xo – t.