Work ethic is a belief that hard work and diligence have a moral benefit and an inherent ability, virtue or value to strengthen character.[1] It is about prioritizing work and putting it in the center of life. Social ingrainment of this value is considered to enhance character through hard work that is respective to an individual's field of work.[2]

Factors of a good work ethic

A strong work ethic is vital for achieving goals. A work ethic is a set of moral principles a person uses in their job. People who possess a strong work ethic embody certain principles that guide their work behavior, leading them to produce high-quality work consistently and the output feeds the individual to stay on track. A good work ethic fuels an individual's needs and goals, it is related to the initiative by a person for the objectives. It is considered as a source of self respect, satisfaction, and fulfillment.[citation needed]

Factors are:[3][4]

  1. Goal-oriented actions: it is not about making plans or the next logical steps; it's about getting things done so that the work invested wouldn't be counter-productive.
  2. Prioritized focus: focusing on qualitative activities that a person is capable and in areas where they can make a difference or a high impact based on objectives.
  3. Being available and reliable: spending time on the work and building oneself up for the task.
  4. Conscientiousness: a desire to do a task well, being vigilant and organized.
  5. Creating a rewarding routine/system: Engaging in tasks that provide strength and energy which can be transferred to your ultimate goals, creating a habit and a habitat for success.
  6. Embracing positivism: shape a problem with the statement "good, (action) (problem)", e.g. "I'm tired and it is time for a workout" leads to "Good. Workout tired".

A negative work ethic is a behavior of a single individual or a group that has led to a systematic lack of productivity, reliability, accountability and a growing sphere of unprofessional/unhealthy relationships (e.g., power politics, lack of social skills, etc.).[5]


Assumptions about good work ethic is drawn out in philosophical writings of Goldman, they are:[6]

  1. The path to what you want is to take action.
  2. The success of action plans depend upon how congruent one's worldview is with the society's.
  3. Many problems faced are only a temporary breakdown of self management.
  4. Setting time limits for achieving goals helps to overcome the edge of discomforts that time can have on subjective needs.
  5. A positive problem-solving or goal attainment experience improves one's ability to cope with the next difficulty.
  6. Hardships in life is a normality, they become a problem when they are the same over and over.
  7. A person is what s/he does, and feelings flow from behavior.
  8. Feelings can be viewed as beliefs about one's wants.

In the 1970s a good work ethic was considered as a lifestyle to meet unmet or unsatisfied wants by people.

Capitalist view

Steven Malanga refers to "what was once understood as the work ethic—not just hard work but also a set of accompanying virtues, whose crucial role in the development and sustaining of free markets too few now recall".[7]

Max Weber quotes the ethical writings of Benjamin Franklin:

Remember, that time is money. He that can earn ten shillings a day by his labor, and goes abroad, or sits idle, one half of that day, though he spends but sixpence during his diversion or idleness, ought not to reckon that the only expense; he has really spent, or rather thrown away, five shillings besides.

Remember, that money is the prolific, generating nature. Money can beget money, and its offspring can beget more, and so on. Five shillings turned is six, turned again is seven and threepence, and so on, till it becomes a hundred pounds. The more there is of it, the more it produces every turning, so that the profits rise quicker and quicker. He that kills a breeding sow, destroys all her offspring to the thousandth generation. He that murders a crown, destroys all that it might have produced, even scores of pounds.[8]

Weber notes that this is not a philosophy of mere greed, but a statement laden with moral language. It is in effect an ethical response to the natural desire for hedonic reward, a statement of the value of delayed gratification to achieve self-actualization. Franklin claims that Bible readings revealed to him the usefulness of virtue. Indeed, this reflects the then christian search for ethic for living and the struggle to make a living.[9]

Experimental studies have shown that people with fair work ethic are able to tolerate tedious jobs with equitable monetary rewards and benefits, they are highly critical, have a tendency for workaholism and a negative relation with leisure activity concepts. They valued meritocracy and egalitarianism.[10]

In the 1940s work ethic was considered very important, nonconformist ideals were dealt autocratically. Suppression of humor in the workplace was one of them. It is recorded that at the Ford Company a worker John Gallo was fired for being "caught in the act of smiling".[11]

Anti-capitalist view

Countercultural groups and communities have challenged these values in recent decades, characterizing them as submissive to authority and to social convention, and not valuable in and of themselves, but only if work ethic brings a positive result. An alternative perspective has arisen in recent years, suggesting that the work ethic is being subverted in a broader, more mainstream and more readily marketed-to proportion of society. This perspective has given rise to the phrase "work smart".[citation needed]

In the 19th century, the Arts and Crafts movement of William Morris in the UK and Elbert Hubbard in the US noted how "alienation" of workers from ownership of the tools of production and their work product was destructive of the work ethic because in the expanding firms of that era, then the workers saw no point in doing more than the minimum.[citation needed]

The industrial engineer Frederick Winslow Taylor (1856-1915) revised the notion of work ethic as a means of management control that delude workers about the actual reality for accumulated advantage, which is a form of avarice. Marxists, and some non-Marxist sociologists[who?], do not regard "work ethic" as a useful sociological concept. They argue that having a "work ethic" in excess of management's control doesn't appear rational in any mature industry where the employee can't rationally hope to become more than a manager whose fate still depends on the owner's decisions.

The French Leftist philosopher André Gorz (1923–2007) wrote:

"The work ethic has become obsolete. It is no longer true that producing more means working more, or that producing more will lead to a better way of life. The connection between more and better has been broken; our needs for many products and services are already more than adequately met, and many of our as-yet-unsatisfied needs will be met not by producing more, but by producing differently, producing other things, or even producing less. This is especially true as regards our needs for air, water, space, silence, beauty, time and human contact.

Neither is it true any longer that the more each individual works, the better off everyone will be. In a post-industrial society, not everyone has to work hard in order to survive, though may be forced to anyway due to the economic system. The present crisis has stimulated technological change of an unprecedented scale and speed: 'the micro-chip revolution'. The object and indeed the effect of this revolution has been to make rapidly increasing savings in labour, in the industrial, administrative and service sectors. Increasing production is secured in these sectors by decreasing amounts of labour. As a result, the social process of production no longer needs everyone to work in it on a full-time basis. The work ethic ceases to be viable in such a situation and workbased society is thrown into crisis."[12]

Socialists believe that the concept of "hard work" is meant by capitalists to delude the working class into becoming loyal servants to the elite, and that working hard, in itself, is not automatically an honorable thing, but only a means to creating more wealth for the people at the top of the economic pyramid. In the Soviet Union, the regime portrayed work ethic as an ideal to strive for.[13]

Recession is a contributing factor that holds back work ethic, because the generation that inherits economic decline lives in an economy that isn’t ready to receive them. Without work there to do, the ethic that is attached to it fails to generate distinctive value. The negative work ethic and power structures that doesn't value or credit work done or unethically attribute work done as a service or with higher moral ideals have dissolved the ethic presented in the society and turned the focus onto self-centered perks and individualism. Further, urbanization and an emphasis on large-scale businesses has led to eliminating avenues for learning vital concepts about work. Millennials in a research identified what made them unique was consumerist trends like technology use, music/pop culture, liberal/tolerant beliefs, greater intelligence, and clothes than work, they were not able to distinguish the concept in the traditional understandings of work ethic.[14]

See also



  1. ^ "What is work ethic? definition and meaning". BusinessDictionary.com. Retrieved 18 March 2018. 
  2. ^ T. Marek; W. Karwowski; M. Frankowicz; J. Kantola; P. Zgaga (2014). Human Factors of a Global Society: A System of Systems Perspective. CRC Press. pp. 276–277. ISBN 978-1-4665-7287-4. 
  3. ^ Schawbel, Dan. "Reviving Work Ethic in America". forbes.com. Retrieved 18 March 2018. 
  4. ^ Swan, Andy. "7 Work Ethic Commandments For An Entrepreneur". forbes.com. Retrieved 18 March 2018. 
  5. ^ "Negative Work Ethic Definition". chron.com. Retrieved 18 March 2018. 
  6. ^ Alvin I. Goldman (1970). A theory of human action. Prentice-Hall. 
  7. ^ "Whatever Happened to the Work Ethic? by Steven Malanga, City Journal Summer 2009". 
  8. ^ Benjamin Franklin, Advice to a Young Tradesman, Written by an Old One (1748), Italics in the original
  9. ^ Weber, Max The Protestant Ethic and "The Spirit of Capitalism" (Penguin Books, 2002) translated by Peter Baehr and Gordon C. Wells, pp.9-12
  10. ^ Mirels and Garrett (1971). Protestant Work Ethic. Journal of Consulting and Clinical Psychology, 36, 40–44.
  11. ^ Christopher Robert (19 December 2016). The Psychology of Humor at Work: A Psychological Perspective. Taylor & Francis. p. 149. ISBN 978-1-317-37077-2. 
  12. ^ "GSD: Andre Gorz". 
  13. ^ "Intro to Capitalism - Does capitalism work for the benefit of all, or is it just a tool to exploit the working classes? Or is Anarchy the way forward?". 
  14. ^ "Debunking The Millennials' Work Ethic "Problem"". hbr.org. 8 April 2010. Retrieved 18 March 2018.