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In praise of the dignity of honestly earning your pay

Bonnie Willis's picture

As a wife and mother, I have the wonderful opportunity to do a lot of my work from home. Each week I have to submit the hours that I work electronically.

A friend of mine once commented on how great it would be to have a job where you could get your work done quickly, relax the rest of the time, and just report that you worked a full week anyway.

Originally, I dismissed the comment as a joke, but then I realized that each and every week I am faced with the ethical and moral decision of whether or not to “pad” my hours or not.

It would be so easy to justify an hour or two more when one considers the quality of my work, right? After all, my clients tend to be Fortune 100 companies — they won’t miss an hour or two, and that hour or two would help my family far more than they, right?

I can hear all the rationalizations in my head, but at the end of the day I know I can’t fudge my hours for several reasons.

First, I recognize that I have entered an agreement to work ethically and not to misrepresent myself. Living up to this agreement is an act of integrity. To violate that would dishonor myself, my family, my faith and my God — even if it is only an hour or two.

Second, I care about the quality of my work, and if I am to produce quality work, it generally requires that I work as many hours or a few more than those specified. In cases when I have to work more hours, I give my clients a heads up.

Yet, there is one other reason that constrains me from, as my son would say, “cheating” on my hours. That is, I want to work for the money I earn.

There is a level of pride I feel when I recognize that every dollar I earn is something I have worked towards. This is something I try to instill in my own children.

When we started giving them allowances, it was not at a flat rate. Rather, they would earn a small amount for every day they kept their rooms clean. Those who cleaned their rooms faithfully would earn more than those who did not. My goal is to help them understand that money is not just given to you — you have to earn it.

But I wonder if this message is being lost on a growing segment of our culture and in younger generations who see shows that contradict a hard-work ethic.

When I see many people and characters on reality shows and popular sitcoms, they never seem to be working. Rather, they seem to live leisure lifestyles and make fortunes by exploiting themselves and exhibiting outlandish behavior.

I see teenagers looking to these individuals, wanting to be like them when they grow up. Yet, ironically, many of the “uber-successful” in the entertainment industry, when they aren’t projecting a leisure lifestyle, are often working hard to live up to their public image.

And they also seem to be very discontented. Just think of all the celebrities with substance abuse and relationship issues. I can’t help but think of the scripture that says, “What profits a man to gain the whole world but lose his soul?”

At the end of the day, I think we are all working towards something — whether it’s to build a business, a family, an entertainment brand, or a self-indulgent lifestyle.

The trick is to work hard towards something that is productive and useful — something that we can be proud of and show our children so that they can be inspired to do even greater things.

For me, I get to make this choice each week when I am faced with the choice of honestly reporting my work hours. There is a great sense of satisfaction I feel when I click that submit button because I know have earned my pay.

[Bonnie B. Willis is co-founder of The Willis Group, LLC, a Learning, Development, and Life Coaching company here in Fayette County and lives in Fayetteville along with her husband and their five children.]

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