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What happened to work ethics?

Updated on August 9, 2010

Now versus Then

Growing up in a suburban neighborhood going to a good public school with working parents, there was always that underlying truth that to get where you want, you must work hard. My father worked full time, my mother often had two jobs at once, sometimes three. Never once did I ever question if they spent so much time away from home because they did not love me. It was understood that they did what they did for me. This was the foundation for my work ethic and it is one that the military enhanced. I know my place in the chain of command and I am okay with that.

     The working generation of today, however, seems to have skipped that lesson in life and is aiming straight for the good things.  Youth, as a whole, tend to be irresponsible and flighty.  It is expected that someone fresh to the working masses will take at least a little bit of time to mature and accept his responsibilities.  With that in mind, I challenge any person to spend a day shopping and not find less than fifty percent of  their help to be both ineffective and offensive.  It is not often that I come across and individual, young or not, grateful to have their job.  Gone are the days of treating the customer with respect and dignity. 

     A good friend of mine related to me how a woman maybe two or three years her junior literally rolled her eyes at my friend when she requested assistance at the shoe department.  A coworker at an auto parts store would make a game out of finding new and creative ways of getting out of doing as little as humanly possible at work.  This during a time of economic crisis!  There was no sense of fear of losing her job, no sense of honor or pride for doing her job to her best.  This I witnessed day in and day out for months before confronting her and management about the problem as I saw it.  My concerns were taken with a grain of salt and pitifully pacified. 

     Now that my husband and I have opened a business, we are contemplating hiring a part timer but we have come to a fork in the road.  Do we hire someone young, someone who can learn from us and work hard at doing that or do we hire someone older who has proven their dedication to strong work ethics?  If we choose the youth, what guarantee will we have that he or she will appreciate the opportunity they have?  It scares me that we could wind up going through dozens of applications and not find one person who meets our criteria or worse, one that does meet our criteria but fails to measure up to our standards.  What happened to the days of understanding that everyone starts at the bottom?  I have overheard a young boy boast that he will never push a broom, that nobody is going to make him do that. 

     The demand for high priced name brand 'things' has risen.  Somewhere along the time line of our country, entertainment and personal pleasure rose to be more important signs of success than dedicated hard work.  Two years ago, a local college took the handful of engineering students that they had and drove them to a facility with a very low turnover rate.  This company stated that no person started for less than $25 an hour, boasted their impressive benefits plan, and explained that this could be theirs if they studied hard and worked harder.  One young man among the group scoffed and said he could make more money somewhere else.  Companies like that one have a low turnover rate because people of my generation and older understood the value of hard work and the reward of a great job.  The only reason they were advertising for employment was because many of their engineers were getting ready to retire and there is a documented need for engineers in this country.

     When the entertainment industry makes it look so easy to play around and make more money then the president of the United States of America, it is no wonder that young kids today talk about wanting to be a singer or a football player when they grow up rather than a rocket scientist or chemical engineer.  My nine year old son, upon asking what he wanted to be when he grew up, changes his mind often but never fails to ask the same question; 'how much money does (fill in the blank) make?'  We are a large family and I suppose that his obsession over money comes from both the media push and our minimalist lifestyle.  He believes that we would be happier if we had more money.  Not matter how many times I have expressed that happiness comes from within, he sees only what he wants to see. 

     His school system does not push for personal responsibility either.  I have been chastised for one of my children failing a test or not returning a homework assignment.  They have told me that I need to make sure my child does his homework correctly, I need to make sure he has all his papers, I need to make him study, and I need to lay out his clothes for him.  They wear uniforms.  He can pick and choose his pants and shirt combinations.  When I went through school, I received an appropriate consequence.  If the problem persisted, then my parents were notified.  Same thing with work.  If I did something that was unacceptable, I suffered the consequences.  It used to be that violation of company policy meant an automatic dismissal.  I have watched as employees at various levels bent rules to suit their needs and not be reprimanded more than a mandatory 'do not do that again', if that.

     Today's economy makes finding and keeping a job harder than ever.  Watching a person do what it takes to get the job then fail to do the most basic requirements of their position is intensely aggravating.  While I am not sure I will ever find out exactly where this country went wrong in training this new work force but I do know that my reputation as a boss will most likely be unfair to my general personality.  I intend to be realistic and reasonable but very demanding with my rules.  Laziness used to be considered one of the worst things to be, in my house it still is and will continue to be.  It is my hope that more members of upper management will remember their position and take responsibility for their subordinates behavior and that subordinates remember their position as well and take responsibility for their actions.


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    • Chaotic Chica profile imageAUTHOR

      Chaotic Chica 

      7 years ago

      I think some (read few) corporations are starting to take a closer look but it's too little, too late. There is a show called Undercover Boss & it's about corporate CEOs going undercover to 'train' in several different positions within the company, usually at the lowest levels. Most CEOs left with their eyes wide open about what their employees actually do. It turns out, a large number of CEOs are business majors that never spent a day pressing shirts, sweeping floors, or lifting that 25+ lb min required for hire.

      As for the insurance, well that's the government's doing. Republicans and Democrats have forgotten that they are supposed to work FOR the people & not the drug and oil companies padding their million dollar homes and flashy cars.

    • AskAshlie3433 profile image


      7 years ago from WEST VIRGINIA

      You hit this one on the head. It is ashame that corporate giants don't respect the little people, being that they bring in the profit. Nobody wants to carry insurance no more. No bonus. It is awful. Great hub!

    • Chaotic Chica profile imageAUTHOR

      Chaotic Chica 

      8 years ago

      Jason~I am so glad that you stated that you are ONLY 31! I'm a scant year behind you and I don't come close to feeling old except when I look at how I view ethics and the world as a whole in relation to those ten+ years my junior. As for the phone thing, all I can say is you're not kidding! It's ridiculous but it's all done on purpose now in order to turn a profit. By the time the latest tech becomes 'affordable', it's already outdated. There is so much about your comment (everything actually) that I agree with! Thank you for taking the time!

    • Jason R. Manning profile image

      Jason R. Manning 

      8 years ago from Sacramento, California

      Hello Chaotic,

      You stated this well. You are one of the few who understands the consequences we are going to face as a nation and that we have become soft. This is both the governments, parents and societies fault. We want our children to have self-esteem above ethics. We want our children to have more than we had in place of morals, and we especially want our children to do what feels good instead of what is valued. Political correctness is run amok and we all contribute by not eliminating the instigators of such sophomoric principals. We want manly women, and womanly men. Our parents had a rotary phone that lasted them 30+ years, now we are lucky to keep our current phones for one year. I really could go on and on, but there are so few of us who are trying to change things back to the way it should be. By the way, I am only 31.

      God Bless.

    • Sunnyglitter profile image


      8 years ago from Cyberspace

      I know what you mean about the school system not pushing for personal responsibility anymore. :(

    • Chaotic Chica profile imageAUTHOR

      Chaotic Chica 

      8 years ago

      mquee~Congratulations on enduring the unjustices for 27 years! I have often wondered why that phenomenon exists, the one where the biggest rewards are often given to those who have earned it the least. You are not alone in those observations!

    • mquee profile image


      8 years ago from Columbia, SC

      Very good hub, I have been on the same job for 27 years and I see people sitting around for a whole shift doing nothing. When asked for help they get upset and feel entitled to doing nothing. Some of the managers seem okay with this and ride the backs of those who will work. Great hub that has pretty much put it on the line.

    • Neil Sperling profile image

      Neil Sperling 

      8 years ago from Port Dover Ontario Canada

      Many people have forgotten that there should be no such thing as a free lunch - but when we have so many hand outs available many take advantage of it and believe they deserve it. Hand up's are needed - hand outs should be stopped... the work ethic problem runs deep.

      Good hub - all the hubs I have read of yours are good hubs - thanks

    • Chaotic Chica profile imageAUTHOR

      Chaotic Chica 

      8 years ago

      It is a shame is what it is! This is the last month I have left before I have to stop saying that I'm in my twenties and yet I feel older than many of my peers. I understand that the older one gets, the more they are able to look at the youth and see where they are going wrong. It happens every twenty years, but there is an undeniable degradation here that has no legitimate answer. Even the military has slacked on their protocols now! We cannot survive as a country if we continue to condone this.

    • Paradise7 profile image


      8 years ago from Upstate New York

      I totally agree with you. I'm 52 years old and have SO OFTEN wondered, what happened to the work ethic in America? Don't people come to work, in order to WORK? Or do they come to socialize and chat on their cell phones? What IS this?

    • Phoenix Files profile image

      Phoenix Files 

      8 years ago from California

      All I can say is "no sh*t!" I totally agree with you! Right now i am only making money by writing and I still do not have a FT job with benefits. Unemployment is up and yet I so often see people who obviously worked to get their jobs but they (also) obviously should no longer HAVE them! I don't get it either!

    • Sa Toya profile image

      Sa Toya 

      8 years ago from England

      Due tell me about it....people have totally forgotten about ethics...great hub...welcome to HP :)

      I know what you men...I'm young but I have good, stong ethics...mostly down to my upbringing and belief in having ethics/morals/values.

      It's a gamble but then again it depends on the individual. Overall I would admit, ethics ave taken a backseat these days.


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