Dwindling work ethics and motivation: A barrier to economic performance

Employees must be kept interested, not just driven

Work ethics refers to a set of moral principles, values, and attitudes concerning how to behave at work. The discourse of labour in Pakistan primarily focuses on terms and conditions of the jobs and other facets such as labour participation rate and gender inequality in the labour force, among others. However, labour productivity, which refers to the output attained by using specific inputs, is an important measure of economic performance that receives little attention.

Labour, capital, and materials are all considered critical inputs as these have a direct impact on productivity. However, the provided inputs are intermittent because they are material in nature and are simply external components that may or may not be productive at all times. Whereas morality and work ethics are inherent characteristics that finely shape a person’s character, and are critical for long-term national prosperity and development.

Unfortunately, in the regional comparison, Pakistan has the lowest level of work ethics and the lowest rate of labour productivity. The International Labor Organization (ILO) reports that China’s output per person has increased by 388 percent between 2000 and 2019, while India’s has grown by 177 percent, Bangladesh’s by 109 percent, and Pakistan’s increased by only 32 percent. According to APO’s Productivity Databook-2022, Pakistan’s productivity is lower than that of other regional competitors. From 2015 to 2020, it expanded at a 1.6 percent annual rate in Pakistan, compared to 4.9 percent in Bangladesh, 2.6 percent in India, 4.7 percent in China, and 5.2 percent in Vietnam.

The entire country is plagued by a sluggish and less productive work environment, and the bandwagon effect is visible among the labour force. Lower productivity can be attributed to a lack of motivation, incentives, or simply to an employee’s dissatisfaction with his job. This is compounded by a workplace culture devoid of ethical values. Employers treat their employees as though they are slaves. That’s the kind of culture that leads to a squabble between employer and employee, resulting in the employee losing interest in the employer. Businesses, rather than addressing the fundamental source of the problems, hire managers on top of it and begin playing politics. This is the kind of business culture that breeds sluggishness.

The open secret is that all levels of employees and management in the services and public sectors have a blatant disdain for ethical norms (corruption and incompetence, nepotism, embezzlement, and so on). Even our legislators and public officials exhibit weak work ethics. The average attendance rate of the National Assembly is roughly 20 percent, much below the 25 percent quorum requirement.

Organizations and employers must prioritize intrinsic employee motivation in addition to an extrinsic motivation to increase productivity. Extrinsic motivators (monetary rewards) have the propensity to smother intrinsic motivation. Intrinsic motivation (intangible rewards, such as admiration, promotion, and authority) creates favourable effective conditions and can considerably increase labour productivity by lowering stress and despair.

The driving force that propels an organization toward its goal is regarded as employee motivation. Workers typically lack intrinsic motivation, which refers to enjoyment and satisfaction from engaging in the behaviour. The development of skills, the use of creativity, relationships between coworkers, moral principles, independence, and recognition are factors that have the potential to have an intrinsic influence on employee motivation. Intrinsic motivation promotes optimal productivity and positive sentiments by decreasing stress and anxiety.

Nevertheless, in the majority of the scenarios, departmental or institutional leaders deal with employees autocratically because they lack knowledge and expertise about contextual reality and individual psychology. Subordinates are only momentarily motivated and lose interest in any changes as a result of managers’ harsh behaviour. Studies show that it’s important for managers to build relationships of trust with their staff members, who should also feel proud of and linked to their successes.

The outlook is bleak as far as the business or workplace environment is concerned at the present; yet, there is a glimmer of light; and strategies for instilling work ethics may be devised and maintained. To prevent employees from slacking off, employers must offer them financial incentives such as improved compensation and incentives along with stringent monitoring procedures and accountability.

By promoting the importance of work in the curriculum, work ethics must be fostered. The cornerstone of a solid work ethic is laid by inculcating in students the idea that work is a creative, personally rewarding, and socially beneficial activity. Schools should place an emphasis on performance-oriented learning, support students in developing excellent work habits based on organization, punctuality, and teamwork, and support the growth of a harmonious connection between the person, the workplace, and society.

Almost all religions emphasize the significance of work ethics. Islam is a multifaceted religion with a dynamic framework that promotes work ethics. Islam prohibits time-wasting, idleness, dependence on others for sustenance, and other antisocial traits. As the Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) said, “ No nourishment is better for a man than that which he obtains via physical labour” (see Sahih al-Bukhari, 2072). Formal religious instruction is required at all educational levels (elementary, secondary, and higher levels), and ethical qualities like piety, honesty and transparency must be promoted via the media and cultural organizations. Additionally, managers should provide training and courses to their staff members to educate them on Islamic work ethics.

Organizations and employers must prioritize intrinsic employee motivation in addition to an extrinsic motivation to increase productivity. Extrinsic motivators (monetary rewards) have the propensity to smother intrinsic motivation. Intrinsic motivation (intangible rewards, such as admiration, promotion, and authority) creates favourable effective conditions and can considerably increase labour productivity by lowering stress and despair.

Dr Muhammad Abdul Kamal
Dr Muhammad Abdul Kamal
The writer is working as an Assistant Professor at Abdul Wali Khan University Mardan and can be reached at [email protected]

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