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Jon Smith
Dr. Reed
English 101
July 29, 2014
The Shift of Work Ethic
In the industrial age, hard work was the main way of being recognized in one‟s
job. The harder one worked, the more he got paid. However in today‟s workforce hard
work doesn‟t necessarily pay off. Instead of diligence, determination, and drive, the way
to get pay raises is scheduled and based off of seniority. This has caused a shift in
mentality for our nation‟s youth. Rather than working hard to get recognized, it is
acceptable to do the bare minimum and most likely get the same scheduled recognition
that the diligent worker gets. What has caused this shift in mentality? The societal view
of an ideal job has changed and consequently has altered the perception of the ideal
Today‟s idea of the preferable course of life is to excel in high school, go to a
great college, excel in college, land a job that will blossom into a high-paying career, and
live life as one wishes. This wasn‟t always the case. Not too long ago college was almost
seen as a pipe dream for most high school students. Instead of getting good grades to get
into a good college, they focused more on working and learning trades that will land them
good jobs. These jobs were typically blue collar and required much physical labor.
Copious amounts of time and effort were demanded to perform these jobs well. Those
that worked the hardest were recognized; those that slacked and acted lazy were replaced.
This is not necessarily the case in today‟s workforce. The ideal job is typically white
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collar with little to no physical strain. In the fall of 2010, Dr. Joseph Simplicio wrote an
article entitled, “Portrait of the College Employee: Work „em‟ to Death, or Leave „em‟
alone” in which he discusses two types of modern day workers. These two types are
called the “Sure I‟ll do it” worker, and the “No way, not me” type (Simplicio 136). The
first of the two is the worker that does everything they are asked to do without any
complaints. They show up to work early, leave late, and are always volunteering without
having to be asked. During team projects they shoulder most of the burden and are
humble enough to give credit to everyone else. The latter does the bare minimum the job
requires to get by. It seems as if laziness in itself is never punished in the modern
workforce. Sometimes even by doing less they thrive more than the “sure I‟ll do it” type
worker. This is because it is a lot less risky in today‟s workplace to do less and assume
less responsibility. That is, assuming more responsibility also means having to shoulder
all the blame when something doesn‟t go right. This leads to workers simply doing the
minimum amount of work that‟s needed to be done and not messing up. The risk is not
worth the reward, if there is any reward. Most companies do scheduled pay raises and
bonuses, so at least from a financial standpoint, taking on more risks and responsibility
grants no more reward than simply getting the job done. Before the societal shift of an
ideal job from blue to white collar occurred, hard work would be aptly rewarded. There
were no scheduled pay raises and all of it was based off of the effort put in. That simply
isn‟t the case anymore.
Even looking at high school students, there exists a similar mentality. In David L.
Green‟s “High school student employment in social context: Adolescents' perceptions of
the role of Part-Time Work,” Green details a survey conducted in Piedmont County that
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aims to depict how high school students view work. According to Green, few students see
regular employment as part of the transition from high school to the real world. Others
work only because their parents say that they should and the remaining claim that work
simply facilitates social skills (Green 428). Along with that, some students say that
working is to get a car and facilitate their lives outside of work. This is definitely a
different perspective on what work is and consequently what the ideal worker is. For the
low paying jobs that current high school students have, not much is expected. Similarly,
high school students don‟t expect much in return from their employer outside of a
paycheck. Working hard for a good letter of recommendation to get a better job after
one‟s entry job is no longer necessary. Instead, high school students are more focused on
getting into college. This is because the ideal job has changed. The ideal job is the white-
collar office job. One can‟t get the ideal high paying office job because he/she has a letter
of recommendation from his/her manager at McDonald‟s. Why try hard to impress one‟s
current employer when their word means nothing in getting the exemplary job? Because
of this ideal, high school students typically are working for the extra spending cash or for
social reasons as depicted in Green‟s article instead. The only aspect of working hard in
one‟s entry level job that had any value was getting a solid letter of recommendation to
get a higher paying job. Today, all one has to do is the bare minimum and not mess up
too horribly. A good letter of recommendation from one‟s minimum wage job employer
is nearly meaningless in getting the ideal job and consequently makes working harder
than necessary at these jobs virtually pointless as well.
At early ages people are being shown that working harder and going above
expectations is nearly meaningless. How does this affect the work environment in their
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higher paying jobs later on? In Frank Riessman and Alan Gartner‟s “Is There a New
Work Ethic?” they discuss the current state of the workplace and how it may differ from
previous decades. Riessman and Gartner found: “Expressed work objectives include:
equal pay for equal work and equal opportunities for advancement; jobs that are worthy
of respect and lead to careers; better-paying jobs that provide more interesting work,
greater autonomy, and more schooling; jobs that are minimally involving in terms of
work and hours, which allow for more leisure time; and many other combinations”
(Reissman 564). Essentially in today‟s work environment, people want to have more
fulfilling careers that require less time commitment, less work, higher pay with more
leisure time. The idea of working less and getting paid more was unheard of before the
white-collar age. The amount of one‟s paycheck was directly related to how much he/she
worked and that‟s the way that is should be. Today people are expecting more pay while
working less. The rise of service jobs employed in interpersonal occupations such as sales
and advertising, personal services, and government provided services have facilitated this
new way of thinking. Work less, for higher pay, and more satisfaction in their work.
This change in mentality is directly related to the societal change of the ideal job,
which has consequentially changed the perception of the ideal worker. No longer do high
school students need to work hard for a letter of recommendation. No longer is working
hard and assuming more responsibility aptly rewarded. The rise of the service industry
and white-collar jobs is the cause. Pay raises, bonuses, and promotions are all scheduled
in the service industry. College degrees qualify one much more than a letter of
recommendation for these jobs. These consequences from the rise of the service industry
have effectively made working hard in the one‟s early jobs meaningless to their future
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careers. Being taught the meaninglessness of work at that young of an age facilitates a
poor work ethic. This poor work ethic is then carried on to the service industry where it is
clearly displayed by the previously unheard of requests of working less but somehow
getting paid more. Lazy and unmotivated individuals are overrunning this society. We are
allowing this Nation‟s youth to be taught that a poor work ethic is acceptable generation
after generation. It is up to us to end this cycle.

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Riessman, Frank, and Alan Gartner. "Is There A New Work Ethic?." American Journal
of Orthopsychiatry 44: 563-567. Web. 21 July 2014.

Simplicio, Joseph. "Portrait of the College Employee: Work „em‟ to Death, or Just Leave
“em” Alone." Education 131: 135-138. Web. 1 July 2014.

Green, David. "High School Student Employment in Social Context: Adolescents‟
Perceptions of the role of Part-Time Work." Adolescence Summer90 25: 425-435. Web.
21 July 2014.