You hear it all the time, “Millennials have no work ethic.” Actually, what you hear is that whatever generation is coming up behind you is the one that does not have a work ethic. Not to mention, their choice in music, dress, and hair styles never compares to yours. But is the criticism fair? Are the Millennials without a work ethic? What about Generation X coming up behind them? If the work ethic is declining, will it eventually be non-existent?
These questions cannot really be answered until work ethic is defined and understood. According to the Merriam Webster Dictionary, “work ethic is considered a set of moral principles that an employee uses in the performance of their job. A belief in work as a moral good; a set of values centered on the importance of dong work and reflected especially in a desire or determination to work hard.” A strong work ethic is to imply that hard work is intrinsically virtuous or worthy of reward. It is a belief that hard work and diligence have a moral benefit and an inherent ability, virtue or value to strengthen character according to Wikipedia.
These definitions have many similarities that can bring the abstract concept into tangible traits.
- Doing the right thing consistently at all times even when no one is watching demonstrates a high level of integrity. Having integrity fosters trusting relationships with clients, co-workers and supervisors.
- Sense of responsibility. This affects how an employee works and the amount of work they do. Showing up on time, putting in the best effort and completing projects to the best of their ability is an indicator of someone having a strong sense of responsibility.
- Emphasis on quality. Having the dedication and commitment to go for good results. Work product by someone that is the bare minimum, just getting by or adequate is not viewed as an employee focused on quality.
- Determination to complete assignments, dedication to getting it right and clear focus on the work requires discipline especially when there are obstacles to achieving the quality end product.
- Sense of teamwork. Being part of a team and helping achieve goals that benefit the organization with a quality product is the outcome of a group of individuals working as a team.
- Dress, language, manners and conduct all matter in how professional an employee will be perceived.
On a personal level, a work ethic can reveal how someone will react or what they will do in a certain situation or particular situation. It can showcase their strength of character or highlight their flaws. A strong work ethic can advance a career or destroy it. On an organization level, having a staff with a positive work ethic can make company visions attainable and goals achievable. Ways to determine the work ethic of others is to watch how their thoughts translate into words and actions.
- Are they punctual?
- How is their attendance?
- Do they make their deadlines?
- Are they honest with others and accept their own mistakes?
- Is their behavior balanced and consistent?
- Do they produce quality and organized work?
- Are they respectful with others?
So based on these guidelines, do the Millennials have a work ethic? I believe they do. I believe there are as many in my generation without a work ethic as there are Millennials lacking the same skills. I think the generations are more alike than different, but each one has a new set of tools to solve the problems in their area of expertise. The old ways are being pushed aside as new ones take their place through the advances in science, technology and innovation. The outcomes are still the same but with perhaps less time and manual labor involved. The one area every generation needs to improve in is the ability to communicate with others in a respectful, considerate and honest manner. These human traits can make a difference in personal and professional relationships that will make any effort successful.