I sincerely doubt that the 18 year old in your life has read Thomas Paine or Henry David Thoreau or even heard of Adam Smith or Alexander Hamilton. Ideas of self-reliance or “a penny saved is a penny earned” no longer hold forth – or so it would appear. With no exposure to economic theory and little information on personal finance, there is some logic to the young persons’ assumption that all good things will come their way.

However, today’s crippling sense of entitlement has no color, gender, ethnicity, or age attached. This “whatever” culture is found coast to coast and north to south. One clear sign of its pervasiveness is the decline in the quality of work ethic and productivity.

Continuity to the work ethic?

American productivity has been the envy of every industrialized nation since before the Civil War. And, when you remember that all big producers began as small enterprises, you can assume there was continuity to the productive work ethic that began among sole proprietors. If the US populace has been poisoned by entitlement, I am not sure how this can be undone.

Do people appreciate or respect work?

People once competed for and protected jobs secured during and after The Great Depression. Today, even though unemployment appears to have a reached a new “normal” of 9%+, there is no evidence that this “jobless” statistic has improved the value of work in the current “recession.” No evidence that shows people appreciate or respect work, no sign that they are willing to give an honest day’s work for an honest day’s pay…

The small employers I work with spend 25% of their time with me on their personnel problems and the 50% of their time these problems consume. While some of these problems can be avoided or reduced through quality recruiting and interviewing, through fair wages and employee benefits, I find again and again that other solutions need to be pursued. If job performance and loyalty are a “whatever,” incentivizing means nothing.

What is your experience? How have you dealt with the challenge of an unmotivated workforce?


by Steven Schlagel