AKRON (Sept. 26, 2005) — Generally speaking, work ethic and personal pride seem to be in short supply these days.
Although there are no fast and easy ways to solve these issues quickly, managers and bosses no longer can ignore these problems.
In this and subsequent columns, I'll discuss recognizing these problems and suggest relatively small but immediate steps bosses should take to cope with this sagging work ethic.
A store manager's response to a recent column I wrote for the Aug. 15 issue of Tire Business prompts me to revisit the topic of work ethic and personal pride. In that piece I urged bosses to lead by example. Basically, this means motivating workers by not asking them to do anything you haven't done or wouldn't do.
I argued that leading by example may be the only way to raise many of the more experienced—and frankly, more jaded—workers to a higher level of productivity.
This manager, whom I will call “John,” described his frustration at trying to set the example in every way possible when he was assigned to a particular tire dealership. He said he inherited a staff with its share of slackers, including some 50-ish employees who were just plain lazy. Although most of us associate—rightly or wrongly—the lack of work ethic with younger employees, John emphasized that younger folks don't have a monopoly on this malady.
That said, he stated that his managerial experience has convinced him that “younger people today do not want to work very hard.”
He tried to set a solid example by doing what he's asking workers to do, but to no avail. According to John, Americans are spoiled because they'll go to a lawyer or the government to find a way around doing work they don't like to do. Matter of fact, employees might even sneak around your back in order to complain to the dealership's general manager about your efforts to get a decent day's work out of them.
In short, his message described the classic slacker techniques for getting more than the employee's entitled to without having to work hard for it.
You could argue that there's more going on here than we realize. For all we know, John could be a vicious tyrant with poor managerial skills. On the other hand, he could be singing a familiar tune. For me, the tune has been all too familiar. I have been hearing the same assessment from owners, managers, shop foremen and technicians for years now. They repeatedly ask me: “Doesn't anyone want to work anymore?”
I began covering the automotive repair industry in 1976 and the work forced me to travel extensively. The technical training I have been doing for the last 12 years has forced me to travel even more. Sadly, comments such as reader John's are a drum beat that just seems to get louder and louder everywhere I go. When you hear it often enough from so many different people in so many places, you believe that it's a legitimate issue.
For instance, bosses often ask, “Where do I find new hires who show up the first day and then every day thereafter? Where do I find people who appreciate the importance of showing up on time every day?”
To me, the technicians' comments have been equally or more revealing. “We're max'd out because we're working so many hours. We sell service well and do excellent work. But it seems like we're always shorthanded because the new hires don't last.
“We older guys tell them that they've got a great opportunity to consistently make good money here. But these kids don't want to show up on time or show up every day. No surprise—they get themselves fired and we're shorthanded again,” techs tell me.
Don't miss next issue's column where I'll review how we got to this point and how we may cope with these types of workers. I believe we've reached the point where owners and managers must do the task they dread most. That is, serve as surrogate parents to fundamentally selfish and/or immature workers who were never taught any responsibility or instilled with any sense of pride.
We also have to exert more positive influence and control where we have the best opportunity to do so—and that's at home. Meantime, good luck and see you next issue.