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Bringing Back a Hard Work Ethic to the Automotive Industry

Just Sayin’: Work is a four-letter word

Kevin Tetz Mar 29, 2018
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“If you are willing to do more than you’re paid to do … eventually you’ll be paid for more than you do.” -Zig Ziglar

For some reason this is a polarizing statement, inspiring heated debate. As a social media post, it raised amazingly opposite reactions with people enthusiastically agreeing or proclaiming it pure BS. Interesting.

I eventually learned to work hard and try to be better than they thought I was at my job. I learned that rewards follow integrity, and part of that philosophy is doing more than is required. Some think giving more than expected is a waste of time and can actually be detrimental. That attitude troubles me because, in my life experience, giving more than expected has served me well (even if it wasn’t in the form of a financial reward).

Sitting in a restaurant (we’ll call it Egg House), I noticed the differences in customer service compared to another chain that has 35,000 stores (we’ll call that one Mac’s House). The employees get paid about the same, the food is about the same, and the prices are close. The employees at Egg House were smiling, searching for an opportunity to serve a customer, buss a table, or sweep the floor. There was a lineup to find a seat, and the din of happy customers was abuzz in the air.

The staff at Mac’s House were indifferent to customers, the facility untidy, and customers had to engage the staff to receive service. There was no line at the register, but a long line to receive orders. Why such a different experience? Training!

The team leaders at Egg House had obviously hammered home the importance of customer cycle time to their employees, but just as important is the dining experience. Mac’s House … not so much. Both sets of employees are making about the same paycheck, so why such a difference in comparison and how does this relate to the automotive industry?

Work ethic is lost in the modern workplace. The alarms are sounding all over the world about “skilled trades deficits” and “we can’t find employees.” But the complaint I hear from companies and manufacturers is that nobody can find workers that aren’t afraid to work. There is also a “work ethic deficit.” This is a problem that we have to fix from the inside.

Is good work ethic a learned behavior or are you born with it? I think it’s something that has to be taught and shown by example. I’ve talked to graduates from a two-year automotive trade school that have unrealistic expectations entering the workforce, and end up indignant when they have to experience the north end of a push broom. I wish these programs placed more emphasis on training work ethic.

Randy Pausch (a noted professor at Carnegie Mellon University) said, “Experience is what you get when you don’t get what you want.” Take the trade school out of the equation and it’s still the same. An education in skilled trades means more than just training … it’s work experience as well, which requires good old fashioned work. You can resent it or roll with it. When you roll with it you acquire experience, humility, wisdom, and above all, skills. And it’s not a young or old thing. I’ve seen plenty of young guys entering the trades that understand what it takes to succeed. It’s a mindset that giving more of yourself doesn’t mean that you lose it, and that when you deny an employer your best effort, you’re also denying yourself the experience of being excellent.

Let’s pass this information on to the new crop of technicians coming into our field. Let’s try to be a positive influence on the incoming workforce, and let’s pass on a work ethic that will pave the way to innovation and high standards of quality in our industry.

We can choose to be part of the problem or we can work on creating a solution.

Let’s lead by example.

Just sayin’.

About the Author: Kevin Tetz is an automotive restoration expert, TV personality, freelance automotive journalist, and owner of Paintucation Instructional DVDs.

Photo by Kevin Tetz

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