What Happened to Work Ethic?

Whenever the minimum wage argument pops up, the concept of work ethic always seems to be set aside in those discussions. Why is that?

My parents taught me to work hard and give it 110% every day. They taught me to act as if the company I worked for was mine, not someone else’s. In a nutshell, they taught me a strong work ethic.

I’m reminded of those early lessons every time the minimum wage argument comes up.

Just recently, I was having a conversation about ongoing problems I’d encountered at a fast food restaurant I no longer visit. Someone chimed in that I was expecting too much from minimum-wage workers.

Sorry, I don’t buy that.

You work hard, no matter what you make. Period. If you work a low-paying job, you still do your best until you find a better-paying job. You don’t slack off because you only make $8 per hour. Even more importantly, you don’t take home $8 per hour for an attitude that isn’t worth half that much.

When I started in the workforce, federal minimum wage was $3.35 per hour. That’s the equivalent of $7.40 in 2018 money. That’s 15¢ higher than the current federal minimum wage of $7.25.

I was in high school. I was happy to have a job. And I put in the effort to learn it and own what I did. I knew I was not going to stay in that line of work or even longterm with that company. It wasn’t what I wanted to do for the rest of my life and I already knew that.

But I did the work. I learned it. I mastered it.

Within a year, I was promoted to a supervisory role. The pay raise wasn’t huge, but it was higher than it had been. I kept working hard.

Eventually, I moved up again.

Of course, I could have just moped around and acted like I was only interested in doing no more than $3.35 in work each hour. But if I’d done that, I’d have had no valid excuse to complain that all I was making was $3.35 per hour, would I?

For some reason, it’s becoming acceptable, it seems, to do a poor job because you think you don’t make what you’re worth.

Young people, please allow me to let you in on a little secret: almost none of us will ever make what we think we’re worth.


What ought to be as valuable as our salary is our effort.

Some of us of a certain age, perhaps, expect too much.

But at least we don’t expect more from others than we were willing to give ourselves.

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Patrick is a Christian with more than 27 years experience in professional writing, producing and marketing. His professional background also includes social media, reporting for broadcast television and the web, directing, videography and photography. He enjoys getting to know people over coffee and spending time with his dog.