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Users comments and reviews on article What Happened to the Work Ethic? by Margaret Paul, Ph.D.


I share your concern about the work ethic, and I suggest that we have to look at various factors in our society to get a full picture. I'm in my later 70s and have a PhD in research psychology, and I recall the conditions that you describe. Here are a couple things that enhanced the work ethic, and are rarely found today.

1. Employer loyalty and meaningfulness of a job. Neighborhood mom and pop businesses or at least local businesses were very common. Owners and the small number of employees in these businesses usually recognized the need to serve customers well and to be loyal within the organization. Unfortunately, large national and multinational organizations often do not display loyalty to employees or customers. Bottom line for me is that the work place no longer breeds loyalty and responsibility. Before I retired from the aerospace industry, downsizing, outsourcing, reorganizations and corporate takeover were increasingly common. Employees were well aware that things would be happening to them, and that the quality of their work was not directly related to their own future success. In this environment jobs often did not enhance employee satisfaction via opportunities for creativity and learning.

2. The degradation, if not the demise, of the nuclear family, along with the demise of meaningful relationships with neighbors. When I was a kid in Louisville, KY., my mother was a mother and housewife. My father worked bu was always home for dinner and for the evening. (I am not opposed to women pursuing a profession. In fact I'm all for it.) My concern is that if both parents are working, they must assure adequate love, contact, sharing of experiences, etc. with children. Three TVs with everyone independently watching their favorite, does not provide the experience that a family seated in the living room listing to Jack Benny or Name That Tune. In my youth we shared common experiences and my brother and I learned our parents values and they learned where we were.

3. The values of the street, TV and the internet.
When I was in high school a group of us had lunch on the lawn every day. One boy, who was very bright was an alcoholic. The group pressure was for him to stop drinking. We tried to encourage him to accept more wholesome values. Today, the "straight" kid is often feeling a peer pressure to experiment with drugs, alcohol, etc. TV certainly encourages young girls to focus on sexuality rather then wholesomeness. I could go on, but I suspect that you get my point.

So, I think that in large part children are not getting the types of guidance and positive and negative reinforcements for their behavior that we experienced.