What does it mean to have a good work ethic?
Does it mean that, no matter the circumstances, come hell or high water, you are gung-ho about punching in and doing your job? Does it mean that you’ve set goals for yourself and your life and you’re willing to do what it takes to achieve those goals? Does it mean that you feel that sense of responsibility in regards to the thing you’re getting paid to do, so you go in there and do the thing to the best of your ability?
Maybe a little of all of the above?
I’m not sure that anyone believes their parents did a perfect job of raising them. If you were to make that claim, I’d probably call you a liar to your face. My parents weren’t perfect. Mom would be the first to say she didn’t have all the right answers 100% of the time. If Dad were still with us, I have no doubt he’d say the same.
Despite the imperfections, I do believe they raised me well and instilled in me a good work ethic. No, that doesn’t mean that I’m gung-ho about getting to work every morning as soon as I hop out of bed. First of all, there is no hopping out of bed at 6:00 a.m. At least, not for me. It’s more like… oozing out of bed. That’s a more accurate verb, I think…
For me, my work ethic falls more in line with the second and third questions I asked in that above paragraph. I have certain goals I want to achieve in my life. They’re not the loftiest of goals, but they’re out there. I have a certain sense of responsibility regarding the job I’m getting paid to do. I want to do it well.
Though, if I’m being honest, if I were presented the opportunity to just be independently wealthy, I’d take it. I mean, the kind of wealthy where the money I have does all the work and I’m just able to live on the interest earned from various investments. This would allow me to read, watch movies, and travel the way I’d really like to.
But let’s be real… That’s never gonna happen. I’m pretty sure I’ll never even be allowed to retire properly. I will be a working man until the day I die. I’ve made peace with that.
I say all that because that responsibility that I feel… the obligation that I have… the work ethic that has been instilled in me makes it difficult for me to take a day off. No, wait, it’s easy for me to take a day off. I enjoy taking a day off and sleeping until 6:30 a.m. and having time to read or watch movies. But when I do take a day for myself, there comes a certain amount of guilt with it.
I mentioned last week that I was sick. Comes with the territory, working in an elementary school. Each day, at least once, my co-counselor has looked at me and told me to go home. I’ve laughed her off and told her I was fine. I’m not contagious, so why let a little cough keep me from doing my job.
And then Wednesday happened. My supervisor dropped by for our weekly meeting. Within five minutes of her being in our office, she looked at me and told me to leave. I began to laugh… but she wasn’t joking. She told me to go home and basically insisted that I take Thursday off, too.
I won’t lie. There are days that I absolutely don’t want to be at work. It’s a difficult job, working with the kids that we work with. In this field, there’s potential for a lot of burn out and it can happen before you know it’s even happened. Because of this, my supervisor is one who has embraced the idea of self-care.
Self-care is crucial in a helping profession. And I say this to the volunteers that I work with, as well. If you aren’t taking care of yourself, you cannot take care of others. Think about it this way: You have a pitcher full of water and you’re filling up other people’s glasses. If you don’t take time to refill your own pitcher, what will you have to offer the people who get thirsty?
I don’t know if I heard that illustration somewhere or if I just made it up. I’m just gonna run with it…
So I left early on Wednesday. Real early. I felt like I’d barely even been there by the time I went back home. And when Thursday morning rolled around, I texted my coworker to see if she would be okay without me for backup again. When she said she’d be fine, I took my supervisor’s advice and took another day off.
But, like I said before, there’s a certain amount of guilt that comes with taking a day off. Sure, I was coughing a lot. Sure, I was tired from a lack of a good night’s sleep. Sure, my energy level was way down. But I could have sucked it up and gone to work like a grown up.
In spite of the guilt that I probably shouldn’t even be feeling, I’m grateful that this is how things are done. At least, I’m grateful that this is how my supervisor likes to do things. Believe me, I’ve worked for people and businesses in the past that couldn’t care less if you are sick. When I worked for the bank, I could have been bleeding from my eyes and they’d have still expected me to be at that drive through teller drawer.
Well, maybe not my manager in particular… he was pretty chill. But the powers that be… that’s the business model. You work until death is knocking at your door. Even then, good luck taking sick leave without a doctor’s note.
I’m grateful to be where I am, to have the job I have with the company I work for. Specifically, I’m grateful for the supervisor and the team I work with. Maybe I’ve been conditioned by a cruel world to not expect to receive support from the people around me… to pull myself up by my boot straps and take care of it all myself because no one’s gonna do it for me. So when that support comes readily available at any given moment, it’s just a real nice surprise.
How do you define a good work ethic? Is that something you like to stick to? And what’s wrong with the kids today? Let me know what you think down in the comments!