“Men are respectable only as they respect”
Ralph Waldo Emerson
It is clear from recent newspaper headlines that South Africa is in crisis. They all tell a tale of corruption, fraud, greed, selfishness and a lack of integrity. It is concerning that South African society seems to be infected in this way.
Though various role players have come out against corruption, it seems that their words have fallen on deaf ears. Sometimes words are also not matched by deed. The justice system seems to have failed in curbing corruption.
Our work ethic today
One of the key factors that continue to play a crucial role is individual work ethic. This principle seems to have changed, to embody values that no longer hold hard work and diligence as virtues. The belief in the decency of work and its ability to improve character has surrendered to the desire to acquire material benefits by any means, including stealing.
Work ethic demonstrates many things about a person and what he or she is all about. It includes not only how one feels about one’s job but also how one does the job and one’s sense of responsibility. The attitude and resultant behavior all speak volumes about the person.
People who display a solid work ethic hold the following characteristics:
These characteristics interestingly are also vital in leadership. It is concerning that these characteristics seem to be severely lacking in certain sectors in South Africa.
Employees who display a positive work ethic should be selected for better positions, and given more responsibility. Employees who do not exhibit a good work ethic on the other hand fail to provide fair value for the salaries they are paid. They should not be promoted or placed in positions of greater responsibility. This however seems unfortunately to be a far cry from reality, particularly in the public sector where corruption is reported to be rife.
What are the signs of good work ethic?
Besides character, there are a number of other attributes that demonstrate a good work ethic. These include:
- Attendance – being at work at the agreed times, being punctual, giving advanced warning of planned absences, as well as early notification of illness.
- Teamwork – a team player that is well behaved, cooperative, assertive and displays a customer service attitude (something often lacking in South Africa).
- Willingness to learn – a willingness to take responsibility for one’s own learning and development.
- Appearance – dresses appropriately, grooming, hygiene and etiquette.
- Attitude – displays a positive attitude and self-confidence (as opposed to being arrogant and displaying a sense of entitlement) and has realistic expectations.
- Productivity – observes safe working practices, conserves material (not wasteful), keeps his or her work area neat and clean, and follows directions and procedures.
- Organizational skills – holds and displays skills in self management, time management, prioritizing, flexibility, stress management and dealing with issues.
- Communication – communicates well and respectfully both verbally and in writing.
- Cooperation – displays leadership, appropriately handles criticism and complaints, demonstrates problem-solving ability while maintaining appropriate relationships with supervisors and peers.
- Respect – respects the rights of others, deals appropriately with cultural and racial diversity and does not engage in harassment, intimidation, coercion and/or dishonest behaviours.
Work ethics are built on four core principles. These are:
- Honesty – being truthful and non deceptive or fraudulent – there is no substitute for the truth.
- Respect and self-respect – having a genuine regard and consideration for others – treating others as I would like to be treated.
- Empathy – understanding the feelings of others and recognizing how one’s actions impact on others.
- Responsibility – recognising that I am responsible for my choices – not others, current or past events.
- Fairness – being consistent and acting toward others in a manner that is considered that are just and fair.
- Authenticity – being real, truthful and sincere.
Individual with a positive work ethic are courageous and will be willing to take action against wrongdoing and dishonesty, as it will go against what they believe to be right.
What will a positive ethic achieve?
A positive work ethic will make for more employable and valuable employees, as they will hold the values and attributes that are desired by both employers and customers. Employees will be more motivated and attentive, which will allow business to become more productive competitive and more attractive for investment.
From a South Africa perspective, this will ensure that the nation becomes wealthy and that all it’s people benefit. Most importantly, those in management roles will be seen as leaders and will start being respected, as they will give people a reason to respect them.
Bruniquel & Associates (Pty) Ltd
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