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Work Ethics A look at todays work values

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									Teresa Forst

Linda Erickson

ENGL 1111

Division/Classification Essay

June 23, 2007

                                       Today’s Work Ethics

           These days it seems that the idea of having work ethics doesn’t exist. I’m not talking

about the letter of the law, what is ethical in business and in medicine. I’m talking about your

good old fashioned work values. An honest days pay for an honest days work. Your everyday,

run of the mill, “How do you behave on the job?” kind of values. I became interested in this

topic due to the fact that in recent years I have seen a serious decline in the behavior of people in

the work place. People don’t seem to take pride in their work any more (particularly in the so-

called minimum wage jobs). Slacking off, coming in late (if they come in at all) and other poor

work habits seem to be such a norm that employers even turn a blind eye to it. This becomes

frustrating for the hard working employee who feels like they are always picking up the slack of

the others. Equal pay should mean equal output, right? Well, not these days. You would think

that at a time when unemployment is high or an area where job availability is low that people

would appreciate the jobs they have.

           On the flip side of that coin, you would also expect that once an employer has a

qualified, hard working employee that he/she would appreciate the employee and try to hold on

to him/her.     It seems sad that a person who works hard for an employer, who only pays

minimum wage, has to wait until the government decides that they deserve a raise in order to get

one. I surveyed employees of a workplace and in speaking to some of them I learned that they
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had gone three years without a raise in pay. In that time gas prices have gone up, driving the

basic cost of living up beyond the usually expected annual increases. After three years the

employees were compensated by receiving a dime an hour raise. I consider that to be a slap in

the face. It is no surprise that there is such a high rate of turn over in such places of employment.

It would seem to me that a company would save more money by fairly compensating a trained

and efficient employee than to continuously have to pay to train in new employees. The extra

expense is wasted if those new trainees are taking the experience and running to a higher paying


           Many people feel unappreciated in their work which I feel could be a reason for the

decline in work ethic. I know that I am not stuck where I am. I have other options and recently

left a better paying job so that I could return to school to start a career. My current position is

convenient (not to mention I rather enjoy the work). Despite this knowledge, I don’t slack off or

intentionally leave extra work for others. I’m not perfect either though. I too get behind in my

work and have come in a few minutes late on a couple of occasions but it’s never intentional or

because I don’t care about the job. I consider myself to be a good employee.

           I was curious about how other people felt about today’s work values. When I asked

some area employers and supervisors their thoughts on the subject, the common opinion was that

work values just aren’t taught anymore. Here are a few of the comments I received: “(people)

just don’t want to work,” “Work ethics? Ha! They don’t exist anymore!;” “Parents aren’t

teaching their kids how to work. They think everything’s a f^@$*#& handout!,” “Well. What’re

ya gonna do?” Then I wanted the employees’ opinions; one reaction to my question disturbed

me: “Work values? What are you talking about?” Upon explanation all I got from the person
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was a pair of shrugged shoulders. I felt that this couldn’t possibly be the normal attitude. What

happened to good old fashion values?

           I put together a survey comprised of questions regarding some of the things that co-

workers do or don’t do that seem to irritate others on the job. I asked people to anonymously

complete them as honestly as they could. I know a great deal of the people who completed the

surveys, so I really didn’t want to know which survey belonged to which person. I didn’t look at

them until I had them all back.

           After breaking the surveys into age groups I found that I didn’t have enough of the

20-and-under group complete the survey so it wouldn’t be fair to give their individual

percentages, as they are not well represented. However, I will keep them included in the overall

percentages. The answers received of this group show that the ones who report coming in late to

work on a regular basis have a general lack of concern regarding their work habits and co-

workers. Fortunately, the majority display fairly good attitudes in these areas.

           And now, on to the surveys. The first issue involves attendance. Are you typically

late for work, coming in on time or a few minutes early? Overall 46% of those completing the

survey said that they came in a few minutes early. 35% on time and only 19% regularly came in

late. The largest group percentage of tardy employees went to the 21 to 29 year olds. The 40+’s

are the early birds with 57% getting in early and the highest percentage of the 30’s reported that

they come in on time.

           How about calling in sick? How do you feel about a co-worker who continuously

calls in sick? This question could also show your empathy for your co-workers. Overall 46%

stated that their co-worker should be reprimanded and only 18% said that they would be

concerned about them and ask why they were missing work. No one stated that they would react
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harshly to the person. “It’s none of my business” was the attitude of 23% and 13% would talk to

the person about disrupting the work environment. The 40+’s showed the least tolerance to

absenteeism with 71% asking for a reprimand. The 20’s had 40% stating that they would talk to

the person about the disruption and another 40% for reprimand. They also led the pack with 20%

expressing concern for the person calling in. The largest group represented in the survey was the

30’s and they had 27% saying it wasn’t their concern. 45% of them asked for a reprimand.

           If you are the one who has an attendance problem, how do you justify your actions?

73% of everyone completing the surveys said they are not the problem. One write in answer I

received stated: “There really is no justification. If you’re late, you’re late. …other workers that

are late often simply don’t care.”   Of the people who admit that they call in or are late often,

44% believe that they can’t help it. 28% agreed that poor pay equals poor work ethic and

another 28% believed that the job was beneath them.

           When you are at work, what is your condition? Overall 50% said they were tired but

willing. 42% were refreshed and only 8% were worn out from being out too late the night before.

The top percentage goes to the 30’s with 64% saying they were refreshed and ready to go. They

also had the highest percentage of staying out too late.

           Regarding drinking/drugs. Drinking and drugs are becoming more and more of

problem, especially in urban areas. This survey covers a relatively small rural area where in the

past 3 months only 2% report that they came in to work under the influence, 4% reported using

while on the job and 21% came in hung over. The 30’s took top “honors” in all categories.

           If a co-worker comes in under the influence, what would you do? The overall scores

were all over the place, but the highest percentage went to 38% of people surveyed reporting it to

their supervisor. 43% of the 40+’s expressed concern for the well-being of the person and the
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responsibilities of the job. The 30’s had 27% saying they would tell the person they had caused

more work for them and 45% would report them to a supervisor. The 20’s showed 40%

reporting them to a supervisor. The 20’s also had 20% each for: ignore the situation, express

concern for the person, and saying nothing but complain about the person.

           Do you feel it is okay to socialize at work, either on the phone or having people come

in to visit you at work? Overall, 36% said it should be kept to a minimum and 29% said for

emergency only. The 40+’s have the least tolerance with 71% stating it should be an emergency.

The 20’s have the highest percentage saying it’s fine as long as it isn’t abused.

           Honesty is the best policy right? What if you find money that you know belongs to a

fellow co-worker? 85% of the overall answers were for giving the money to a supervisor to find

the owner. Only 3.5% would choose to ignore it (one of these was the supervisor). Another

3.5% would simply keep the money. The other 8% would keep it and leave a note for someone

to claim it. Personally, I’m a little skeptical of these answers as I have had money go missing at

least three times at my current job. I blame myself for setting down my pop machine coins and

forgetting to take home the unused ones when I go. The money wasn’t enough to start a riot over

(total of maybe $5) but I think it’s rude and dishonest.

           Teamwork, it’s the backbone of any job, right? If someone isn’t pulling their weight

everyone suffers. In the medical field this is especially true. In a nursing home, if you have

someone cutting corners, it’s the resident who suffers. Mr. So-and-so isn’t going to receive

proper cares today because Mary Jane What’s-her-face needs a cigarette or a trip to the nurse’s

station to park her butt in a chair. A person who isn’t being repositioned when they need to be

(or properly cleaned) can suffer a break down (bed sore). Once this happens, a greater expense
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in time and money is put into the care of the problem than what was required to prevent it.

What’s the old adage? An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of care (or something like that).

           If you are working as a team with someone who is “on-the-ball” and may be doing

most of the work what do you do? Overall, 56% said that they would increase their productivity.

100% of the 20’s would increase their productivity, where only 41% of the 30’s and 43% of the

40+’s would. 14% of the 40+’s would take advantage of the situation and enjoy an easy day.

9% of the 30’s said they would consider the person a “suck-up.”

           If there is no one directly supervising you in your work what do you do? Overall,

56% would use common sense in what may be deemed acceptable and not acceptable in order to

complete their tasks in a timely manner, this includes the 20’s with the highest percentage (80)

choosing that response. 59% of the 30’s, 36% of the 40+’s and the other 20% of the 20’s said

they would continue to follow written procedures. 7% of the 40+’s said they would cut corners

to get the work done faster, no one else chose this response. Interesting.

           Every so often things come up that keep you from getting all of your work done. Do

you keep this in mind when you find something that was missed by the previous shift? Or do

you go straight to the supervisor? If you find a task left undone by a previous shift, what do you

do? Overall, 63% said they would complete the task or correct the error with the understanding

that things come up. This figure jumps to 86% for the 40+’s. 32% of the 30’s and 20% of the

20’s said they would take care of it grudgingly. 7% of the 40+’s and 9% of the 30’s said they

would leave it and pretend they didn’t see it. Does this coincide with the cutting corners? The

answer is “Yes” for three people completing surveys.

           If you report the error to your supervisor, what is the determining factor? Overall,

45.5% said that they would report it to make sure it doesn’t happen again as it may be harmful to
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others and/or the person who made the error. 80% of the 20’s, 43% of the 40+’s and only 15%

of the 30’s were more concerned with making sure they aren’t consistently being left with the

work. 13% of the 30’s were interested in getting the person in trouble. I fall in the 30’s category

and my attitude on this is “I’ll do it this time; I’ll mention something the second; if it happens

again I’ll be angry, and then everyone will hear about it.”

           Finally, I asked: How do you about their job in general. Overall, 42% said they need

their job to survive.   25% regarded their job as something to do while waiting for something

better to come along. 20% appreciated having their job given the current unemployment rates.

5% admitted that they were stuck in their job and lacked the skills to go elsewhere. 8% had no

response. The top age group answers were: 60% of 20’s, 48% of the 40+’s and 41% of the 30’s

depend on their job for survival. No one admitted to considering the income from their current

job as “play” money, although I have heard comments from people that they needed to cash their

check fast so they could go out for the weekend.

           I have to admit that I was surprised by the outcome of the survey. The results were

reassuring, provided people really answered honestly. I am a bit cynical and expected the results

to be more negative. Provided everyone answered the surveys honestly, I feel we have a fairly

ethical community, as far as attitudes towards co-workers go.

           As an employer, if you have concerns about the ethical practices of your employees

there are a variety of services available. Speakers on the subject can give a presentation for your

employees. I searched the internet and found a company called Working Values Ltd. that has an

Ethical Resource Center and publishes papers on the subject. The bottom line is if you want to

bring about change, you have to start with yourself. Set a good example and support those who

display good ethics. One suggestion is: if you have an employee that others look up to and try to
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emulate, that is the one you want to focus on as others will follow what they do. Or evaluate each

individual employee for areas that require help and guidance. It helps to keep in mind that a

broad statement to all about a problem at work is easily disregarded; you must pinpoint the

problem and direct some action towards it. The one or two people who cause problems need to

be taught individually that there are consequences, or they’re simply not going to “get” it.

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