Have you noticed that the attitude of workers has been changing? Perhaps you have observed it in many sales people, especially in large-city stores, where service often leaves much to be desired. It is likely you have received defective merchandise, or you may even have accepted shoddy goods at times simply because you knew it would take too long for the company to make a replacement.
In many fields of commerce, there are people who want to get paid but who do not want to do the work or do it well. There is more and more carelessness and the attitude of “taking it easy” on the job.
Particularly since World War II have workers made greater demands for more money and other benefits, but, in the view of many persons, the quality of their work has often appeared less and less satisfactory.
Employers today say that many workers simply do not want to put in a good day’s work. For example, a media company, when endeavoring to purchase certain merchandise on occasions, has been told that it is not certain when it would be available, ‘since it all depends on whether the men feel like working.’
The attitude of many workers is often one of indifference. Said one employer: “When I went into business for myself, there were times when I found it necessary to call the labor union for help. You know, I got about one good worker out of ten hired. The men really did not want to work. I was fortunate if I could get fifteen minutes’ work out of every hour from them. If you got rid of them, they didn’t mind. They would collect unemployment insurance or they would say, ‘The heck with you. We’ve got the union behind us.’”
In a similar vein a general construction contractor from Kentucky comments on work attitudes today: “Many workers today are interested mostly in two things: quitting time and payday. They are not interested in the company or what the company is trying to do.”
This employer also commented on a trend among many young persons to want a prominent position quickly but without putting forth all the effort that is required to become a craftsman. “We have to stay right with many of these young workers and show them everything or else it won’t be done right. In times past a boy would work along with his father. Four or five years of such training and he knew how to use his head and his hands. But it isn’t that way so much anymore. The young man is generally looking for an easy way out. But there are no easy ways to acquire skills or to train the body and mind to do things.”
After reflecting on what he had just said, he continued: “Today, I’d rather hire a man forty or over. The old-timers are very difficult to replace.”
Others have also observed that among many youthful workers today there is the belief that ‘work is necessary but not desirable.’ This may be because so many youths are pleasure oriented. They are not only recreation minded, and so inclined to indulge in horseplay, but also easily distracted by those around them; hence the need for someone to supervise them. Many have good intentions, but they have not developed good work habits, so as to produce steadily throughout the day.
Changing Attitudes Toward Honesty
There are changing attitudes not only toward industriousness and craftsmanship, but also regarding honesty. Many workers steal by reporting work time when they were not even on the job. For example, when a communications system breaks down, it is necessary for an emergency crew of troubleshooters to examine the lines, locate the trouble and clear it up. This work is usually done without a supervisor. So when the trouble is corrected, it is up to the repairmen to record their quitting time. It has been observed that for many workers it is standard procedure to post more hours on the time sheet than have actually been consumed on the job.
Many workers have no qualms about stealing time and other things from their employer. “Stealing is so common,” an employer said, “that it is taken for granted.” A leather goods manufacturer appeared to accept thievery as a fact of life: “Whatever workers can put in their pockets they take,” he said rather indifferently. “They figure that the company owes it to them. They don’t really think it’s stealing, or that it’s wrong to steal.”
A welder remarked that if his equipment was not chained down for the night or locked behind doors, most likely it would be stolen before the morning. One employer revealed that for twenty years he could not leave his plant and take a vacation because there was no one he could trust with the merchandise.
Why the changing attitudes toward work? It is easy enough to put the blame on the workers, but the facts show that management has often contributed to these attitudes. For example, sometimes there is pressure from men higher up for workers to slow down. A girl who worked in a bookbindery at piece rates found she was disobeying orders when she worked at her normal speed. Her foreman made her doctor up her production record to match the others in the department. The surplus was entered on the next day’s record, which forced her into a slower pace the next day.
On the other hand, sometimes a company is overly concerned with production, to the detriment of work habits. “A lot of companies these days don’t care what a job looks like as long as it is passable,” one company man admitted. “What they want is production.” This may give rise to quick but sloppy work, which often has to be done over.
Sometimes there is a “don’t care” attitude among the management, and this can lead only to bad work habits. “Take my job,” said an electrician. “The starting time is 8 o’clock, but men don’t start coming to work until 8:30 or 9 o’clock, yet the company doesn’t say anything. If the company doesn’t care, then why should the men care?”
A similar indifferent attitude is often reflected toward stealing. A contractor stated that ‘there are companies that don’t mind the stealing. They figure that they hired the man for a lower salary, so if he steals, his lower salary more than makes up for the loss.’
But there is more to the changing work attitudes than a failure among some employers to encourage the right attitudes.
Pressures from a Deteriorating System
With so many workers not wanting to put in a good day’s work, there is pressure on others to conform to the prevailing attitude. For example, a young college man spent a five-week period on his first cooperative job. One day he told his school personnel department director his experience. He began by saying: “Aren’t students expected to give their best day’s work to their employer?”
“Why do you ask?” queried the director.
“Well, on my job I started out to do my best. Pretty soon one of the fellows told me not to work so fast. I didn’t pay any attention to him; then others got after me, and finally the foreman spoke to me about it.”
“Did you slow down then?” asked the director.
“Yes. I saw I was getting unpopular with the other workers, but it bothered me not to try to do my best.”
This, of course, is not an isolated incident. It has happened many times. A zealous worker went to work in the automatic screw-machine department of a large manufacturing plant. He found the work easy, so he enjoyed working quite fast. Only a few days had passed when one of the older bur grinders approached him and said: “Take it easy, buddy, there’s no hurry. Slow up a bit. Take my advice; it’s healthier.”
Workers in many fields have experienced the same pressures. Many have thus done less than what they would normally do. Men who enjoyed working and who could not resist doing more were found hiding finished products under their work benches, afraid to turn them in. Workmen were seen standing around by the hour because the day’s “limit” had been reached. Researchers have found, however, that many working people despise the whole business of what they call “goldbricking,” “taking it easy.”
Another reason for changed attitudes toward work is the trend toward super “growth” corporations, where workers feel trapped by giantism. Many youths complain that working for them is an unrewarding, frustrating experience. The much-needed sense of personal achievement often is not felt.
One employer in the electrical business who has noted these changed attitudes among workers simply said: “Maybe it’s the system.” True enough, the whole system of things gives evidence of deteriorating, and there is a widespread moral breakdown.
Benefits from Right Attitudes
Though attitudes toward work are changing, you do not need to go along with peoples view on it and be influenced by it. You can cultivate good attitudes of industriousness, cheerfulness, friendliness and cooperation; with such qualities you make your work more enjoyable and you gain greater satisfaction.
Yes, with good attitudes toward your work, you find real pleasure in accomplishment. To rejoice in your work, you need to do it well. In fact, no matter what your job may be, you can strive to give it the mark of craftsmanship, of excellence. The craftsman is one who does well whatever he has to do. He finds delight in being able to do his job well.
For example, a carpenter who builds well can always point to his work with pride. In his accomplishment he feels a sense of worth. His family can also rejoice with him. A housewife, too, who applies herself, delights to show others the works of her hands; she develops wholesome attitudes toward all her work in the home. Even little children are elated over the good work they do. In fact, every good worker is. For who is there that truly takes pleasure in sloppy work?
Another benefit from good work attitudes and positive thinking is that your skills and services are more likely to be in demand, even when there is unemployment, as prevails in a number of lands today. Here is what one employer whose business is noted for the high quality of its personnel said:
“We’re far more interested in a man’s attitude than we are in his experience. If a person has the right attitude, you can be reasonably sure that he’ll continue to learn, grow and develop. Furthermore, he’ll always be the kind of person we enjoy working with. If a person doesn’t have a good attitude, we don’t want him—regardless of his experience or ability. Sooner or later a sour attitude always means trouble.”
Good work attitudes may thus help one have employment whereas the person with poor work attitudes may find himself out of work. Since many firms today operate with very little margin of profit, poor work attitudes among employees may contribute to a company’s going bankrupt. For a number of reasons, then, the person with poor work attitudes may find himself without a job.