Work Ethic – It’s Getting Worse

Work Ethic – It’s Getting Worse

Work Ethic Excerpts

My comments are prefaced, as they always are, toward the population in general, never toward any specific individual.  Remember, we stereotype populations, not individuals.

Work ethic is the actualization of your tactical judgment.  It manifests as your dependability; your ability to accept responsibility, not as concepts or ideas, but as tangible, real actions.  It is statistically predictive of workplace performance and is extremely important for your success.

The cold hard truth about work ethic is that within the population at large, it is getting worse.  Even more problematic is that the worsening is taking place primarily among those who are about to enter, or have recently entered the workplace.

Over the last fifteen years, and particularly over the last five years, we have seen a decline in an understanding of the value of work among young adults.  Simply, the average work ethic scores of young adults are getting worse.

This is not difficult to comprehend.  If someone does not understand the value of work, and does not place high value on work, then it is much more likely that they will not work hard.  Statistically, those without a strong work ethic are much less likely to succeed, at whatever they consider success.

Whereas trainability is your conceptual extrinsic orientation to the external world, work ethic is your actualization component, whether or not you are likely to translate your extrinsic orientation into real, concrete actions of dependability and reliability.

Work ethic moves beyond the understanding of the work process to the fulfillment and execution of the work itself: Will you actually get your work done?  Will you be dependable in terms of carrying out your work activities?  In its simplest terms, your work ethic can be viewed as the likelihood that you will be where you are supposed to be, when you are supposed to be there, doing what you are supposed to be doing, and doing it effectively at that.

Your professional reputation is greatly impacted by the presence of a work ethic.  Employers need dependable employees, those who are consistently dependable in their activities.  Make sure that you are that person.  The importance of dependability is unmistakably obvious, and a lack of dependability, for most employers, is entirely unacceptable.  Consider that from the point of view of most employers, a strong work ethic ranks as one of the most desired character traits of an employee–and as such, a strong work ethic is vital to your professional success.

There are individuals who have a reputation for being dependable and reliable–and those who do not.  For some people, it is almost expected that they will miss work or deadlines, or fail to finish tasks or projects.  This type of behavior is considered their norm, and there will be tacit acknowledgement among their peers that this is simply who they are.  On the other hand, there are individuals who only miss work or a deadline if something is terribly wrong, an emergency or crisis–and their peers know this, as undependable behavior is not the norm for them.

Be open-minded to your work ethic and dependability, even if you know they are weak.  Unlike trainability, which can improve rather quickly, work ethic is often quite difficult to improve.  Adults who have a lack of value clarity within the actualization component of their extrinsic judgment, in other words, dependability, seem to have a difficult time becoming more dependable.  Oftentimes work ethic seems altogether immovable, very difficult to improve, in the habitually undependable individual.

Make sure that you are good at not only the conceptual understanding of an extrinsic predicament, but the ability to resolve an extrinsic predicament.  If so, you will tend to not only “talk the talk,” but also “walk the walk”, and you will move beyond the ideas and concepts of trainability to actions that reveal dependability and reliability.

If you are strong only at the understanding of work, you are prone to think more about an issue than deal with it directly.  Even though you might understand what work is all about, you will tend to be undependable when it comes to getting things done.  Others will perceive you as a person who does not live up to your potential in the workplace.

Read more about work ethic, and see your confidential Work Ethic score by joining Pilot Judgment.


CDR Barry W. Hull, USNR (Retired)

Barry Hull is an expert in the field of evaluative judgment and decision-making. He helps organizations and individuals improve their success by helping them improve their ability to make good decisions and choices. Barry Hull is the founder of Pilot Judgment Inc. Additionally, he is a partner with the consulting firm, Athena Assessment Inc. He is a retired US Navy Commander, F/A-18 Hornet fighter pilot, combat decorated during Operation Desert Shield and Desert Storm.


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