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Work Ethics / Workmanship
by John Rhinehart
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By John Rhinehart, QC, SHMS, OSHA, LA, BTH

April 2012

The work ethic is a cultural norm that advocates being personally accountable and responsible for the work that one does and is based on a belief that work has intrinsic value. The term is often applied to characteristics of people, both at work and at play. In sports, for example, work ethic is frequently mentioned as a characteristic of good players. Regardless of the context, work ethic is usually associated with people who work hard and do a good job.

Research has shown that the many characteristics of work ethic can be summarized using three terms -- interpersonal skills, initiative, and being dependable.

Workers exhibiting a good work ethic in theory 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.

I had one individual tell me that if the company paid him more he would “do a better job and work harder.” Well, this may never happen because it’s only to justify the individual poor work ethics and telling others that he is worth more and until he is paid more his work quality will stay poor thus not giving his employers a fair value for his services. In other words, it’s not in his nature to do the best unless he is rewarded.

Work ethics include not only how one feels about their job, career or vocation, but also how one does his/her job or responsibilities. This involves attitude, behavior, respect, communication, and interaction; how one gets along with others. Work ethics demonstrate many things about whom and how a person is.

Work ethics involve such characteristics as honesty and accountability. Essentially, work ethics break down to what one does or would do in a particular situation. The begging question in a situation involves what is right and acceptable, and above board, versus what is wrong, underhanded, and under the table.

Throughout the last few years, there have been companies whose work ethic -- honesty, integrity and accountability -- have been rather shady and have a rather negative impact on other people. This has involved people looking the other way when people have done something questionable, or thinking it would not matter.

Work ethics, such as honesty (not lying, cheating, and stealing), doing a job well, valuing what one does, having a sense of purpose and feeling/being a part of a greater vision or plan is vital. Philosophically, if one does not have proper work ethics, a person’s conscience may be bothered. People for the most part have good work ethic(s); we should not only want to do, but desire to do the proper thing in a given situation.

And this may be true as we see individuals doing the jobs they were hired for and doing a good job with pride. However, I have seen that when some of those individual leave the area of the hired job and do another job within the same company and their work ethics fails.

Case in point: one individual in a manufacturing environment may be, will say, a fabricator, and then is asked to build assemblies at the same pay scale as their hire job. Even though there are proper procedures in placed such as, assembly procedures, these individuals will build it the way they want to build it, thus making assembly errors, such as dirty parts, stripped screws and screw heads and being built wrong etc. Thus the quality of their work and work ethics seems to be non-existent. It’s as though they have lost their work ethics just to get this job done to go and do some other type of work they may enjoy more or may be more important.

Work ethics are intrinsic; they come from within. A question may involve where they came from, if they come from within. Philosophically, this may lead to various perspectives; however, the truth about work ethics, and where they come from are answered from a Christian worldview. Work ethics come from God the creator. God made humans in His image, and His word proclaims these various work ethics -- honesty, integrity, doing a job well, keeping things above board, and accountability factors.

The Christian worldview holds fundamentally to two central work ethics -- humility and the treatment of others. Humility is being humble, no task is too demeaning. Humility involves servitude, which emphasizes placing other peoples need before ones own. Treating others with decency and respect equate to the golden rule. The treatment of others involves loving your neighbor, loving your enemy, doing well to those who dislike you. It involves valuing others, and knowing they have worth. Thus I try to teach and show others to help the next person and make their job easier.

Case in point: If in a manufacturing environment of receiving parts, in which there is a process of receiving those parts and you have, lets say 5,000 screws in one box, and you have to count those parts, then go one step further and count those screws and place those in bags of 250, 500 or 1000 in stead of back in the original box of 5,000 screws, as this will make the next person’s job, who will get them, easier to count or verify the parts and amounts.

And this can be applied in every aspect of work. Again, look at those individuals that may be cutting metal, drilling holes, tapping etc. When it leaves your hands, it should be free of oils, dirt and sharp edges. Work Ethics is—Give it to the next person they way you would want to receive it.

Then you have individuals that are viewed doing the work instructed to do and not following procedures. One such individual I had viewed assembling a part was using a tool improperly and not according to the assembly procedures. This individual later referred to me a “snitch” because of his wantonness not to follow instructions, he was caught not follow assembly instructions therefore, I am the “snitch” not because I did anything wrong but because he was caught not being able to work as “he sees fit too.”

Work Ethics is doing a good job, building great products with workmanship quality and pride. Would you like to receive a product that you have just purchased and receive it dirty, parts stripped and build wrong so that you cannot use it?

As I said in the beginning of this article, “Workers exhibiting a good work ethic in theory 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.” You must prove yourself to your coworkers, supervisors and management that work ethics is highly important to you and it shows in your work and quality of work no matter if it’s sweeping the floors or building a multimillion dollar product.

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