Bringing Back Work Ethic

How do organisations value employees and have we forgotten the basics? To surmise author Aubrey C. Daniels, made a valid point of the astonishing power of positive reinforcement. “Decades of ignoring good performance has taken its toll. We have put the ‘work ethic’ on extinction.” To put work ethic into context it is the belief in the moral benefit and importance of work and its inherent ability to strengthen character.

Throughout my career I’ve observed that only a small percentage of employees were high performers with a vast majority being good performers. The small percentile were most likely to be valued through a created positive reinforcement such as that of a reward; a reward that was not immediate therefore not guaranteed. This isn’t valuing employees. This was what seemed to be taking its toll on work ethic in today’s society.

To provide you an example of positive reinforcement, in the early days of my career, my then manager took me out for coffee whilst discussing my quality of work and providing me goals to strive for i.e. areas of improvement. This demonstrated to me that he valued my contributions and respected me as an individual; I was a valued employee. To draw a distinction, another manager at the time provided me negative reinforcement through the use of fear. I had been told if I didn’t achieve then it just wasn’t good enough – end of story. Do these examples ring true for you…

A people leader in my pesonal opinion needs to know how to lead people; to bring out the best in them. A people leader who inspires and motivates through positive reinforcement maximises behaviour opposed to one who does through the use of negative reinforcement, which encourages minimally required behaviour to accomplish just enough to get by. Maximising discretionary behaviour will create sustainable results, improving quality of work life with the possibility of enhancing succession planning for your business.

As you can see constructive feedback and encouragement of employees is a crucial part to grooming your business for success. Keeping in mind the adage of give credit where credit is due and if you don’t have something nice to say then say nothing at all. In this instance, don’t provide positive reinforcement for the sake of it we are all adults.

One company nurturing work ethic is nab, whose people are essential to their unique aspirational culture. They are a business that invests in development, commits to flexibility and diversity, and engages with the community. Is there an organisation that you know that effectively puts this into practice?



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