Work Ethic Alone Won’t Save Any Job

Work Ethic Alone Won’t Save Any Job

I was scrolling through Twitter on Monday and saw some people live-tweeting from a conference. A career connections conference for principals and teachers. The very first speaker was sharing the key to success in the 21st Century. I immediately stopped my scroll.

What was the secret? I had to know. 

Work ethic. Really? That’s it? Just hard work?

Seemed too good to be true. So, I went looking for the conference agenda. Where I read this: “Nearly 9 out of 10 hiring managers nationwide say work ethic is their most important factor in hiring.”

That statistic has to be completely made up.

Why? Because every employer in the history of ever wants employees with a strong work ethic.

Of course they do. They’re paying them to show up and work. Who would want anything less than that?

So, to stand up in front of an audience and declare “work ethic” is the hot, in-demand job skill of the 21st Century sounded like a scam.

So, of course, I kept digging.

I went to the speaker’s website. I discovered that there are “seven skills” that form a good work ethic.

Here they are:  Attitude, Attendance, Appearance, Ambition, Acceptance, Appreciation, and Accountability.

You’re right. That’s not so bad. Perhaps, you’re even wondering why I’m spending any more than 2 minutes worried about this list.

Here’s the thing. Every single one of these skills is defined in a way that best serves the employer. Not you.

These seven key skills for the 21st Century are not about you. Not how you can excel or succeed or reach new heights of achievement. But, how you can be a compliant worker. A worker who is simply grateful to have a job.

Here, I’ll show you what I mean. Here’s the definition of “Attitude” - “Staying positive in every situation. Take control of the way you react.” 

That is NOT the definition any one of your parents or teachers or counselors would give you. We spend years. Literally, years, helping you develop skills to manage your emotions. Why? Because sometimes it’s impossible to stay positive. Life sucks sometimes. And, so does work.

Things happen. We all get frustrated, angry, worried, even scared. And, we want you to know what that feels like. Help you figure out why you feel that way. Help you discover what you can do to harness that emotion and use it to respond, in a productive way. 

Yes, it’s true, we teach you to take control of how you react. But, we do not teach you to stay positive in every situation. Sometimes, you have to speak up, not smile and go along. Sometimes, you have to criticize, not compliment. Sometimes, the truth hurts and you have to tell it anyway. It’s how you deliver the message that matters. And, that message will not always be positive.

Here’s another example in the definition of “Appreciation” - “Demonstrating gratitude toward others. Provide selfless service.”

Again, this is not at all what today’s parents, teachers, or coaches are instilling in you. Our definition includes you. Yes, we teach you to appreciate the kindness of others. But, we also teach you to appreciate yourself. Your talents. Your unique view of the world. We teach you to appreciate diversity by helping you see the value in yourself too. 

Here’s one more. “Acceptance.” Because this is the 21st Century. A time when we value diversity and inclusivity. You would think “acceptance" means accepting different points of view, new ideas, even people. But, thinking that, would make you wrong. 

Here’s the definition from the website: “Have respect and following [sic] direction. Be coachable and play by the rules.”

I’m not joking. That’s what it says. And, that’s likely the one that put me over the edge. Got me stewing about this for days. 

Somebody is telling teachers, to tell you, that you should just accept whatever the employer has to offer. Period.

I’ve said before. And, I guess I’m saying it again. At one point in human history, when we started working for “the man,” teaching people about work ethic would have made sense. I mean, prior to the Industrial Age, there weren’t a lot of people who had to “go to work.” They didn’t have to show up on time, or follow rules, or wear uniforms. So, sure, a hundred years ago, maybe humans had to be taught about “work ethic” in the context of employment.

But, look, we get it now. Work ethic is already baked in to any job. It’s baked in to going to school or playing a sport. We show up on time, we follow the rules, we wear appropriate clothes.

So, yes, every employer wants you to work hard. And, you should.

But, to tell you that work ethic alone will lead to success in the 21st Century is just wrong. You could have the greatest attitude, show up on time every single day, dress right, follow every rule, and still lose your job. That’s the truth.

You should be told that truth. And, you should be taught skills to build a career based on that truth. 

The last thing you should be made to believe, in today’s economy, is that any lack of success at a job is completely on your shoulders. That somehow your work ethic just wasn’t enough. Cause that would be a big fat lie.

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Help Others to Help Yourself

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