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Work Ethic

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As a child we are raised to follow certain rules and regulations and are taught to behave according to our parents’ morals and beliefs. The problem is when we become adults and enter the workforce, we find that some places of employment are aligned with our beliefs and morals and some operate totally against them. Most believe that work ethic comes from within. Our morals and values tend to determine how we behave in the workplace. So, what is work ethic? How has the definition of work ethic changed over time? Who or what determines proper work ethic? These are all questions that have a variety of answers to and in this paper I will explain them in detail.

What is work ethic? “Work ethic is a set of values on the moral virtues of hard work and diligence” ( Work ethic has also been described as “a belief in moral benefit of work and its ability to enhance character” ( It is believed that your work ethic determines how successful you are. It is said that workers exhibiting a good work ethic in theory and ideally in practice, should be selected for better positions, more responsibility and ultimately promotion ( On the other hand it is said that workers that have bad work ethic, shouldn’t be promoted, paid high wages or even placed in positions of greater responsibility. The free market of western capitalism has an economic theory that states “workers who work hard and play by the rules will be rewarded eventually and will move ahead and those who don’t should be allowed to enjoy the fruits of their own poor performance” (wikipedia). Work ethic is a combination of how one feels about their job and how one performs his/her job responsibilities. “This involves attitude, behavior, respect, communication and how one gets alone with others” (

Generally speaking someone with good work ethic has certain characteristics like honesty and accountability. Basically, it comes down to what a person would do or does in a particular situation. The bottom line is to have good work ethic is a good thing. The way you handle situations on the job determines what type of person you are. So, how did we get to the current definition of work ethic? Over the years the definition of good work ethic has changed significantly.

Work ethic has been around since as far back as the classical period. Working hard was not the norm during the Hebrew, Classical or Medieval periods and it wasn’t until the “Protestant Reformation that physical labor became culturally acceptable for all persons, even the wealthy and placed positive moral value on doing a good job” ( What was considered to be good work ethic depended on what period you where in.

The attitude towards work ethic during the classical period was influenced by the Judeo-Christian belief system. They believed that man was placed in the “Garden of Eden” to work and take care of it ( In other words, we were put on this earth to work. The Hebrews and Greeks believed that work was a “curse devised by God to punish the disobedience and ingratitude of Adam and Eve” ( In this period, the cultural norms allowed free men to pursue warfare, large-scale commerce, and the arts ( Mental labor was also considered to be work and was denounced by the Greeks. Skilled crafts were accepted and recognized as having some social value and hard work was disdained ( The Greeks also believed that a person’s prudence, morality and wisdom were directly proportional to the amount of leisure time a person had. A person who worked when there was no need to do so, risked obliterating the distinction between slave and master ( Leadership in the Greek culture was based on how much work a person didn’t do. During the Classical Period, the Romans and the Greeks considered labor as being negative.

Work was still considered a punishment from God during the Medieval Period. The difference between the Medieval Period and the Classical Period was they also added the positive aspect of earnings. They believed that earnings would prevent one from being reliant on the charity of others for the physical needs of life ( Wealth was recognized as an opportunity to share with people who were less fortunate. So since work produced wealth it was acceptable. “Handcraft, farming and small scale commerce were acceptable for people of moderate means but receiving interest on money loaned, charging more that a “just” price and big business was not acceptable” ( Social status within this period was related to work that a person did. It was a worker’s duty to remain in his class. Work still didn’t hold any intrinsic value and its function was to avoid idleness

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