Is “good enough” the new standard for manual labor, and pride in your work a thing of the past?

Owatonna, MN Correspondent– It’s difficult to generalize about the quality of work because quality is usually a subjective measure. My standard for what constitutes a good job may differ from other people’s standards. A worker may be praised for his work quality by his immediate supervisor, but the big boss may be dissatisfied with that same job.

Another consideration for the definition of “good enough” should be the wages paid for the job done. Increased global competition for jobs combined with the natural compulsion for businesses to maximize profits by reducing labor and material costs means we in the US can get inexpensive but lower quality goods from abroad. We complain when a ten-dollar shirt from Walmart starts losing buttons and the seams unravel after ten launderings. But it’s not fair to expect the same quality for that shirt as we expect when we pay fifty dollars for a shirt from a high-end clothing manufacturer that uses the best materials and hires expert seamstresses to construct a shirt that will last for ten years.

I do agree that many younger workers see a job as a means to a paycheck and are only willing to exert the minimum effort to keep that job. However, if those workers aren’t pushed to produce high-quality products, that becomes the fault of the managers and, ultimately, the owner of the company. Pride of craftsmanship must be taught. It’s not a biological instinct. If it’s not taught to children by their parents, the onus falls on future employers of those children to teach that skill to them.

Enough anecdotal evidence exists to suggest that “good enough” is the new standard, but I see examples every day of workers who take pride in a job well done, so I don’t think “good enough” has become universal. It has just become more commonplace than it was several generations ago.

Gastonia, NC Correspondent-I’m in the process of having my home remodeled, and this has given me an up-close look at the slow, agonizing death that pride in workmanship is suffering from in this country. When I was 16 and working for a remodeler in Beaumont, Texas, my boss was a ridiculously stern taskmaster. Every strip of wallpaper had to be lined up perfectly with its neighbor, every tile had to be set flush and grouted properly, and God help me if a switch plate wasn’t aligned properly or a door didn’t shut without a squeak.

So far, every single contractor (and these are highly recommended fellows) who has worked on my home has done work that would have gotten me fired outright. First came the demolition guys, who took out an interior chimney but left a thick coating of coal dust and failed to get all the brick out of the house. Then there were the framing guys whom I caught trying to use salvaged wood from my pile under the house instead of the 2x4s I’d paid good money for. Next came the electrician, who despite me drawing him a diagram of exactly where I wanted the new power outlets, managed to completely bungle the job.

I could go on. Every step of the process has been filled with shoddy work, disregard for directions and outright theft. I didn’t go for cut rate contractors, and I don’t stand over their shoulders and kibitz while they work. I’ve even bought lunch for a couple of the crews when they put in long days. They just don’t seem to have any pride in doing a good job, and no satisfaction in seeing the fine points completed. In talking with other homeowners, I’ve found the same issue across the board. “Good enough” is being accepted, and fine work is almost a thing of the past.

It’s enough to make me want to get a general contractor license and hang out my own shingle … but then I wouldn’t be able to write for you fine folks every week.

Prescott Valley, AZ Correspondent-Manual labor is usually categorized as unskilled, so “good enough” might be alright for digging shallow ditches, mowing lawns or pulling weeds, but it seems that more skilled construction, manufacturing and industrialized jobs along with other trades have been categorized under the manual labor banner. What were once considered higher paying blue collar jobs seem to have been blended into manual labor type categories with lower pay and less recognition for ability and craftsmanship.

Pride in one’s work has become somewhat a thing of the past and has been replaced with rapid production and output rather than quality of work. There appears to be a limited amount of pride and confidence in what is being built or produced. It’s all about getting something thrown together and on the market in a split second at a low price for sale, consumption or export.

With the dumbing down of highly skilled trades and blue collar jobs, there are fewer and fewer individuals training or learning how to perform construction related or blue collar jobs, plus many jobs in the trades and other sectors have been filled with cheap labor substitutes that come through illegal and foreign workers. Many higher skilled jobs have been eliminated or taken by less qualified individuals, which has a lot to do with a loss of confidence and pride in one’s work. A poorly framed wall, faulty electrical wiring and unseated leaky faucets are not part of what constitutes pride in a job well done.

In order to resurrect pride in one’s work, a work ethic must be instilled in younger generations of individuals who have the aptitude to complete both manual and more skilled labor. Vocational training in the trades should be made a priority for individuals with limited or no skills, and schools that specialize in specific trades need to offer training courses that include both classes and on the job training with older mentors to help them learn their trade or job efficiently, with pride in mind for a job well done.

Those who hire and work with unskilled and skilled workers need to address the issues of qualifications and proper work and business ethics. Cheap, unskilled labor coupled with rapid production methods are not a good combination, and they don’t represent what should be incentives or examples of pride in work outcomes.

Fewer and fewer incentives to work have become the mainstay in today’s society and any kind of work that is done is considered good enough as long as it is done fast and labor costs are low. Low quality, mistakes and other issues are overlooked. With these more prevalent attitudes about work, it is going to take major changes and increased demand for quality versus quantity for both unskilled and skilled labor to turn around the character and nature of the good of work and how it provides a sense of worth in someone’s life.

Pride in work should not become a thing of the past and with the right incentives and training, those that make the choices to work in both manual labor and more skilled hands-on jobs can develop pride in their work, but changes in the current overall job situation in the country will have to improve in order for larger numbers of individuals to be part of the workforce. Developing a work ethic, vocational training and mentoring are going to have to play major roles in returning the idea of a job well done, with pride in workmanship, to the forefront.

Sheffield, Jamaica Correspondent-A man should work hard and see good for his hard work. That’s what I believe. However, gone are the days when people labored in love. It’s now simply to make ends meet. Demonstrating pride in one’s work is merely a thing of the past for the vast majority. “Good enough” is the new standards. Sadly, many people behave that way as a consequence of a few factors.

The money does not add up. We work mainly to care for our family and assist others where necessary. However, most workers can’t afford to care for their families comfortably, because of where the wage is today. Hence, many lack the motivation needed to put their best foot forward, show up for work, and complete their job with pride and zeal. Those days are done. People aren’t motivated anymore, because the measly salary received on a monthly or bi-weekly basis is nothing to smile about or take pride in. The more people are paid, the more willing they are to work exceptionally.

Poor management is also to be blamed. When you’re micromanaged and bullied into feeling like you’re not enough, work ethics fall. If employers were encouraging their workers and helping them to feel good about what they’re doing, they’d take more pride in their work. An employer that doesn’t encourage or incite is one that will be given “good enough” work.

Poor working conditions will not sweeten labor. Just to recall a personal experience: During my full-time employment, my job left me feeling drained, not because I had too much to do, but because I had to show up for work everyday and work for 8 hours in a hot room. The air conditioner was not functional and management didn’t care to fix or replace it. My work there was only “good enough” just to keep me onboard. Who in the world could function in a hot room?

Until employers address the above issues, “good enough” work will continue to be the new standard and work ethics and pride will stay in the past.

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