Journal - 11 September 2000: The Root of the Downfall in the American Work Ethic

What do you think this entry will be about? What do you, the reader, think I will blame for the aforementioned downfall of the American work ethic? If you are like most people, you'll likely bet I'll talk about downsizing, a separation from religious values, or even something as inane as immigration. You may indeed bet on those, but the smart money is on people stopping to try and work more efficiently. Confused? Follow me.

To begin, let us compare two workers at a steel mill. Worker A has excellent self-esteem, believes that he/she is part of a team, is dependant on others, understands cultural diversity, is concerned with information more than profit, and, above all, works for personal growth. Worker B is independent, self-sufficient, and, above all, works quickly and efficiently. Which employee is more valuable? Is it the new-age flower-child-employee embodied in Worker A, or the independent Worker B? Logic dictates that since all of Worker A's abilities do absolutely nothing to help in the process of smelting steel that Worker B is clearly more valuable. However, most engineering and efficiency texts list the vapid skills of Worker A as paramount, and the simplicity of Worker B to be downright counterproductive. How could Worker B act counterproductively? Simple: his reduced capacity to appear useful makes him in the eyes of employers (who themselves were promoted on the basis of having Worker A's traits) to be less useful. Now that the problem is clear, what is its cause?



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