Friday, September 23, 2011

Work Ethic? What's That?

In his bestselling book The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People, Steven Covey re-defined the term "paradigm shift" to describe a change in basic assumptions about life and the workplace. After visiting with several of my younger friends who have been very successful in business I have come to realize that we are undergoing a substantial paradigm shift in the work habits, and work ethics of the next several generations. 

My Dad steadfastly worked thirty-five years for Eastman Kodak. Every day he would get up, and suit up for the challenges that lie ahead at the office. He had a place to go - usually needing to be there around 8am, and generally heading home sometime after 5pm. It was expected that he would give Uncle Eastman 40+ hours a week under the watchful eye of his superiors. Dad never complained - that generation just expected to be working those kind of hours at a place other than the comfort of their own homes.

A lot of that obviously rubbed off. When I entered the workforce it was already ingrained in me that I would be giving the homebuilding company I was working for at least forty hours a week. Anything less would be considered stealing from my employer! Come to think of it this is the same template that was thrown back at me when I asked my lead trim carpenter how he got his guys to work so hard (UPS has nothing on these guys - think Everready Bunny on steroids!). Simple he said, 'if they take a lazy step they know that they are stealing from me; that means I am stealing from my Contractor; which means he is stealing from the client; and NO ONE  is going to steal from the client!' I love that guy.....

Fast forward to my young successful friends. Everything seems to be results driven. Is this the paradigm shift Covey was talking about? This next generation appears to be happy with workers who might only work 15 hours a week so long as they are "hitting their numbers." The expectation has become performance driven, and their accountability extends only to the achievement of their assigned goals. What ever happened to "extra credit?" Can we really build homes spending only 15 hours a week so long as we meet our target objectives for budget and time efficiency? Somehow I don't think that will fly!

But I have become concerned that future generations don't really understand the value of hard work. When you are achieving your boss' expectations by only working fifteen hours a week, how will you respond later in life when the demands of work and family require sixty to eighty hours a week? My son-in-law, a twenty year veteran of the Navy has mentioned several times that the young recruits are incredibly "soft!" Could it be that they really don't know how to work hard and have majored instead in video games? Suddenly I am not liking my chances of being protected by the up and coming generation!

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