Fresno Air National Guard Base, Calif. --
As a senior leader within our organization, one of the things I struggle with most is relating to other generations. I have worked with Airman from the baby boomer generation (born from 1946-1964) to generation Z (born from 1997-2012.) These Airman are reflective of the changes in our country, and as a result their perspectives can be very different from my own. As I reflect on these different perspectives, work ethic has a significant impact in the organization.
What is work ethic? Work ethic is defined by Merriam-Webster as a belief in work as a moral good: a set of values centered on the importance of doing work and reflected especially in a desire or determination to work hard. By definition, work ethic is a set of values. I see work ethic as someone who shows up on time, every day, ready to work. It’s someone who does their job to the best of their ability and is willing to work to better the organization. There are several traits that can lead to a good work ethic: appearance, attendance, attitude, character, communication, cooperation, integrity, productivity, and respect. The opposite of work ethic includes negative traits: lack of productivity, procrastination, rushing through a job, lack of integrity, lack of quality of work, not wanting to better the team or organization.
Work ethic is a complex idea to wrap your mind around because it is rooted in a set of values. These sets of values vary from one person to another based on your upbringing. For me, my values were instilled in me by my father, who was from the Baby Boomer generation. Throughout my life, he told me to always be honest and fair with others. He also emphasized that the product or service you produce will have your name on it, and although someone might not know you personally, they will know what your work stands for. Keep in mind my father was raised by a man who grew up during The Great Depression when most people had no money, job nor home. They only had their name and work ethic to show who they were. As I look at our organization today, we must realize are an evolving Air Force. We must be aware that our set of values may vary from one person to another, and it is important for us to not pass judgement on others based on our values.
When evaluating a person’s work ethic, it can be easy to allow our values to affect our judgement of their work ethic. Our older generation of Airman sees work ethic as long days and weeks of hard work and dedication. Generation Z Airmen view work ethic as being more efficient and trying new tactics to solve problems and produce a better product.
So which side is right? I believe both values can support the mission of our organization. A lot can be said for hard work and long hours spent at work to finish a project or solve a problem; it shows that someone is committed to the organization. However, why not take advantage of technology and innovative ideas to work more efficiently and produce a superior product, which adds value to our organization.
Every Airman in this Wing, is a vital component to its mission. Every person brings a set of skills and talents that we should harness to continue the work we do. Personally, I have challenged myself every day to not make assumptions based on my values, be explicit in the communications of my expectations, and call upon the strengths of my Airman to continue our mission.
Therefore, I challenge each one of you, whether you are a member in student flight to a senior leader in this organization, to reflect on the Air Force Core values and how you can apply them to your everyday work. Treat others as you want to be treated. Come to work every day ready to give it your all and work together as a team. Together we are our States Shield and our Nations Sword.