Recently we were traveling on a Sunday morning, looking for a place to eat breakfast. As we pulled up to a restaurant that is usually open on Sundays, we noticed that there were no cars around and that there was a sign on the door. The sign said, “Due to employees’ failure to show up for work, we are unable to open today. Sorry for the inconvenience.”

I wonder if it’s a sign of the times, as I’m hearing so much about mainly younger workers being so undependable. Showing up late or not at all and thinking nothing of it is not uncommon, and it not only makes other employees scramble to fill the gap, but also can cost the employer money because of lost business. Dependability and responsibility seem to be in short supply these days.

There are exceptions, of course. What a treat it was when I once observed a young man working in a busy restaurant who waited on his tables cheerfully and efficiently, and when there was a break in the action, he busied himself by wrapping silverware and replenishing supplies on unoccupied tables. I commented to him that I thought any company would be lucky to have him as an employee. He smiled and blushed and said he liked keeping busy, and he thanked me for the compliment.

A large beauty salon I used to patronize a few years ago had to close because it was so difficult to find employees who would report for work reliably and on time and actually be productive. Some area factories and stores have had to interview and test many applicants before they found enough who could pass a drug test and had the skills the employer required. There also seem to be unrealistic expectations as to what prospective employees see as fair compensation. They want top dollar, but don’t want to put in the necessary time and work to gradually climb the ladder and earn it. If extra hours are offered, many times their reply is “No, thanks. I have plans.” And it isn’t strictly young workers who are the problem.

Employers have probably met job applicants who come to an interview wearing flip flops, pants hanging dangerously low on their hips, and a nose ring dangling above their upper lip. Or maybe it’s a female applicant who looks like she’s ready to go night clubbing instead of applying for a job, who distractedly answers a text or even a phone call during an interview. I know of one person who interviewed for a job in a bank. She was told that she had good qualifications for the job, but that the tattoos on the backs of her hands were (surprise, surprise!) not appropriate in this position.

It seems that a good work ethic is missing among many employees. This attitude toward the job should include a willingness to work hard and complete projects on time, occasionally even doing more (gasp!) than what is expected. It would mean not tending to personal business on company time and not letting body language convey the message that the job is boring and you’d rather be somewhere, ANYWHERE, else! It would include keeping employers informed if you are going to be late or absent for any reason. One human relations interviewer was quoted as saying, “Many applicants 25 and under just want to play, have fun and smoke.”

My son was once showing a young man from our hometown around the trailer and pit area of the top fuel race car where he worked as a mechanic on a professional drag racing team. The young man must have considered this to be his dream job, and he asked my son what advice he’d give him about possibly working on a professional team in a few years. I thought my son’s advice was remarkably simple, but it pretty much summed up what he considered to be a good work ethic. He advised him to continue to be neat in appearance, to be willing to start by sweeping floors and cleaning the shop at first if necessary, to make sure he showed up for work every day on time, to know when to keep his mouth shut, and to always try to get along with his other team members.

I think what my son DIDN’T tell this young man about his “dream job” was interesting too. He didn’t mention that many times there was no time to eat on race day, there was no such thing as a nine to five day, or that he’d be traveling to more than two dozen races in cities all over the country in a year. I’m not sure there are many “dream jobs” out there that don’t entail lots of hard work!

Learning the value of hard work is something that some people haven’t experienced in their life, as mom and dad strive to make things easier for their kids than they had it when they were growing up. Maybe that’s not such a good thing after all. I’m not sure how old I was when I learned a valuable lesson from my older brother. He had found a beautiful crystal blue set of rosary beads, all caked with mud, but which gleamed and sparkled after being cleaned up. I really wanted that blue rosary, and my brother made a deal. He had been given the job of taking the sprouts off of a small mountain of potatoes in the fruit cellar, and he decided to subcontract his job by telling me I could have the rosary if I cleaned all those potatoes. I still remember how hard I worked on that pile of potatoes, and how I cherished the rosary when it was finally mine. I had earned it with my hard work, never stopping until the job was done.

Yes, unfortunately, I think the sign that we saw really could have been a sign of the times.

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