Lesson 1 - Why Work Ethic?

Worker with feet on desk

Learning Goal: To understand why work ethic is so important in the information age workplace and why it will continue to be important in the future.


It is a new day in the workplace, but the old saying that "what goes around, comes around" has been proven true again. Now as much as ever before it is important for workers to have a good work ethic. Without it, businesses and industries struggle as productivity falls short of what is needed. Employers especially dislike hiring people who would choose to prop up their feet rather than find something to do.

Hasn't a good work ethic always been important, though? The answer is yes, but during a period of history we refer to as the industrial age, many jobs required a work ethic that was limited and somewhat different from the characteristics necessary in today's information age workplace. People who work with information often must set their own schedule, usually work with less direct supervision, and frequently experience change and innovation in their work.

What is an information age job?

Consider the following occupations. Click on items in the list that are information jobs?

Even the jobs which are not now classified as information jobs are continuing to change in that direction. As technology advances and manual operations are replaced by machines, people increasingly must deal with the information necessary to provide instructions to a machine which in turn actually performs a task.

Spend a few minutes and read over an excerpt from the history section (The Work Ethic in the Information Age and The Work Ethic and the Industrial Revolution) of this web site. These materials will help you to understand why work ethic is so important in the workplace today.

Job Skills in the Information Age

Earth and computer

Information age jobs usually require technical skills and knowledge, but work ethic and work attitudes are also essential for success. Employers frequently mention work ethic and related characteristics when they describe the type of employees they seek to hire. They also report that people with these characteristics are difficult to find. When people lack specific technical skills needed on the job, employers often are willing and able to provide needed training. They are often not as prepared to offer training that would develop work ethic attributes.

Assignment 1:

Conduct a quick job search and see what kinds of jobs are available in your area of the country. Make a list of the worker characteristics (responsible, motivated, good public speaking skills, etc.) that are being sought. This activity can also be completed using the classified advertising section of your local newspaper.

Assignment 2:

Not only is it important to consider what employers are looking for and what characteristics are important to be a successful worker, but we need to consider what is important to us in a job. Unless we understand our own interests, it will be difficult for us to select a career that will be fulfilling and allow us to be happy.

One of the better known scholars who has researched the area of matching individual interests with job types is John L. Holland, Ph.D. He has identified six personality types to describe different kinds of people. These are labeled Realistic (R), Investigative (I), Artistic (A), Social (S), Enterprising (E), and Conventional (C). More detailed information about these personality types is available here.

It is helpful for us to be aware of our own personality characteristics as we consider work-related decisions. Complete this self assessment to better understand your own personal traits. Discuss the results in a small group in your class.