What Happened to the Work Ethic in America?

What happened to the work ethic in America?  When I was young and as soon as I was able I was taught that working for money would allow me to get things that I wanted.   I started off picking prunes for 35 cents a lug in the summer and did odd jobs like yard maintenance and digging trenches for septic tanks; pretty much anything that paid a few bucks.  I worked very hard and made sure that the people I worked for were pleased with my work and it was done to their satisfaction.

Old Auto Parts

I was raised on the premise that if you work hard you will be recognized and promoted along with the pay that goes with the position.

My time in the military was not as rewarding because the pay was lousy and so were the hours but the friendship and teamwork ethics that were gained in the military were irreplaceable.  

After the military I went to work in the automotive field and as I was told as a child, hard work would be rewarded.   I started at the bottom, worked all of the weekends and nights and was promoted up the ladder until I became a Store Manager.   I received that position because there was nothing I would not do, I always kept busy and I was grateful I had a job.  When I ran businesses they were always successful, I hired the right people with my same ethics and eventually was promoted to a District Manager where I ran multiple units.  These were not gifts, they were the fruits of hard labor, long hours and dedication.

What happened?

I am in my sixties now, I have stepped out of the areas of responsibilities from running multiple units and supervising hundreds of employees.   The businesses I ran were clean, in-stock and had great customer service rewards.

As you get older and start moving back down the ladder people think you don’t know anything because of your position, that is, they think you are stupid.  You are old so therefore you don’t know anything and you are in a remedial position so you must have never done any management.

As I begin to wind down my career I took a job as a Merchandiser for a small company.   There is two of these positions that report to the headquarters one of which I have.   The job entails re-merchandising sales floors and back-rooms.   My job is to make sure the sales floors are clean, priced well and merchandised well so that the image to the customers represents the company well.  The back areas of the stores have to be organized as well.    This is a parts business so it is critical that items be where they are supposed to be.   This is my job and I am grateful to have it.

Now comes the what happened part.   No longer being in management, being an unknown to a new company and a old person as well you see lots of things that others don’t recognize.   Among those things are, poor leadership, laziness, poor dress code, unethical language, rudeness and more.  What I see is lazy people talking in groups, drinking coffee, ignoring customers, leaning on the counter (the majority) sprinkled in with a few hard-workers that are very frustrated.

One of the things I ask myself when I clean up these stores is why did they get that way so I ask basic questions.   Here is the responses I hear.

  • We don’t have enough help
  • It isn’t my job
  • I am not in management, therefore I am not responsible 
  • They don’t pay me enough to do that
  • I don’t have time
  • It’s always been that way
  • Nobody listens to what I have to say

There is many more responses I could add but these are the top ones.  Since I am not in management and have no authority. 

What I see is amazing and disappointing.   The young folks are glued to their phones, texting, playing videos, games and posting to Instagram and Facebook or walking around in the warehouse with headphones in their ears with the music playing.  They take frequent breaks, drink and eat food at the counter and could care less about the store conditions, whether customers are waiting or how productive they are – and they aren’t being held accountable either.  The people in management no longer direct, train, support their people or set basic standards.   The old folks (my age) are not any better and mostly stand around while there isn’t customers to wait on.  Nobody cleans, stocks, keeps busy or has the basic pride or work standards I was brought up with nor do they care.

The reality in America is the work ethic from businesses has all but disappeared except in some few key individuals from all ages that seem to have this ingrained in them.  So what happened?  What changed all of America to become this way?   I really have to do some thinking about this but it really has to do with some of these issues.

  • Children being raised by single parents.
  • Invention of technology, cell phones, texting and video games.
  • Lack of religion in the curriculum
  • Poor education
  • Entitlement
  • Parenting
  • Drugs and Alcohol 
  • Obesity 

I am no idea what other things cause people to be absolutely lazy and have no work ethic.  I think it all stems back to how the people were raised as a child, whether they were handed things on a golden platter, born with a golden spoon in their mouth and how much money they were given.  What I do know is that working with these people is down right depressing, angering, and frustrating.

Each day I go to work I wonder if I can make it the 60 months to full retirement.  It is hard to direct people for 30 years and then have to sit on the sidelines and watch them behave in the way they do.  Imagine using a restroom that you have to clean before you can use it, and then ask who is responsible and everyone says – its not my job.  

This is what I see nowadays.   It isn’t just the young people either.  The people from my generation are getting the disease as well.   I see it but won’t fall into the trap where I compromise my basic standards because others are lazy.

What do you think?   What is the cause of the decline of the work ethic in America?

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