Work ethics are standards or values that generally are based around conscientiousness. Mostly, they are thought to benefit a person morally, thereby improving their character. These ethics can include preserving social skills, being reliable, and being resourceful wherever needed in a work setting.
Accountability, honesty, and integrity typically are three of the main components that lead to ethical business practices. When a business does not uphold these components, there often are negative impacts on workers or customers. These negative impacts can be philosophically considered to be forms of accountability for wrongdoing.
Many people consider good work ethics to be an intrinsic part of the character of a person. As such, personal ethics can be cultivated, but often they cannot be achieved if the person has no inner desire to accomplish them. Typically, those who feel that they have good work ethics feel a sense of purpose, and do their jobs well. People who have questionable work ethics sometimes find that they have a bothered conscience, and that they do not do their work as well as they could.
From a historical perspective, the idea of hard work having significant moral or spiritual benefits was not widespread in ancient times. Hard work, which mostly was physical labor, usually was done because it was compulsory. Therefore, it often was thought to be degrading. After the Protestant Reformation, however, cultural perceptions of hard work changed. Even wealthy people sometimes would engage in hard physical labor for the benefit of their souls.
These newfound work ethics spread from Europe to America via groups like the French Huguenots and the English Puritans. Groups often found that applying these ethics to their businesses could make a difference in their financial prosperity. By the 18th century, work ethics were a regular part of Western culture. Benjamin Franklin often wrote about using time wisely, to diligently apply it to work before pleasure.
The Industrial Revolution of the 19th century used work ethics as a basis to get more people to start producing items and to become their own bosses. Wars of the 20th century brought industrial workers and bosses together toward common goals. Producing the most effective supplies possible and maintaining reasonable manufacturing costs in troubled economies were among these goals.
In contemporary society, many careers, such as those having to do with technology, generally are allowing people to express themselves more within their careers. At the same time, such jobs typically require a significant amount of discretion. These two aspects are considered by many to be the impetus behind people striving to do their best work.