Book review: Reviving Work Ethic

Sun Apr 07 2013 Michael McQueen

In my role consulting with and speaking to business leaders, the most common complaint I come across relates to what managers describe as a lack of work ethic in young people. While many of the frustrations of older generations centre on the fact that Gen Y often prioritise their personal life over their professional obligations, the point still stands that work ethic in western society has steadily eroded in recent years – to the detriment of organisations and the customers they serve.

In Reviving Work Ethic, Eric Chester explores the evolution of work ethic in the past century with specific reference to:

  • How the growth of a convenience-obsession in society has led to a widespread sense of entitlement and individualism.
  • How starting at the bottom and working your way up is no longer seen as an acceptable career pathway
  • How achieving fame has become a legitimate aspiration in and of itself
  • How young employees tend to equate the notion of 'work ethic' with 'workaholism' and shun it accordingly

In an effort to offer a description of what comprises work ethic, Chester offers 7 key indicators of it in an individual:

  • A positive attitude
  • Reliability
  • Professionalism
  • Initiative
  • Respect
  • Integrity
  • Gratitude

Much of the book is dedicated to how leaders and managers can foster and encourage these 7 elements of work ethic in young employees who, by virtue of their age, Chester describes as being the most 'moldable.'

While some of these strategies are simple (dealing with language use, punctuality and dress codes), others are more fundamental such as:

  • A great activity on pg 134 for fostering initiative in young employees
  • Tips on pg 176 for communicating the importance of integrity in the social media age where personal lives are broadcast publicly
  • Ideas on pg 197 for leaders wanting to build a culture of gratitude in an organisation.

As a big fan of Eric Chester's books over the years, I would highly recommend that any manager or leader of young people buy and read Reviving Work Ethic. It is an important book with a highly relevant message.