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  • Writer's pictureKaren Divya Shekar

Lessons Learnt from My Parents’ Work Ethic

Both my parents work. My mother has been a school teacher for the past 36 years and my Dad has been a mechanical engineer for 37 years. Together they provided for our family through stormy seasons and happy times.


They had a strong work ethic, learnt from their parents I suppose, which I have slowly imbibed. I think it is true of most people from my parents’ generation that they prioritised work over all else. That’s because work to them was an income source, not as it is to me—a passion. Hence, I believe they were more disciplined, dutiful, and more faithful at their occupation.


Here are a couple of lessons I picked up from my parents, and I hope you will find them useful enough to incorporate into your everyday work life. Take a look!


Punctuality


There are two people in my family who are excellent at time management and both happen to be men! My father and grandfather wake up on time, dine on time, go to work on time and arrive home on time. They’ve never missed a beat in all their professional life.

My grandfather’s arrival time was 3:30 pm while my Dad’s is at 6:00 pm. The reason I still remember it is so well is that you could time your watch by these two events!


I admire punctuality in any person. And I believe it is necessary to be on time at the workplace. In stark contrast to this are the women of my family, who are perpetually running 10 minutes late.


Punctuality is the by-product of a feasible “framework for work”. A “framework for work” is my own term for a personal code or habit that helps to set up an environment conducive to working.


It’s in the little things—waking up on time, keeping a tidy desk, making a to-do list, this help to set you up to work. They’re part of the framework. Punctuality comes from having this foundation ready.


Takeaway: Punctuality (which is not the same as being early) speaks volumes about your state of being. It’s a clear indication of whether Chaos or Order follows you around the workday.


Emotional Attachment to the Job


My father was never, ever emotionally attached to the workplace. In stark contrast stands my mother, who will go out of her way for the school. This aspect of her work ethic comes from the emotional bond she has with the place that gave her 36 years of a good career. She never switched her workplace, despite offers. That’s something NO ONE in my family understands!


She never looked for “growth”, which is what I notice everyone in my generation hankering after. But grow she did. She stayed in one place and transformed from a small pool into a vast ocean. It’s strange, but it all came from an emotional attachment to the job.


When people get involved in the personal lives of their colleagues, make friends, get used to the work culture, they like to stay in the same workplace as it becomes a “second home”.


However, others see the office as just another battleground. It’s in the personal attitude of the person that determines their attachment to the workplace.


For now, I am on the fence about this. Should a person be emotionally attached to the workplace? After one year at work, hmmm, I don’t believe they should. However, I wonder if this will evolve…


Takeaway: If you love your job or workplace enough to never leave, kudos to you! But if you’re unhappy, do look for “growth”.


Going out of the way for the job


My parents will go to work on a Sunday if asked, work into the night, pick up phone calls at odd hours, and answer their colleagues patiently no matter the hour and sometimes even wake up at 4 am to supervise practice for Kolkata’s Republic Day parade!


Isn’t that going out of the way for the job?


It’s with great irritation that I recall that my mom used to get out of bed at 4 am to accompany school kids to the Republic Day Parade.


Why? That’s not in the job description. According to me, any job demands “this” much and not more. My parents do not see it that way.


They have been shocked at me for being highly “professional”. “That’s not how to do it,” they say, “it’s a job, there’s bound to be some moments of emergency.”


But am I on call 24*7 just because I have a job?


I don’t know really.


This is something I’ve been studying lately.


How much of myself should I give the workplace? Does the job “own” me? Am I supposed to be “betrothed” to the job? As a person who needs the time off to recharge, I shudder at a commitment so strong that demands my life, my soul, my all.


Takeaway: Go out of the way for your workplace, if you want. But don’t complain later. Again, this is a personal work ethic you have to take a stand on.


Taking Responsibility


There is nothing more my Dad would love than to receive a promotion at the work.

It is the very thing my mother would hate!


Promotion means responsibility, and responsibility means more stress. At least that’s how I see it.


I cannot view a promotion without the same trepidation that I used to view a Maths examination. I feel like all eyes are looking at me, waiting for me to fail. Hence, I shun responsibility. Having been described as a “responsible” girl in almost all my school reports, this is one of life’s little ironies.


But so it stands!


Takeaway: Love or hate promotions? If you love them remember they come at a price, and if you hate them, remember they have their perks.


Reporting to Work No Matter the Weather


Even when the city’s streets are thigh-deep in water, my mother will go to work. As will my dad. I can remember them ferrying us to school come rain or shine. In my case, I itch to call HR and ask for a “work from home” day at the slightest of drizzles. My parents won’t let me.


They don’t believe in taking casual or sick leaves. At least my dad didn’t till COVID and they have always persuaded me to go to work and never slack off. I tell them they don’t have a target-oriented job which creates a lot of pressure, but they view me with suspicion.


Target-oriented job or not, my mom has always tried to earn “perfect attendance” at school and be rewarded for it. My dad on the other hand will save up his leaves for a vacation. I’ve known them both to never take leaves and laze, which is something I wish they would let me do!


Takeaway: Don’t take leaves you know you don’t need. If you don’t feel like working, a leave isn’t going to cure the problem. Introspection is.


Let me know in the comments below what work ethics you picked up from your parents.


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