Is America suffering from a lack of work ethic and professionalism? How do we address this?

Myrtle Beach, SC, Orlando, FL March 24, 2016 

Prescott Valley, AZ Correspondent-America is suffering from a lack of worth ethic and professionalism.  A number of factors have caused the erosion and loss of both of these virtues and standards of American exceptionalism, and the country is paying both a societal and cultural price for these losses.

What was once a pursuit of the American Dream has warped into a greedy quest for more and more, with less and less effort directed towards the principles of the work ethic.  The factors that have created this progression are urban sprawl, emphasis on large-scaled businesses, technological advances, social media, and bombardment of get-rich-quick escapes from work.  All of these factors have created a generation of younger Americans who are unmotivated, unprofessional, unschooled, undisciplined, and unaccustomed to the normal progression of acquiring a work ethic, which would have normally occurred under a traditional family arrangement, which has deteriorated as well.

Technology is one of the big culprits with this issue, as it has made life easier, faster, entertaining, and fun.  People aren’t required to put effort into much of anything as all their energies are focused on what technology and other advances have done and will continue to do for them.  Rather than learning and understanding what the principles of a work ethic can bring to them and their children, they are too busy enjoying their time not working and avoiding what a real work ethic means.  With the effortlessness of life, parents have also been pushed and influenced into not educating their children as to what real work means, and they have also been manipulated by the psychology of the day, which has emphasized feeding and building their children’s self-esteem, which in their minds is all that is needed to form a well-rounded human being.  As a result of this kind of parenting, several generations of self-centered (me centered) younger American workers have been created.

Many employers are at a loss as to what to do about younger and even older people in the workforce, as they continually report that a good percentage of their employees are disengaged, unprofessional, unmotivated, undisciplined, disrespectful, and uneducated as to the real meaning and benefits of work.  Apparently this proves to be true as reported in 2010 by the Pew Research Center concerning Millennials.  It indicated that this group of younger workers believes that they are unique and have a distinct identity, but there was no indication of interest or association with a work ethic included in this report.  In fact, a description of their uniqueness was directed towards their technical abilities, their music and pop culture, their progressive and tolerant beliefs, their superior intellect, and their clothing choices.

Though Millennials have significant skills and distinct personalities, their inability to perform and follow through with a job in a dedicated and loyal manner is seriously lacking. In order to address the issue of the lack of a work ethic and professionalism in America, whether with younger or older Americans, a number of issues need to be resolved in order for both of these standards to be reincorporated into the labor force.

Any workable solutions would basically have to be part of an introductory course or orientation to those new to and in the labor pool, which would include overviews on the work ethic and professionalism and what they entail, no matter the job or career choice.  It could be accomplished through required work ethics programs or seminars provided by colleges, vocational schools, city or county programs, or employer-sponsored plans.  These programs should also contain aspects that not only promote the work ethic and professionalism, but they should incorporate motivational techniques to inspire and instill others to perform and follow through on a job.  If the standards are not met through trial periods, demotion and release from work should be part of the program agreement.

Emphasis must also be placed on employability skills.  Employers are looking for American workers who have a work ethic, can get to work on time, and remain on the job.  They are not seeking out potential employees whose thoughts and expectations are of doing anything they can to get out of work or of employees who believe they deserve instantaneous promotions or executive level pay the first day on the job.  Workers new to the job scene seeking entitlements should never be allowed to set a standard, and that aspect needs to be emphasized with any worker, no matter their age.

Passion for work comes from a work ethic and reluctant workers can find satisfaction in work if they have the right attitude and learn work ethics and tactics to gain the most from a job.  Hard work, initiative, dedication and loyalty create the best workers, and employers reward those kinds of workers accordingly, and any orientation program needs to emphasize this over and over again.  Only through employability skill set requirements and other educational pathways will the work ethic and real professionalism take hold again in America.

Gastonia, NC Correspondent-During heyday of the Baby Boom generation, work life was a lot simpler than it is now.  You went to college (or didn’t), got a job with a company, worked there until you were old enough to draw retirement, maybe even a pension if you were lucky, and that was it.

Today, with the skillset needed for good jobs changing on a yearly basis and companies appearing and disappearing like rabbits in David Copperfield’s chapeau, the idea of spending your entire life working for one company is as antiquated as that pension fund your grampa loved so much.

This climate, and the attitude of many employers toward their employees, bears a large part of the blame for the lack of work ethic and professionalism in the younger members of the workforce as a whole.  Employees can no longer expect loyalty from their employers, and thus no longer feel compelled to pledge their fealty as firmly as their fathers and grandfathers did.  “Company man” has become an insult, and the idea that one would pass up an opportunity at a competing firm out of loyalty to a current employer is quaint at best.

That’s not the whole issue, though.  Millennials, raised by helicopter parents and spoon-fed knowledge and culture while being insulated from the harshness of real life, come into the working world with a set of expectations that would be considered laughable if they weren’t coming from such a sizable chunk of our available workforce.

They want flex-time.  They want work credit for “experiential learning.”  They want to telecommute whenever they choose.  They want … and want … and want.  And many of them behave like spoiled children when their wishes aren’t fulfilled.  They haven’t learned that life is a series of compromises, and that if you’re not willing to give a little here and there, you’ll end up having much taken away.

So we need attitude shifts on both sides.  Companies need to start once again showing longtime employees that they are valued, not old furniture to be discarded.  Young workers need to buckle down and realize that “perks” come when you earn them, not when you’re hired.

 Owatonna, MN Correspondent-Generalizing about societal conditions such as work ethic and professionalism is difficult because anyone can make a case for or against a position based on personal anecdotes.  What can be extrapolated from society is the change in general trends of government policy, cultural expectations, and world influences in an increasingly interconnected planet.

Governmental trends support the negative trend in work ethic.  Laws have been passed to decrease workweeks to a standard 40 hours, empower unions that support easier working conditions and expectations of a safer work environment, and provide increased unemployment benefits and social services for those who need some sort of job assistance such as retraining, relocation, or acquiring computer skills. Cultural expectations also seem to support the negative trend.  The biggest cultural expectation is the so-called American Dream, which implies that each generation will enjoy a better standard of living that its parents; and anyone who studies hard, works hard, and plays by the rules can succeed as well as anyone else.  What seems lacking with citizens younger than the Baby Boom generation is the instilling of the concept of what constitutes hard work.  Combined with a growing societal desire for instant gratification, hard work increasingly seems to be defined as simply showing up at a job and claiming to be working hard.

Cultural expectations also seem to support the negative trend.  The biggest cultural expectation is the so-called American Dream, which implies that each generation will enjoy a better standard of living that its parents; and anyone who studies hard, works hard, and plays by the rules can succeed as well as anyone else.  What seems lacking with citizens younger than the Baby Boom generation is the instilling of the concept of what constitutes hard work.  Combined with a growing societal desire for instant gratification, hard work increasingly seems to be defined as simply showing up at a job and claiming to be working hard.

World influences such as travel, cultural exchanges and education, and extensive immigration that either blends or forces different cultures together may also have an impact.  Americans observe Western European culture, for example, see the shorter workweeks, long-term job security, and more generous government benefits, and may think, “We deserve those benefits too.”  The sense of entitlement may subtly increase along with a sense of resentment or envy, which leads to a decrease in a virtuous work ethic. That said there is still no shortage of hard workers and energetic entrepreneurs in the United States who will always strive to be the best.  It may be that their numbers are gradually decreasing as more workers adopt an attitude of entitlement and minimum effort.

There’s no easy way to reverse the trend in declining professionalism and work ethic.  The place to start must be local and it must come organically, not from government laws or policies.  Parents and even grandparents must take the lead in showing children what it means to work hard.  Give children challenging tasks with appropriate rewards for a job well done.  Insist that doing one’s fair share is the only way for society to be successful.  Once parents have established the work ethic they want to see in their children, then they can turn to the local schools to reinforce that message and instill it in a broader societal context.

Sheffield, Jamaica Correspondent-Morals, that is a rare gem in this day and age.  Unfortunately, America seems to be the biggest victim of it all.  People do anything they deem fit at the office.  Not only are work relationships permitted, but they are left bare-faced.  I’ve never seen such unprofessionalism before in my life.  In addition to obvious relationships within the office, employees wear whatever they want.  They dress sloppily and casually, without regard for their neighbors.  While those are apparent lapses in work ethics, what about the not so obvious?  Employees are now “relaxing on the job”.  In fact, motivational sessions and group talks are frequent events in the work environment, as these individuals have to be constantly reminded of the importance of getting things done.

With Millennials flooding the workforce, unprofessionalism and unethical behavior is increasing.  This stems from the fact that there has been a break down in society, schools and homes.  No one actually takes the time to provide counselling or mentorship for these young and impressionable minds.  Millennials simply do what they want or for want of a better word “wing it”.

True values and dedication is hard to find.  Sad to say, we need to head back to former days, where employees considered a business “their” business and worked with a sense of pride, proper work ethics and professionalism.

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