General Question

BluRhino's avatar

What happened to work ethics?

Asked by BluRhino (1401points) January 6th, 2010

Where I work (a large grocery chain) we have a number of employees (18–20ish) who seem to think that the workplace/job is their personal playground; rules are for others, I will do as I please, just give me the paycheck and piss off.

This is compounded by the employers’ tolerance; it is amazingly difficult to get fired, doubly so if one is of a minority. They will take any number of infractions like: not showing up or calling in – coming in late (by hours) even if one is opening up- not adhering to the dress code (even after being sent home to change – several times)- the list goes on an on, all apparently without consequences.

I admit I am old-school as far as work ethics go, but what happened? Are we teaching young people it’s ok to disrespect employer/employee relationships? Why are we tolerating weak work ethics when so many people need work? Are any of you seeing the same thing?

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41 Answers

tinyfaery's avatar

Seems like the bigger problem is with the company. Who wouldn’t screw around when they know they can get away with it?

The decline of a “work ethic” seems to coincide with companies screwing their employees. Hmm…interesting.

SarasWhimsy's avatar

I think we’re doing a few things wrong. We’re teaching bad work ethics early – with homework if you ask me. And we’re giving too many chances to break the rules at work. And employers are caring less and less about their employees.

I do almost understand the grocery employers side though. It’s hard to find people who will work for low pay on their feet on concrete all day. Maybe they are keeping what they can get?

gemiwing's avatar

The work ethic for anyone older than 24 is going strong. Just ask anyone my Hubbs works with- they’re all thrilled to still have a job so they’re working like madmen.

Part of the problem is that companies don’t take action when they seek out the lowest-qualified sector. They know what they are going to get when they pay seven an hour and hire teenagers.

I don’t think it’s any sort of statement about ‘kids today’. They’re still young and don’t really need the money in the same way as a person who is living on their own and has bills and family to support.

One of my best employees was seventeen. He helped support his family and he was the best worker I have ever had the privilege to employ and work with. I cried when he went to college. A very proud moment.

Snarp's avatar

I’ve seen a decline in customer service for sure, and I expect work ethic is related, but part of the problem is who is doing these low end jobs. It used to be teenagers who wanted a little extra money and something to have on their resume or job application later. They were motivated by the money because they didn’t have to pay rent with it, and by the need to establish a good reference. Many of these teenagers don’t work anymore, their parents hand them money, or they’re able to find jobs they find less distasteful or that pay more. Now there are more people (both teenagers and adults) in low end jobs who don’t see themselves having a future that getting a good reference will help with. They’re using that paycheck to pay rent or buy food, not to gas up the car dad bought them or buy records (that’s how they listened to music back then). The money isn’t enough to get by, but it’s as much as they can get. They see themselves as being exploited, so why do they owe anything other than their minimum effort to the man?

Judi's avatar

This is the age of the helicopter parent and the pampered child. Also, when we (you and I) grew up we thought that if we worked hard and were loyal to a company they would take care of us into retirement. Our children have seen companies lay off long term employees and throw them to the wolves. They don’t have near the loyalty to their employers as we had, and they might just be the smarter ones. But…..
With the current economic downturn, even the good employer’s are in the process of reevaluating their work force. Unless unemployment is very low in your area, These folks may soon get a rude awakening as employers try to figure out where they can trim the fat.
My husband and I are lucky. Our small business has 5 really good employees. I am saddened to think that we are probably going to have to lay off one or maybe 2 guys, and the most recent hire has been with us 8 years. There is a seismic shift going on in the economy right now. It will be interesting where we will all be when the dust settles.

Steve_A's avatar

No one cares about a dead-end job, and when I think grocery store the first thought that came to mind was young people-to middle age people making most likely making minimum wage. excluding managers or other positions that would make more.

I will agree that people are holding onto any job they get because of the economic times, but lets be honest how hard is it to replace a cashier,or something of the like. Not hard.

I work one of these jobs, I am 19 I only work this job as a NECESSITY in order to reach a REAL career/future, now do not twist my words a job is a job.I ain’t got parents to give me hand me downs like some kids I know my age.

but no one cares about a dead-end job.

Just my opinion.

Austinlad's avatar

I think it’s related to a general decline in ethical behavoir, period—not only of our managers and work-mates, but also of government officials, of our so-called role models, of protective agencies, and others.

Snarp's avatar

@Austinlad I think it’s easy to believe that, and I’m inclined toward thinking that at times too, but I’m convinced that we are no less ethical than past generations, we just don’t cover it up as well.

Sandydog's avatar

Time magazine had an article a few years ago about the worldwide spread of “The American Business Plan”.
This has lead to a de-humanisation of the workplace where people are just numbers to be used for the business.
Personnel departments have been replaced by “HR”, where the emphasis is on the employee is to be used as a resource to be used just like any other resource.
Loyalty then goes out the window replaced by mutual distrust.
People also have to fill in rubbish like “Personal Development Reports” in which they have to justify their job.
It all gets so dis-spiriting and people also feel powerless against “the system”
If folk no longer feel part of something and that they dont really matter,then its no surprise that ethics come secondary.

Judi's avatar

@Snarp ; I am nearly 50, but you just made me recall a moment in my childhood. I was maybe 10 or 11. I was at the park across the street from my house. I was trying to look cool and I was being a little obnoxious and smoking. An old man, who was probably homeless as I look in retrospect, snarled at me and my friends and said, “Kids these days.”
I picked up the beer can next to him, shook it in his face and said, “kids these days.”
When ever I am tempted to judge the morality of people younger than me I try to remember that moment. Every generation has it’s “issues.”

Espiritus_Corvus's avatar

In the US, millions of young people are working for very large corporations with healthy stock portfolios, 40 to 80 hours per week in “unskilled” jobs at wages from $7.50 to $12.00 per hour with inadequate healthcare and other benefits, depending on the cost of living where they live. Millions of these people’s wages are being subsidized by one welfare agency or another because they cannot both pay housing costs and by adequate food with their paychecks. A significant portion of our tax money is being spent to subsidize the inadequate wages paid out by these corporations. This is corporate welfare. It’s a fucking joke.

“They pretend to pay us,
And we pretend to work.”

daemonelson's avatar

“The children now love luxury; they have bad manners, contempt for
authority; they show disrespect for elders and love chatter in place
of exercise. Children are now tyrants, not the servants of their
households. They no longer rise when elders enter the room. They
contradict their parents, chatter before company, gobble up dainties
at the table, cross their legs, and tyrannize their teachers.”

- Socrates

nicobanks's avatar

I am seeing the same thing.

I think it’s one of many negative consequences of the North American hyper-focus on individuality and autonomy. The responsibility we all owe to the community falls by the wayside.

It’s also a response, a valid response IMO, to the way we’re all being used by the system. Who do you and your coworkers make money for? You make some money for yourselves, but you make more money for the bosses, the owners. Well, eff them, I won’t do a good job for them, right? (I’m not really saying this myself… but I am empathizing with it.)

CMaz's avatar

Work ethics or should I say lack of them.
Seemed to go astray around the time video games became main stream. And computers too for that matter.

Work ethics comes from practical experience. Something harder to master when you spend a great deal of your time in fantasy land..

daemonelson's avatar

@ChazMaz Computers going mainstream, eh? Yeah, those rascals in the 17th century have no respect.

CMaz's avatar

Yes, history shows us the up hill battle that it is.

RedPowerLady's avatar

You know maybe this will shed light on this phenomenon. I was hard up for work so I was applying everywhere. There is a local grocery store that offers great benefits so I interviewed there. The interview went really well. The interviewer told me I was the highest score she has ever seen on their ethics questionnaire etc.. I was not hired however because I was overqualified. The questions she was asking me hinted to that such as “would you ever hit a co-worker?” and “what would you do if a co-worker came to work high?”. I don’t understand the phenomenon of being “over-qualified” but somehow these type of employers prefer to higher employees who fit a certain standard (not necessarily what we would call a good one either).

J0E's avatar

@ChazMaz That is a typical bullshit explanation for my generation. I bet next you’re going to say that video games make my generation think murder is fun?

Snarp's avatar

@RedPowerLady Because they know you’ll quit too soon to make an investment in you as an employee.

CMaz's avatar

@J0E – That is a typical bullshit explanation from your generation.

Don’t stress out over it. Understand and accept it.

And yes, it does make murder fun. Only difference is my generation went outside and did it.

J0E's avatar

@ChazMaz No. Only and idiot would think video games are an excuse for anything.

daemonelson's avatar

Back in my day elders knew when they were being teased. Obviously they don’t give us such respect anymore.

@J0E Check out Penn & Teller’s Bullshit episode on video game violence. I think you’ll like it.

RedPowerLady's avatar

@Snarp But that is such an overarching assumption that it could really be doing them a disservice, especially in such poor economic times.

CMaz's avatar

@J0E – No, only an idiot would not see the logic in it. I have been around the block long enough to see a comparison and the results.

Never said it was an excuse. But it is what it is. Not condemning the youth of today. But it is another snot in the salad of life.

Espiritus_Corvus's avatar

@ChazMaz Sounds like you’ve put a lot of time and effort into this train of thought. How about showing us this “comparison and the results” that you speak of and please demonstrate the “logic” that you’ve used that only “an idiot wouldn’t see”. (You can keep the salad and dressing.)

CMaz's avatar

Logic – Sitting on your ass in the house Surfing on the web and playing video games. Instead of actually doing something practical, physical and social. Do not wine that you do not have any money if this is how you spend most of your time.

Comparison and the results – I have done it myself. Amazing how much time gets lost and tossed. I also see it in the ‘quality” of employees and co workers from now and 25 years ago.
I worked all day, in the day. Now we/I have to watch our employees because they fill their time at work with text messaging, Cell phone usage, web surfing and mine sweeping.
Then you go home and continue to do it.

Only an idiot would not see the logic – Does not take too many brain cells to see that. Not getting down on anyone. It is what it is, does not mean now we have to submit to it.
It is just an observation, I am as guilty as the next person. But I will not be ignorant about it.

Espiritus_Corvus's avatar

Well, I guess I’m an idiot then, because I don’t see any conclusive results here, certainly nothing universal, just personal observations from what appears to be a bitter old man that may have some very unfortunate people working for him as employees. Wow. What happened to you? Have you looked into anger management?

CMaz's avatar

I am fine. Actually I am great! :-)

As far as my employees go? They love me.
You need to take some classes on business management.

Get over yourself. :-) Something you just have to learn from growing up. Seems to me you have a bit too much powered sugar on your donut.


Espiritus_Corvus's avatar

Oh, OK. I’ll make sure to look in on you now and then for more valuable insight on how shitty the world is and how screwed up young people are. Thanks.

CMaz's avatar

Again, you said that. Not me.
So you must have issues of your own that you are trying to avoid. :-)

Remember. The question was… What happened to work ethics?

Espiritus_Corvus's avatar

Ah, now you just want to get into my pants.

Dr_Dredd's avatar

@Judi Agree with you that there is just no loyalty any more on the part of companies. When I was growing up, it was unusual for someone not to finish his or her career at the same place they started. Now, it’s par for the course. I think this happened at the same time that pensions were changed to 401k plans. It does send the message that “we’re going to do as little for you as we can get away with.”

Since kids often learn by emulation, I can see why they adopt the attitude of “I’m going to do as little for you as I can get away with.”

Ivan's avatar


You’re talking about the maturity of individuals who spend a significant amount of time on the internet, and yet you’re patronizing people and using childish argumentative tactics… on the internet. Aside from the fact that you are just baiting people here, you’re also not providing any basis for your argument. Do you actually have some reason to suspect that the prevalent use of computers and other electronics have an averse affect on work ethics (and whatever else), or are you just railing on a generation for living a lifestyle that you don’t understand, just like every other generation in history has done? I’d be happy to hear more. I’m not looking for some weak, conjectural, non-causal argument full of insults; I’m looking for your theory.

BluRhino's avatar

SO I had this conversation with my manager last night at work. I began to see the bigger picture more clearly, thanks to the points brought up here ( video game debate aside ) and have concluded that the store and its policies play a huge part in it. I have had a number of dead -end jobs (1st job -graveyard dishwasher at IHOP -$1.25/hr, no meals or drinks) but I have always endeavored to do my best; thats just me.

The store tolerates slacking; that is what they will get.They also do not acknowledge/encourage good performance except to avoid punitive measures.(This will lead me to my next question about secret shoppers)
Yes, I understand youth today sees these jobs as meaningless and will likely not put them on a resume (I see no experience as meaningless, but I take the point; I will also not likely add it) The store keeps increasing demand on the employees with ridiculous upsell requirements, etc., and burdening the managers (meetings, reports, blah blah ) when it doesn’t work. The old saying about catching more flies with honey instead of vinegar is still true.

Bottom line for me, I will suit up, show up, say the serenity prayer, and do the best I can, and the rest is out of my hands. When it all gets to be too much, I will throw in my dishtowel and walk. They will not miss me for a minute.

CMaz's avatar

“yet you’re patronizing people and using childish argumentative tactics”

@Ivan – Get back to me when you know what YOU are talking about. :-)

I left my crayons at home. So sorry if I can’t make it easier for you to understand.

Snarp's avatar

@BluRhino You mean the one that ends with “and the wisdom to hide the bodies of all the people I’ve had to kill because they pissed me off.”?

BluRhino's avatar

lol- along with “made a list of all the people I have harmed and humbly asked God to remove them”

Ivan's avatar


Uh, thanks for proving my point, I guess…

CMaz's avatar

Figured I would throw your “childish argumentative tactics” back at you. :-)

But, YW.

mattbrowne's avatar

It’s alive and kicking where I work.

Espiritus_Corvus's avatar

What happened to the work ethic?
Inadequate wages may have something to do with it.

Fact: In the US, 13% of the urban homeless are employed.
Fact: 40% of the homeless in Florida are employed. (Hilsborough Coalition of the Homeless, 2009 Florida Factsheet)
What is this statistic in your state?

Declining wages have put housing out of reach for many workers: in every state, more than the minimum wage is required to afford a one- or two-bedroom apartment at Fair Market Rent.1 (National Low Income Housing Coalition, 2001). In fact, in the median state a minimum-wage worker would have to work 89 hours each week to afford a two-bedroom apartment at 30% of his or her income, which is the federal definition of affordable housing (National Low Income Housing Coalition 2001). Thus, inadequate income leaves many people homeless. The U.S. Conference of Mayors’ 2005 survey of 24 American cities found that 13% of the urban homeless population were employed (U.S. Conference of Mayors, 2005), though recent surveys by the U.S. Conference of Mayors have reported as high as 25%. In a number of cities not surveyed by the U.S. Conference of Mayors – as well as in many states – the percentage is even higher (National Coalition for the Homeless, 1997). When asked to identify the three main causes of hunger in their city, 83 percent of cities cited poverty, 74 percent cited unemployment and 57 percent cited the high cost of housing. (U.S. Conference of Mayors 2008). For more information, see our factsheets on Employment and Homelessness and Why Are People Homeless?.
—National Coalition for the Homeless

Remember: Hundreds of millions in welfare dollars are spent subsidizing millions of workers that do not earn enough in full-time positions to cover the minimal costs of daily living. This is corporate welfare. The taxpayer should not have to subsidize the labor costs of companies with healthy stock portfolios.

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