When is the last time you used the word “industrious” to describe someone?Dig the ditch

When is the last time you heard an employee praised for being “industrious”?

When is the last time you remember being called “industrious?”

Exactly.

My great uncle is 93. I had a most enjoyable visit with him in June as part of my “must dos” before we moved to Colorado. His twinkling, blue eyes and laugh lines embracing his temples so reminded me of his brother,  my own grandfather. I love to hear the stories of hardships and “goodness, that’s just what you did!” stories of life.  He shared how my great-grandfather, Jan Vacek, immigrated to the United States in 1890 and the hardships they experienced, including learning Czech so they could get along with the neighbors. Apparently my ancestors home language was German (all hail to the Kaiser for that), but more neighbors in South Texas spoke Czech. So off to learning Czech. I have tried to learn Czech. That is not an easy task, and needless to say, I was not successful. “Pivo” and
“jak se máš” are about all I can remember.

I wanted to know more about my heritage. More would help me know about my own ancestors better since my parents passed away five years ago and the stories went with them. We are a pretty musical family. Uncle Alphonse told me Jan was not really into music, which, of course, led to the question of “what was Jan into?” Which, of course, led to the answer, “well, you know – work! Stay busy!” And the tales continued of farming, starting businesses and being industrious. I have no doubt Uncle Alphonse’s attainment of age 93 was partly due to the “stay busy” in life!

I had already spent much time thinking about “industriousness” before my visit. Paraphrasing multiple online dictionaries, industriousness is characterized by earnest, steady effort, hard work and diligence.  I am thankful my parents were industrious throughout their lives, from selling carnations at dances in college to always have a side business along with their professional work.  They were definitely industrious.

Personally, I rarely use the descriptor and I rarely hear the term anymore. So, why is that? Have we somehow equated “I’m so busy” with “I’m industrious”?  Have we perhaps taken the mantra “work smarter, not harder” to the dark side? Is working harder now a bad thing? Have we gone so far as to twist the “work smarter” mantra to convey that if you have to work hard at something, something must wrong? As a friend of mine says, sometimes you just have to dig the ditch.

So, as many of us do, I traveled down the Google search dark hole to discover more about industriousness. To my great surprise, there is not much on the topic, except thankfully for Robert Eisenberger’s Theory of Learned Industriousnesswhich attempts to explain why some individuals are inherently motivated. Cliff note version: application of ambitious goals results in more effort and task persistence.

In the workplace, we may find ourselves velveting the virtue of industriousness by using other attribute must-haves such as “initiative”, “self-starter”, “conscientious”, and “detail-oriented” .  Some thought questions:What would happen if an applicant used the word “industrious” as a personal descriptor? What would happen if a job description used the word “industrious”?  How would a hiring manager interview for industrious? Using McDonalds “now hiring smiling faces” slogan, an employer could solicit applicants using “now hiring industrious people.”  Hmm, would anyone respond?

What would happen if an applicant used the word “industrious” as a personal descriptor? What would happen if a job description used the word “industrious”?  How would a hiring manager interview for industrious? Using McDonalds “now hiring smiling faces” slogan, an employer could solicit applicants using “now hiring industrious people.”  Hmm, would anyone respond?

What would happen if a job description used the word “industrious”?  How would a hiring manager interview for industrious? Using McDonalds “now hiring smiling faces” slogan, an employer could solicit applicants using “now hiring industrious people.”  Hmm, would anyone respond?

How would a hiring manager interview for industrious? Using McDonalds “now hiring smiling faces” slogan, an employer could solicit applicants using “now hiring industrious people.”  Hmm, would anyone respond?

An idea. Using McDonalds “now hiring smiling faces” slogan, an employer could solicit applicants using “now hiring industrious people.”  Hmm, would anyone respond?

Perhaps we should not only reward goal completion as the final assessment of success but also the real effort involved. I’m not talking about a prize for inclusion or participation, but real, true, grit effort.  Perhaps there is honor in “Most Industrious.”

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