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So What is the “Midwestern Work Ethic?”

July 23, 2007

Would love some feedback here. I’ve been talking about Midwestern values for years without realizing it. I just figured everyone operated with the same ideas and people across the US were raised the same way.

But then Enron happened. And then WorldCom. Then we heard about Tyco and some of the other messes in the Big Corporate world. From this chair it looks like these companies imploded because the leaders forgot who they were, and the corporate cultures were allowed to drift.

So how does that happen? How do leaders look in the mirror when they are destroying lives left and right? How do they wake up in the morning and feel OK about who they are and what they stand for? Where does it begin to sink in that this may not be a great way to run a company? Or does it ever?

H.L. Mencken made a wry observation about what passes for a conscience:

“Conscience is that inner voice

that warns us somebody might be looking.”

Here’s my working list on “small town or Midwestern work ethics.” We put it in the “about Beth Terry” section for right now. What do you think… what do the words ‘work ethic’ mean to you? Anything missing? What needs to be said better? What will rattle and roll the cages of Corporate America and maybe international companies if we say we want a conversation about these qualities?

The Working List:

  • Do the right thing
  • Do what you said you would do
  • If you need help figgerin’ it out, ask somebody
  • “You can’t have everything, where would you put it?” Steven Wright
  • Most luck comes from hard work, goals, and stickin’ to it
  • The best thing you can do when it all goes to hell is keep on movin’ forward
  • No one said the world is fair, only that it’s round
  • If you screw up, just admit it, fix it, and get the hell outta the way
  • If you’re getting paid for a 40-hour job, they expect you to actually work 40 hours
  • If you don’t own the business, somebody out there who does may have mortgaged their home, their kids, and their future to make it happen. Respect that and give them your best
  • Life really is good; we really do have it great in the US; most people really are decent human beings; and you do create your own success
  • Gratitude, Forgiveness, Grace, Detachment, and Love pretty much trump everything else. Looking for ROI? You’ll find it there.

I’d love to hear from you. Let’s get corporations and their employees back on track. This is basic common sense information, and the companies that do use these philosophies are doing pretty darn good! Look at Southwest Airlines; Edward Jones; DanTerryInc. All three of these companies are able to stay in the black, have happy employees, low turnover, and great profitability. They’ve done it the old fashioned way – treating employees, customers, and vendors with respect and integrity. In short, they utilize small town values.

Tell me others you think are living up to these values, and what those values mean to you. I’d love to hear from you.

“Sleepless in Phoenix”
Beth and the pups


Beth Terry, CSP
Certified Speaking Professional and Author
“Corporate Cowgirl “
Bringing small town Midwestern work ethics to Corporate Cultures

~Reduce Turnover~ ~Increase Employee Loyalty~

~Increase Productivity~ ~Improve Customer Experience~

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8 Comments leave one →
  1. Kaleb Meloon permalink
    July 24, 2013 1:37 pm

    from looking at the Midwest neighbours (east coast etc ) from Ohio, I feel it’s number one Family. Most Midwest has nothing starting for it, farms which we know have always worked out lol. and of cource some people Will climb over others to achieve success, but your family Will always be there for you therefore you must try to be there for them even more.but once you live in an area where you must build what you want (unless it’s a tree, you gotta physically make it) you start to realize the reward of achievement of your own labor.

    The Midwest is also the top consumer of American made goods, which shows our belief in ourselves and also promotes nationalism as well as individual and family pride. It’s the mentality of Falling and Getting back up. It’s also a core value of Wrestling which most Midwest boys do, making determined, mostly unbreakable men.

  2. September 16, 2007 3:19 pm

    Marion -thanks for the note. Glad you found me. What were you googling for when you found me?

    I enjoyed your website, too. Are you going to be at the Central Coast Women’s Conference in Fresno on Tuesday? I’m speaking there. It might be a great venue for you also!

  3. July 30, 2007 7:00 pm

    Tia – that’s funny – my dad always said the same thing! They must have lived near each other. And it was always one word: “yagottawanna” — and it’s true!

    Jane – thanks for that. I agree. What’s missing is integrity, and a sense that there are humans out there who will be affected by my decisions. I’m all for corporations making a profit. It’s what keeps this economy pumping. But when it is at the expense of everyone else, and the best interests of the community at large for the long haul. I have a real problem with that.

    Gwen – you are right on, and so is your husband. That’s what I’m trying to teach: show up for work. Do the job you are being paid to do. Keep your word. Not that difficult to understand.

    Thanks for your comments!

  4. Gwen permalink
    July 30, 2007 1:25 pm

    My husband is from the Midwest, and he has a work ethic I don’t often see these days. He keeps his commitment to his work by showing up and doing the job well every day.

    We just returned from vacationing in the Midwest, and he ran into several people he had worked for as a farmhand when he was a young man. All of them greeted him warmly and with obvious pleasure. I wondered about this. My husband explained, “When they hired me, I showed up every day and did a full day’s work. Others would show up for a day or two, realize how hard the work was, and not return.”

    I admire this sense of commitment. It helps me to understand the power of my husband’s commitment to me. He shows up every day for our marriage and does the work, be it easy or hard that day. I value that very much.

  5. Jane permalink
    July 25, 2007 4:39 pm

    I think you’ve hit a nerve. You are right, what is missing at companies like Enron is a conscience. There are some things in the Mid West that don’t work, lots of dysfunction in really small towns. But then everyone knows everyone. So people do the right thing most of the time. My grandmother was from the Mid West. She had a funny saying, “Make do or do without, use it up or throw it out.”

    Of course that was a different time.
    Thank you for sharing this. I like your blog.
    It is easy to read and you are very straight forward.

  6. July 25, 2007 1:24 am

    My mom, from the midwest, always says, “things look different in 3 days”. It’s a helpful perspective.

    My dad, from the midwest, says, “Yagottawanna….and then some.” I think about that one almost every day!


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