Can You Teach Work Ethic?

Some people are born workers. They jump in, work hard until the job is done, and show up the next morning, ready to go again. Others are glued to their phones and can’t get anything done unless you are breathing down their necks. This all begs a question: Can you teach work ethic to people who aren’t naturally inclined?

Psychologist Marie Hartwell-Walker recently addressed that question. She noticed a difference in work ethic between kids who lived on small family farms and “city” kids. The farm kids work (and work hard), she says, while the city kids complain about routine chores, such as clearing the table. Why the difference?

“I think it comes down to this: On the smaller farms, work is clearly valued, it is done routinely, by everyone, and the consequences for not doing it are obvious and clear,” she writes. “In other households, kids experience work as capriciously imposed by the big people and whether they do it or not has little observable consequence.”

To keep reading, click here: Can You Teach Work Ethic?

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5 thoughts on “Can You Teach Work Ethic?

  1. Work ethics can be taught just like one teaches life skills as a parent. Main problem is most management people don’t want to interact with employees, they want to issue orders and expect them to be done which is why there are designated individuals who help new employees blend into workplace performance by introducing the new people to how work is done at specific company. These people may not be the top performers but they do have complete knowledge of all skills to do job and can show others how to do it effectively. ( There are those who do job and those teach job). These individuals are just not the super star performers but the reason the company is successful. They have the patience to show, instruct and follow up when working with others, they develop the team effort.
    One of the problems of being one of these people is you are not the most popular person for social activities but are the key person for job knowledge because of the way you perform. But every manager hopes all their employees would perform at your level because of the reliability of performance.
    I define work ethics as part attitude and part performance. Those who don’t have good work ethics never had real life experience of the effects of their actions and are very self absorbed in relation to others. They may feel reactive to being told about how their being late effects the workplace if they have never had to follow a regular schedule ever. But needed work skills can be learned especially if effort is made to correct poor performance within the first 2 weeks on job. It doesn’t take a long time to see how well the person is blending into workplace.
    A good management team would know the best way to have the best work team.

    1. effort is made to correct poor performance within the first 2 weeks on job

      But I would not be interested in wasting time doing that. I would not hire someone who doesn’t already know how to work.

      It’s my job to show a new person how we do things at the company; it’s not my job to teach someone to show up on time and to have a good attitude.

  2. I think the better question is SHOULD you teach work ethic and I think yes at the internship level, and maybe at entry level where the person already knows how to do the tasks. I don’t think a company should have to teach both ethic AND work tasks. The employee needs to come in fit to do at least one of those.

  3. As someone who grew up on a farm, I agree with the assessment of “farm kids” having a better work ethic than “city kids.”

    I do think that work ethics can be taught, but only if the person wants to learn them. If not, they are not worth having around the company.

    1. Yep, I agree – you can lead a horse to water; but, you can’t make him drink.

      Country kids learn at a young age that there are serious consequences to NOT doing chores.

      You didn’t bring in enough firewood? well, you can freeze your tail off or go out in the middle of the night to get more. Compared to you didn’t fold your clothes that mom washed and dried; who cares if you wear wrinkled clothes to school tomorrow.

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