A PAPER PRESENTED AT
AN INDUCTION PROGRAMME FOR STAFF OF AKANU IBIAM FEDERAL POLYTECHNIC, UNWANA
ON MARCH 24, 2014
MR. A. A. OKPANI, B. Sc. (Statistics), M. Sc. (Statistics), NSA PRINCIPAL LECTURER
DEPARTMENT OF MATHS/STATISTICS
This paper surveys current issues in work ethic, identifies key factors that contribute to work ethic – Interpersonal skills, initiative, being dependable etc, and how these can be internalized in our own work environment. Taking the initiative and time management as core work ethic values that drive Organizations and Institutions are specially addressed.
While emphasizing Work Ethic, the paper also identifies some of the moral dilemmas we may face in the course of duty and how we can attune ourselves to the mission and vision of our Polytechnic -Akanu Ibiam Federal Polytechnic, Unwana.
Current management literature and research mainly focus on leadership of organizations and competition. A lot of training workshops and seminars are targeted on top management and middle level managers in the hope that the actions of these cadres of workers would lead to the achievement of the organization’s goals and objectives. Concepts like Management by Objectives, Total Quality Management, and Strategic Management/leadership are often evoked. But addressing the issue of personal qualities and attitudes that are critical in the work place has been a special challenge to most organizations and institutions like ours. Acquiring what is now known as employability skills has a hazy starting point: Should schools/institutions impart these skills or should it be the responsibility of employers who need them?
Lankard (1990) defined employability skills as including personal image,
interpersonal skills and good habits and attitude. With respect to work attitude, the concept of work ethic is related to the desirable characteristics for a potential employee (Custer & Claiborne, 1991;Hill 1992).In essence, the employability skills needed for the high performance workplace are a tangible expression of the underlying work ethic, often mentioned in cotemporary conversations but seldom clearly defined. The work ethic is a cultural norm that advocates being personally accountable and responsible for the work that one does and is based on a belief that work has intrinsic value (Cherrington, 1980; Colson & Eckerd, 1991; Quinn, 1983; Yankclovich & Immerwahr, 1984). The work ethic as we know it today is a secularized construct derived from Weber’s (1904, 1905) Protestant Work Ethic (PWE) theory.
The PWE asserting that Calvinist theology encouraged accumulation of wealth, has been widely used as an explanation of the success of Capitalism in Western society. Over the years however, attitudes and beliefs supporting hard work have blended into the norms of Western culture, and are no longer attributable to a particular religious sect (Lipset, 1990; Rodgers, 1978; Rose,1985). The elements of work ethic that are of greatest significance in the preparation of people for work are the attitudes and behaviours ascribed to work ethic rather than a sectarian belief system that inculcates these characteristics.
Work Ethic is an often mentioned attribute employers want their employees to have, but one they often say is hard to find (Boardman, 1994).
Characteristics of Work Ethic
Again and again, Work Ethic and employability skills are listed as something needed for job success and are an area that schools/institutions in general and educational programs specifically are expected to address. Efforts in this area,
however, often fail or fall short of anticipated outcomes. Various researchers have identified numerous affective characteristics considered desirable for working people.
Beech, Kazanas, Sapko, Sisson and List (1978) identified 63 affective work competences considered important by industry leaders and educators and clustered them into 15 categories.
Petty (1993), building on the line of research conducted by Kazanas (1978), identified 50 work ethic descriptors and developed the Occupational Work Ethic Inventory (OWEI) Hill & Petty (1995) using the OWEI to collect data and applying principal component and factor statistical analyses condensed and categorized the 50 OWEI descriptors into five factors: Interpersonal skills, Initiative, Being Dependable and Reversed items i.e negative descriptors.
Succinctly put, “Work Ethic is a value based on hard work and diligence. It is also a belief in the moral benefit of work and its ability to enhance character. An example would be the Protestant Work Ethic. A work ethic may include being reliable, having initiative, or pursuing new skills. Workers exhibiting a good work ethic in theory should be selected for better positions, more responsibility and ultimately promotion. Workers who fail to exhibit a good work ethic may be regarded as failing to provide fair value for the wage the employer is paying them and should not be promoted or placed in positions of greater responsibility” (http:llenwikipechin.org/wiki/work ethic).
Factors that Promote Work Ethic
Before we discuss in detail the five OWEI factors identified by Hill and Petty(1995), Let us consider the following concepts/ factors which are known to promote work ethic in the work place.
Integrity: Integrity stretches to all aspects of an employee’s job. An employee with integrity fosters trusting relationships with clients, co-workers and Supervisors. Co-workers value the employee’s ability to give honest feedback. Clients trust the employer’s advice. Supervisors rely on the employee’s high moral standards, trusting him not to steal from the company or create problems.
Sense of Responsibility: A strong sense of responsibility affects how an employee works and the amount of work he/she does. When the employee feels personally responsible for his performance he shows up on time, puts in his best effort and completes projects to the best of his ability. Some employees do only the bare minimum, just enough to keep their job intact. Employees with a strong work ethic care about the quality of their work. The employee’s commitment to quality, improves the institution’s overall quality.
Discipline: It takes a certain level of commitment to finish your task every day. An employee with good discipline stays focused on his goals and is determined to complete his assignment. These employees show a high level of dedication to the institution, always ensuring they do their best.
Sense of Team Work: In various assignments in the Polytechnic, you may have to work together to meet the Institution’s objectives. Memberships of committees or task forces are cases in point. An employee with a high sense of team work helps a team meet its goals and deliver quality work. These employees respect their peers and help where they can, making collaborations go smoother. Internalizing Work Ethic Principles in the Polytechnic
We shall consider the four factors of the Occupational Work Ethic
Inventory (OWEI) and see how we can rate ourselves in the OWEI scale. Before then, let us ask ourselves individually, the following questions:
i. What is the mission/vision of Akanu Ibiam Federal Polytechnic?
ii. Why was I employed by the Polytechnic?
iii. What is my job or job description in the Polytechnic?
iv. What is my contribution to the goals and objectives of the Polytechnic? These questions must be constantly borne in mind and answers proffered to keep our work ethic alive.
Occupational Work Ethic Inventory score sheet personal rating in the OWEI factors. The five OWEI factors are Interpersonal Skills, Initiative, Being Dependable and Reverse or Negative items.
In the blank beside each item, write your answer from the OWEI. The items are grouped by categories of work ethic characteristics for discussion purposes. Total the answers for each category and divide by the number indicated to determine a score for each.
(See factors and composite items in the Appendix).
TAKING THE INITIATIVE
Of all the work ethic factors, the most important in driving the organization is the concept of taking the initiative. In order to understand the term and successfully develop its application, it is necessary to answer three fundamental questions:
– What is it?
– What is it for?
– How does it work?
What is it?
The Oxford Advanced Learner’s Dictionary (6th Edition) defines initiative thus;
1. A new plan for dealing with a particular problem
2. The ability to decide and act on your own without waiting for somebody to tell you what to do. E. g. As you won’t get much help, you’ll have to use your initiative. She did it on her own initiative (i.e. without anyone telling her to do it).
3. (The Initiative) the power or opportunity to act and gain an advantage before other people do. E.g. it is up to Akanu Ibiam Federal Polytechnic to take the initiative in accessing the Educational Tax Fund (ETF)grant.
Initiative taking is more than a theoretical definition; it is the understanding of words and action on them.
In other words, it is the action which follows through and applies in practical terms, the decision taken.
What is it for?
Essentially, initiative is needed at individual and leadership levels for organizational growth and development. Specifically, initiative serves:
– To get us out of a closed situation;
– To modify the sequence of events;
– To take a committed stance
– As an extra asset.
How does it Work?
Taking the initiative touches on two different, even opposing, types of practice;
– Working by reaction: initiative arises to oppose an unacceptable move already underway:
– Working through desire: initiative simply expresses a desire, wish or interest.
Initiative which may be defined reactionary is the most common form. This is because it is self-justifying. Taking an initiative is breaching something or rebelling in order to justify our act. It is necessary to have sound motives on which to base our self –confidence.
Initiative and Proverbs
Pro-initiative proverbs incite us to act whereas anti-initiative proverbs favour the intention or words as opposed to action and are signs of reserve, or even encouragement to avoid initiatives. Consider, for instance, the following proverbs:
i. When in Doubt, Don’t
ii. Nothing ventured, nothing gained
Proverb (i) advises us not to move, to wait, in order to avoid any possible error. On the other hand the second proposes action even in the face of risk. Action seems the remedy to every situation. In the same vein, your
perception of your work in the Polytechnic either encourages or militates against your initiative taking or work ethic. (See a list of proverbs in Appendix 2 and classify them into pro-initiative and anti-initiative).
INITIATIVE AND TIME
To get the desired result, initiative must be taken at the appropriate time. Wrong timing can have disastrous consequences for a well – intentioned initiative. Know when to get support, read the mood of the management and colleagues before taking the initiative.
It may be necessary at this point, to also give some tips on time management as a concept that promotes work ethic.
Shortage of time is often used to explain delays and failures and as an excuse for inefficiency and lack of fore-thought. Time management or time control simply, means making the best use of time to get the best performance. We must realize that time is a finite resource and a budget item. Some of the ways to make the best use of time are outlined below:
Take time off to stop and think – about the ways you have been doing your job for instance and figure out better ways of doing it to save not only time but also cost. Think of better ways of doing your job to enhance productivity in the Polytechnic.
ELIMINATING TIME WASTERS
List the activities that normally waste your time and control them by:
a. Elimination: This refers to activities that often lead to duplication of efforts that do not contribute directly to your performance. belonging to associations. Think of the associations you belong and decide your relative commitment to them.
b. Developing a Routine: A format can be designed for activities of similar
nature e. g. letter writing, report writing.
c. Setting Time Limits: Deciding that a certain task should not take more than a certain amount of time say 2 hours.
d. Taking a Short Cut e.g. deciding to telephone instead of personal visit.
e. Establishing Priorities: The most important tasks must be done first and given the amount of time they deserve. Rate your activities in order of priority e.g.
i. Urgent and important
ii. Important and not urgent iii. Urgent and not important iv. Not urgent , not important
(i)Should be given more time followed by (ii) in that order.
Try and pick – up the telephone handset as soon as it rings. Mention your name and answer the inquiry politely. Get the message clearly and write it down where necessary.
Meetings and committees are widely regarded as prime time wasters. But if they are well planned and run, they can be one best (even the only) way to brief staff on policy, progress and points for action; to uncover facts, to produce new ideas
and to get people involved and motivated. There are two main elements in any meeting;
– The chairperson and the participants. If you want to be a useful member of the meeting and get the best out of it, you will not allow emotions, inter departmental battles or office politics to inject unwanted hidden agendas into the discussion. Also, you will be
– Knowledgeable on the subject matter, aware of the purpose of the meeting and conscientious (especially about advance preparation).
– Prepare to air your views strongly, to make out a good case, to keep to the point, to listen to other opinions, and to be influenced by reason.
– Discipline and patient, and prepared to contribute your best -thinking and
experience concisely and at the appropriate time.
– Prepared to accept whatever decision is reached, to defer to the control of the chair and to carry through on schedule any action assigned to you.
OTHER PEOPLE’S TIME
You cannot waste other people’s time and claim to save yours. Don’t keep people waiting unnecessarily or ask them to come back the next day or so when you can finish up the enquiry immediately. Do not transfer your own responsibility to other people in the pretext that you are trying to save your own time.
In the work place, sometimes our work ethic or integrity is challenged due to certain situations. The following examples may elicit such situations:
As a lecturer, a student who has carried over a particular course of yours for three consecutive times approaches you in the final attempt for assistance; What do you do?
You are working in the Registry, Management had given a dead line for submission of applications and much later this relative of yours brings his/her application. What do you do?
You are a full -time employee of Akanu Ibiam Federal Polytechnic and feel you are not fully engaged and get another full- time offer of employment elsewhere. What do you do?
You are a head of Department or unit; there is this worker who hardly comes to work before 10.am. This same worker rushes out of the office by 3.30 pm to catch the bus. This same worker brings overtime form at the end of the month for you to approve his/her claims. What do you do? There is a plethora of cases!
Remember, ethical dilemmas only arise when one is not committed to integrity and the rules governing the Polytechnic. What the Deputy Rector (Academic) once said is also pertinent’ “Integrity is like a fragile plate; once broken, it is irretrievable”. Your whole integrity and career may be destroyed with that single help you were trying to render.
At work I can describe myself as
Never Almost Never Seldom Sometimes Usually Almost Always Always
1 2 3 4 5 6 7
FACTOR I: Interpersonal Skills At work I can describe myself as Item Ratings
Occupational Work Ethic Inventory (0WEI) SCORE Sheet
Honestly score as you would describe yourself in the work place with respect to the following items:
FACTOR I: Interpersonal Skill
Total: ………………………. Score (total divided by 15)
FACTOR 2: Initiative
Total: ………………………. Score (total divided by 16)
FACTOR 3: Being Dependable
Total: ……………………… Score (total divided by 7)
FACTOR 4: Reversed Items (Negative Items)
Total: ……………………….. Score (total divided by 10)
CLASSIFYING EXPRESSIONS AND PROVERBS
Here is a list of popular English proverbs which have influenced countless generations. The exercise is to classify them with regard to the cultural and psychological impact they have regarding initiative. If they seem to you to encourage initiative, place a tick in the right hand column (pro-initiative) and in the left hand column (Anti-initiative) if they appear to discourage it.
|ANTI- INITIATIVE||PROVERBS||PRO– INITIATIVE|
|When in doubt don’t|
|Nothing ventured nothing gained|
|Everything comes to those who wait|
|Where there’s a will there’s a way|
|You can’t make an omelette without breaking eggs|
|Once the first step is taken there’s no going back|
|You can’t make an omelette without breaking eggs|
|As ye sow so shall ye reap|
|Practice makes perfect|
|The leopard doesn’t change its spots|
|No news is good news|
|The road to hell is paved with good intentions|
|Empty vessels make the most noise|
|Always think twice before opening your mouth|
|Strike while the iron is hot|
|It’s the thought that counts|
|Well begun is half done|
|Necessity is the mother of invention|
|He who hesitates is lost|
|In for a penny, in for a pound|
|Look before you leap|
|Out of the frying pan into the fire|
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