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Work Ethics

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What exactly does this mean, work ethics?


Now this image/quote is powerful by itself, but by definition, work ethics is: the principle that hard work is intrinsically virtuous or worthy of reward. In other words, a work ethic is a set of moral principles that one abides by in their work. There are several factors worth mentioning here, and we will. Does an employer need to empower the employee first, or is the work ethic innate – something shown in the character of the employee and not something that can be trained. Is it something that could have been, or should have been – learned during the interview process?


First, let’s look at a few workplace scenarios and you be the judge.


  • You are the customer in line, at a retail store. The cashier you are waiting on is distracted by personal conversation with another cashier – thereby ignoring the job he/she was hired to do, and most importantly – you as the customer.
  • You are back at this same store, same cashier. This time, a timely and friendly transaction. However, you happen to comment on the price increase you noticed on certain products. The cashier casually whispers to you that everything there is overpriced.
  • Back again – same store, different cashier. The cashier is rather grumpy and doesn’t bother with the automated ‘hello, how are you’ greeting. Instead, rattles off a few reasons they are so unhappy working there. Their boss, their wages, the hours, the required overtime. You didn’t ask – but were told anyway.
  • The following week, you overhear a manager scolding and using foul language to an employee – loud enough for the employee to be humiliated and embarrassed; making it difficult for them to face their customers the remainder of the day, with the upbeat attitude expected of them.
  • Later that week, you notice a few employees in a car, likely returning from a lunch break — but one is dropped off at the door, and punches in at the time clock for all the employees who were together
  • And yet a different day, here you are back again. You realize, you shop a lot regardless of your discomfort with the level of service. This time it is obvious that you are in need of some direction or help, but no one is making eye contact with you. You are not being acknowledged because someone likely doesn’t want to do the work.

Most of these scenarios are training opportunities.

  1. Training of the hiring managers – to hire with character in mind, not just a warm body.
  2. And training of the employees – through on boarding, orientation and recurrent training on service expectations. Customer service really should be a complete circle of attention to service, from the inside out.

With a quick review – the only item(s) noted that in reality, would be of ethical concern or even integrity-

  • management being inappropriate about disciplining the employee, in a public setting, etc.
  • and maybe the employee who complains about their employer, their co-workers, etc. – to you the customer.
  • punching the time clock for someone other than yourself? Well, that is a lack of a lot of things – and likely grounds for termination.

Most of these scenarios are training issues. The uncomfortable ones can be avoided by hiring right, the first time around.

Consider how you hire any new candidates – and which qualities reveal a good work ethic. Some of those qualities are:

  1. integrity
  2. sense of ownership or responsibility
  3. concern for quality
  4. being disciplined and reliable
  5. being part of a team
Employers: Are you asking the right questions, for the right reasons?
Candidates: Are you prepared to respond when asked questions that are focused on work ethics?

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