By Janet Bresenham
As many prepare to cease their labor today on Labor Day, some people see a shift in the modern work ethic and the willingness to work.
One who sees a change but still considers a strong work ethic important is Barbara Norris of Clovis.
“When you’re out and around some places, there are sometimes people you find who don’t seem to care about their work,” Norris said. “It’s like they’re there, but they don’t want to be. General courtesy seems to be missing sometimes. I don’t know why.”
Norris said employees and business owners who have a desire to help their customers tend to stand out.
“There are pleasant people out there who serve their customers,” she said. “When you find them, you sure appreciate them.”
For 31 years, Norris was a nurse with the Clovis Municipal School District, including about seven years as the director of school nurses.
Instead of retiring to a life of leisure after the 2000-2001 school year, Norris decided to keep working, though in a completely different field. She and her two daughters — Lisa Jo McCasland and Marti Mayfield — formed a business partnership and in August of 2001, they opened a retail clothing store called “Horse Feathers.”
“We look at our business as it’s a service we do,” Norris said. “You’re there to do something for the customer. They’re not there to do something for you. You have to take pride in whatever you’re doing.”
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David Lansford, Clovis’ mayor who also owns Roden-Smith Pharmacy, said he believes a positive attitude and a willingness to serve others contribute to a strong work ethic and success in business.
“I’ve known people who are hard workers and want to go the extra mile and others who don’t,” Lansford said. “I think a good work ethic is simply the attitude that you try to make ‘yes’ the answer. You try to do everything within your abilities to provide the best product and service.”
In his line of work, going the extra mile can mean not hesitating to come in after hours to fill a prescription for a hospice patient or helping patients wade through insurance paperwork to get what they need.
“People appreciate that someone is willing to meet their needs,” he said. “We treat people with some care and try to do what they want us to do.”
Lansford said work ethic as the recipe for success is not limited to pharmacists.
“That attitude translates to whatever line of work you’re in, whether you’re a mechanic, a plumber, a janitor or a paper boy,” Lansford said. “I don’t think it’s a generational thing. I do think there are people within each generational component that demonstrate varying degrees of work ethic.”
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Michael Covington, general manager of Master’s Books and Gifts, said he believes business owners and supervisors carry a responsibility to instill a good attitude in the workplace.
“If you will just look for the positive in people and tell them about it, they will be better employees,” Covington said. “I think people need to be valued. If you instill trust and respect in someone, you usually get it back. And you can’t expect your staff to do something that you wouldn’t do yourself.”
Covington said he also thinks the people who show a good attitude toward service have better success.
“With the standard for work ethic in our culture, it just takes a little more to be above average,” Covington said. “Work ethic needs to be defined not just by the amount of work someone does, but the quality of the work and how customers are treated.”
At the same time, he said, too many Americans have adopted a workaholic attitude and lifestyle and stay so busy they get their priorities out of line.
“Sometimes we work too much,” he said. “There’s an African saying that, ‘Americans have watches on their wrists but no time.’ We need to reprioritize. We have to be careful that we don’t sacrifice everything on the altar of personal success.”
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Seth Martin, who grows about 4,200 acres of wheat and grain sorghum on three farms near Clovis, said he grew up learning a strong work ethic that he continues today.
“I have three brothers and all four of us worked on the family farm when we were young,” Martin said. “If work needed to be done, you did it. You were expected to do your work.”
But Martin said he has noticed that not everyone shares that attitude.
“It’s hard to find anybody willing to work,” Martin said. “Many people are able to get through life without doing any manual labor. That’s brought a shortage of skilled labor. Farming is not as appealing as it once was, so it’s hard to get any kind of farm labor.”
Part of what deters some people from agriculture is the nature of the work and the demands of the lifestyle, he said.
“You might have a lot of down time in the winter, but in the summer, that’s all we do is work,” Martin said. “These days, people in the workplace expect to be able to get off whenever they want. You can’t do that in farming.”