Work ethic

Work ethic

Work ethic is a set of values based on the moral virtues of hard work and diligence. It is also a belief in the moral benefit of work and its ability to enhance character. An example would be the Protestant work ethic. A work ethic may include being reliable, having initiative or maintaining social skills.

Workers exhibiting a good work ethic in theory (and ideally in practice) should be selected for better positions, more responsibility and ultimately promotion. Workers who fail to exhibit a good work ethic may be regarded as failing to provide fair value for the wage the employer is paying them and should not be promoted or placed in positions of greater responsibility.

One central concept that forms part of the basis of the free market economic theory of western capitalism is that workers who work hard and play by the rules will be rewarded and will move ahead, and that those who do not should be allowed to enjoy the fruits of their own poor performance.Fact|date=October 2007

Criticism of Work Ethic concept

Slacker and hippie cultures have challenged these values in recent times. In the 19th century, the Arts and Crafts movement of William Morris in the UK and Elbert Hubbard in the US noted how "alienation" of workers from ownership of the tools of production and their work product was destructive of the work ethic because in the expanding firms of that era, the workers saw no point in doing more than the minimum. The industrial engineer Frederick Taylor revised the notion of work ethic to include giving up control over the work process to management so that the latter could study and "rationalize" the work process, and the notion of work ethic thereafter included acknowledgment of management control.

Marxists, and most non-Marxist sociologists, make short shrift of "work ethic" as a useful sociological concept. They argue having a "work ethic" in excess of management's control doesn't appear rational in any mature industry where the employee can't rationally hope to become more than a manager whose fate still depends on the owner's decisions. Sociology prefers to renarrate excess work ethic as a form of alienation from truer needs for family and community connections, and twentieth century "critical theory" sees the "work ethic" as a unilateral demand which evolved from a mass confusion between Max Weber's "Protestant work ethic" of company founders, and a sociologically uninteresting phenomenon (rare enough to not register on a mass radar screen) which in fact produces deviance (of interest to the sociologist) in the form of addiction and family neglect. Fact|date=September 2008

In fact, an excess "work ethic" is often fueled (according again to sociology) by addictions such as the widespread addiction to crystal meth in American rural communities, which has been shown to result from excessive work schedules. Fact|date=July 2008In other environments, it creates a sharp divide between work and play, and neglect in the latter of any recreation (time with family, volunteer work, or cultural pursuits) which reminds the workaholic of "work." Fact|date=September 2008

The French Leftist philosopher André Gorz wrote: "The work ethic has become obsolete. It is no longer true that producing more means working more, or that producing more will lead to a better way of life. The connection between more and better has been broken; our needs for many products and services are already more than adequately met, and many of our as-yet- unsatisfied needs will be met not by producing more, but by producing differently, producing other things, or even producing less. This is especially true as regards our needs for air, water, space, silence, beauty, time and human contact. Neither is it true any longer that the more each individual works, the better off everyone will be. The present crisis has stimulated technological change of an unprecedented scale and speed: `the micro-chip revolution'. The object and indeed the effect of this revolution has been to make rapidly increasing savings in labour, in the industrial, administrative and service sectors. Increasing production is secured in these sectors by decreasing amounts of labour. As a result, the social process of production no longer needs everyone to work in it on a full-time basis. The work ethic ceases to be viable in such a situation and workbased society is thrown into crisis." [ André Gorz, Critique of Economic Reason,Gallilé,1989]

Many white collar employees, in a rational reaction to a demand for a "work ethic" involving the sacrifice of unpaid hours, cultivate a rhetorical "work ethic" consisting of external obeisance to absolute management control while producing little. Fact|date=September 2008


* Daniel T. Rogers. "The Work Ethic in Industrial America, 1850-1920". Univ. of Chicago Press, 1978.

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Look at other dictionaries:

  • work ethic — UK US noun [S] ► WORKPLACE the way that someone feels about the importance of work, usually the belief that it is important to work hard: »The aim of the program is to instil a work ethic and a sense of teamwork in young people. »Managers often… …   Financial and business terms

  • work ethic — work .ethic n [singular] a belief in the moral value and importance of work ▪ They instilled the work ethic into their children …   Dictionary of contemporary English

  • work ethic — n. a system of values in which central importance is ascribed to work, or purposeful activity, and to qualities of character believed to be promoted by work …   English World dictionary

  • work ethic — work ,ethic noun singular the belief that hard work is important for developing someone s moral character …   Usage of the words and phrases in modern English

  • work ethic — The idea of productive labour, or work , being valued in and for itself by those who do it, encouraging them to invest greater effort than could be achieved by social pressures, incentive payments, or other devices developed by employers to… …   Dictionary of sociology

  • work ethic — /ˈwɜk ɛθɪk/ (say werk ethik) noun 1. → Protestant work ethic. 2. willingness to work hard: he ll have to lift his work ethic if he wants to stay on the team …  

  • work ethic — belief that you must work; that work is good for you    Do you believe that Canadians have a strong work ethic? …   English idioms

  • work ethic — noun (singular, uncountable) a belief in the moral value of work: the Protestant work ethic …   Longman dictionary of contemporary English

  • work ethic — work′ eth ic n. soc a belief in the moral benefit and importance of work and its inherent ability to strengthen character • Etymology: 1950–55 …   From formal English to slang

  • work ethic — noun a) The value that one ought to work hard at ones job or duties b) The tendency to work hard at ones job or duties …   Wiktionary

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