Work Ethic and Work-Life Balance Disconnect

Work Ethic and Work-Life Balance Disconnect

When I read this article in the Sunday, June 19, 2016—Father’s Day—Washington Post business section, it reminded me so much of time with my dad, of blessed memory, schlepping around the state of Ohio to sell chickens! Like the younger Ted Gup’s experiences in helping at his Dad’s store, I too worked in the family stores—the Joe O. Frank Co./Tasty Bird Farms (also in Ohio)—where I learned to cut up chicken in no time flat and measure, from a huge block of Oleo, any amount requested … skills, alas, I’ve lost over the years but the work experience stayed with me. 

My “work ethic” derives from many family members: my grandfathers, one of whom retired and then started another job, dying on his lunch hour at 85; my dad, who, drafted from college into WWII, returned and went to work versus finishing college and even through a cancer diagnosis, continued to work; and my own work, first as a babysitter and then, at 14, a mandatory-my-parents-said work permit and work after school and on weekends, and almost always since then with a few times of unemployment but not since 1981 when I created my consulting company have I not worked.

When I read that definition of "work ethic," I cringed. It makes it sound as if one were lazy or lacking in character if one didn’t possess what someone thought how you worked was the same as theirs.

Recently, in work for a client, one of the stated goals was to look at who was working how and to figure out how to help the meetings staff find work-life balance. If you’re a meeting planner/professional, you’re reading that and guffawing, right? As a planning professional (and vendor to our industry), do you think you can advance (in whatever way you see it) or even get a job if you believe that balance is more critical than "work ethic"?

As I read all this and conducted the work with the client, it occurred to me, as I am sure it has to many others: Boomers and Xers talk about Millennials and their "work ethic"—well, they criticize Millennials (aka “Gen Y”) for not having a work ethic! (Worse [to me!] the Millennials themselves say it.)

So what is work-life balance? Doesn’t it depend on the worker? Is it necessity or desire that makes us work more? Certainly, many people are working two or more jobs to support themselves and their families.

From Forbes and Yahoo! are these articles about how different generations view work ethic: 

This, about paternity leave, from the Brookings Institution confirmed that in the US, we talk about a work-life balance and don’t mean it to be for everyone.

We’re connected 24/7 and thus, I think, these words from that article, sum it up:

"In it [the study], we found that nine out of ten millennials say that they can access information whenever and wherever they are, and that 73% are expected to be contactable at any time of day or night. So tell me how are we to find balance if we are expected to be ‘on call’ all the time? Friends tell me that when they go on vacation, if they even take a day off, their emails are overwhelming even if they have an out-of-office message!”

If we really believe in work-life balance, shouldn’t GI Gens, Silents, Boomers and Xers stop the negative comments about Millennials and the belief they have no "work ethic"? If we really believe in "work-life balance," shouldn’t we pay a living wage so that people don’t have to work multiple jobs?

What do you think? What’s your take on "work ethic" and generational differences? Work-life balance? Is it bunk? Oh and did you know what Oleo was without clicking the link?!

As always the views expressed are my own and may not reflect those of the publisher, Stamats, and the publication, Meetings Today. 

Posted by Joan L. Eisenstodt

Follow Joan on Twitter: @joaneisenstodt

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