Work ethics is a hot topic in today’s business and educational worlds. Yet, how do we define this hybrid phrase with the word work meaning more than a specific outcome and the word ethics being more than the values that enhance that outcome?
When we say we are going to work, work becomes the place of employment. When we say we are working, the implication is that we are engaged in work-related activity and should be performing one or more specific tasks. However, the word work in today’s global economy does not easily denote specific outcomes much less measurable ones.
Years ago when our economy was agrarian-based, farmers said they were going to work the fields. Their work or more specifically the outcomes of their work could be viewed from the plowed fields to the stacked bales of hay. In today’s technology and service-driven economy, workers’ outcomes are not as nearly recognizable, but what is noticed is their behavior.
Now, ethics is a difficult word to define, as it is more than the enhancement of outcomes. This is aptly demonstrated by the variety of expectations such as being to work or school on time, performing quality work, being self-directed, having self-initiative, or being positive to both fellow contributors and customers. Ethics, from these expectations, encompass the internal behaviors of the contributors or what I really believe are attitudes.
Let’s step out of the box and construct a new and more accurate term that meets the expectations of both the business and educational worlds. First, let’s ask ourselves are we more concerned with the behavior or the attitudes? If we recognize that it is the attitudes that drive the behaviors that generate the outcomes, it would suggest that the contributors’ attitudes have a greater impact on the outcomes.
Next, since behavior has numerous meanings, possibly we can substitute performance for behavior. Performance can be measured provided the organization has accurate and complete expectations, valid assessments that do not penalize the contributors along a well-communicated strategic plan. Through clearly articulated goals with consistent leadership and management, contributors have the opportunity to improve their performance thereby achieving measurable results.
Attitudes of performance appear then to better describe the desired outcomes and expectations that we have as employers, educators, or even parents. As we all are contributors, by focusing on attitudes early in our performance experiences, we have the means to improve ourselves and more importantly our community.