The Morality of Labor

The Morality of Labor

I forget where I first read of Lawrence Kohlberg’s Six Stages of Moral Development, but it left an impression and I sometimes apply it to what I observe around the office.  The University of Chicago psychology student theorized that people should take eventual steps through life for making moral decisions, maturing in the process of honorable decision-making.

In brief and in my own words, the first level begins with avoiding punishment.  A child will do what is right so that there won’t be a swat on the backside.  The next level involves asking how to benefit from choosing right over wrong, seeking reward rather than dodging pain.

With growth comes recognizing what is accepted by society and mimicking what the world says is proper.  This is conformity so as to not been seen by others as a “bad person.”  Fourthly comes the awareness that without laws we have disharmony.  This is an obligation to the world to do one’s own part in maintaining peace and order.

Stage five recognizes that laws are “social contracts” and are necessary for more than just harmony.  We must do what is right for the good of our neighbors.  Finally arrives a realization that ethics are determined by higher standards.  Right is right because it is right – not for what may occur if the noble path is followed.

Occasionally I lay this template over my workplace, associating my effort with morality.  A decent citizen should grow from unsophisticated ethics, developing a complex system of righteousness.  Likewise, I should be maturing in my workplace attitude and advancing to a more principled perspective in my vocation.

And so, each day I arrive at my job with a series of assignments.  How do I address them?  Is my effort based in fear of poor performance review?  Am I struggling merely to get my boss off my back?  Perhaps I find that if I press harder I will receive praise from my superiors.  An employee with only a basic labor morality will clock time and meet minimum requirements.

Maybe my intensity is relative to that of my co-workers.  No one wants to be the slacker in the office, and so I match what I see from my squadmates.  On a better day, it may be that I work hard because group objectives cannot be reached without my own productivity.  An employee with moderate labor morality will support the team and promote the common goal.

At my best, I hope to labor for better reasons; because I owe it to the man who signs my check, or ultimately because giving a full effort is the right thing to do.  An employee with a sophisticated labor morality is a self-starter who only requires resources to get the job done.

Now to develop an office catechism.

My awesome husband wrote this post for me while I was traveling. I came home to a clean house, a dozen pink roses, my favorite ice cream in the freezer, lots of hugs and kisses from sweet little girls, and dinner on the table. I’m a pretty lucky girl.

Filed As:  motivation, guest post

About Becky Robinson

I am the owner of Weaving Influence and the leader of the Weaving Influence team. We help authors and thought leaders grow their online influence. I am also a wife and mom of three daughters, and I enjoy running, reading, writing, a good cup of coffee, and dark chocolate.

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What People Are Saying

  • Insightful, and I hesitate to say…true in many environments. I often wonder what it would be like if we just did what is right for the good of our co-workers.
    Thanks for the thought today.

  • Thank you for this thought. It is an inspiring perspective to “mull” from. Much kudos to your husband (good man)!

  • Thanks for posting this Becky. Wonderful thought provoking read….and lessons that could be useful in many work teams.

    Oh and what a lovely gesture from your husband 🙂

  • Talk about serendipity . . . I was talking about Kohlberg’s theory just last night in class, but have never thought about applying to a business environment.

    Great stuff – Becky, you married well:)

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