There’s a saying, “All people think they have taste and a sense of humor.” It’s true. Admit it. You have strong opinions on what looks good and what’s funny. Me too. We all do. On the basis of what I’m seeing, I’m going to add "work ethic" to the statement. Here’s why:

All People Feel They Have the Best Work Ethic

Surveys like this one and this one are emphasizing the high level of dissatisfaction being felt by workers of all ages. They’re feeling overworked a.k.a. they believe their work ethic is exceptional--and they’re frustrated others don’t approach work as they do. Unfortunately, each generation’s definition of work ethic is different, and that's causing friction. Especially between Millennials and Baby Boomers. And depending on how your management team defines it, you can be fired, regardless of your age and experience, for having a work ethic that doesn’t align with what the company feels it needs to succeed.

Example No. 1: Millennials Fired for Lack of Work Ethic

This article outlines why Millennials are getting fired for what’s perceived as a disrespectful work ethic. Millennials may be the most educated, but they haven’t been properly prepared for the current workplace model. Yes, times are changing, and I have no doubt that when Millennials eventually take over the workplace, they’ll redefine work ethic. But that transition is going to take time. Meanwhile, Millennials who can’t manage up and deliver a work ethic that meets senior management’s expectations will find their careers suffering.

Example No. 2: Baby Boomers Fired for Outdated Definition of Work Ethic

On the flip side, those companies that have realized they need to change their corporate cultures to attract and retain Millennial workers are firing Baby Boomers for their lack of understanding and inability to embrace cultural change. Boomers must use their seniority to mentor and support Millennials, or else risk being let go as part of the corporate restructuring. This includes getting used to having a manager who is younger than you!

Solution: Get a Clear Definition of the Work Ethic at Your Company

There are rumblings of another recession on the horizon. If you don’t feel like your work ethic is in alignment with your employer’s, I’d start looking for a new job now. It’s much easier to get a job when you have one. (Studies show the unemployed get discriminated against and have to work even harder to get a new job.)

Meanwhile, you should spend some time with your manager seeking his or her definition of a good work ethic, and do what you can to deliver on that definition. (When I'm helping employees understand work ethic, I use this free Career Decoder quiz to help them see their value and how to deliver.) Think of it this way: You’re a business-of-one providing a service to your employer. Figure out how the company wants you to deliver that service, and then strive to exceed its expectations. Ask anyone in business--it’s much easier to keep a customer than to get a new one. Same goes for job search. The average job search in America is nine months. Finding your next customer for your business-of-one will take time. Therefore, it’s important to align your work ethic with your current employer’s so you can stay employed until you find your next job!

Published on: Aug 26, 2015
The opinions expressed here by Inc.com columnists are their own, not those of Inc.com.