// The work ethic recession

by Ish Cheyne

Work ethic; some have it, some think they have it and some don’t care if they have it or not. but in today’s employment world work ethic is a sought-after commodity.

Why is it that the person I read about in their CV cover letter is seldom the person I end up hiring? I read cover letters that give candidates glowing accounts of communication skills, rapport building and a passion for talking to new members. Once hired, however, the new employee appears far more adept at chatting with other staff and hanging out at reception or in the staff room. Then, after doing their stint on the gym floor, this same employee decides to cross over to personal training, and with a change of uniform feels justified in charging $70+ per hour and expects members to want to train with them.

Members are not stupid. They recognise them as the same instructor who ignored them for the previous six months, and so, most often, will choose to train with somebody else. Consequently, the trainer needs some new leads and asks their club manager for some. But the club manager is no fool either, and remembers only too well the instructor loitering by the front desk and performing only the bare minimum tasks they were employed to do. When leads fail to be forthcoming, the trainer puts up posters in the hope of drumming up some business. When this doesn’t happen they get a part time job to subsidise their training role, before dropping out of the fitness industry completely and blaming everything and everyone except themselves.

Of course this is not always the situation – our industry does have some excellent staff who consistently over-deliver in every aspect of their jobs – but it is still enough of a problem to demand attention.

First, consider how you think about your role. there are two problematic mindsets evident in our industry. hopefully you will not fit into either of these categories, but it’s worth checking, just in case …

Mindset 1: ‘Can’t someone else do it?’
For some, this phrase (popularised by homer simpson) is the first level of work ethic consciousness. employees with this mindset would rather not do anything that is outside their job description – and even if it is in their job description, they would still rather not do it.

Do you ever think:
• this is just a part time job
• it makes no difference if i do it or not
• you underpay me so i’ll just do the amount of work i feel is required
• my boss is not worthy of my time.

Warning: this mindset makes you less, not more, employable. You will not be promoted, you will not get a raise and you will not get a reference. The only way forward is by understanding that it is your responsibility to change this mindset in an effort to further your career. Everything you do is a reflection on you.

Mindset 2: ‘I’ll do it when I’m ready’
Employees with this mindset believe that their boss does not understand what really needs to be done.

Do you ever think:
• I keep this place running, management has no idea what goes on around here
• It’s not a priority right now, I’m busy doing my real job
• You should be listening to me, I’d make better decisions.

Warning: This is a crippling mindset that will cause you to move from job to job getting more and more frustrated. A great quote to remember is ‘what you see depends on where you stand’. As employees, most of us only see a small part of the big picture, and therefore tend to base our views on just our limited experience.

Although some aspects of your role may seem pointless or insignificant, they exist for a reason. If you are serious about developing your career, you will perform your current role to the best of your ability, even if it is just so you can climb to the next rung of the ladder.

Changing your focus

Most employees who never get promoted or receive a raise have something in common; the job they do is different to the job they were hired to do. You must figure out the real job behind the work that you do. Think about it now, do you really know what your job is? I have asked this question hundreds of times and received a wide range of answers, including; ‘My job is to deal with complaints’; ‘My job is to clean the gym’; ‘My job is to manage my staff’ and ‘My job is to teach exercise’. Is it? Is that really your job? Or is that just the detail of what you do each day?

There are only two roles in the fitness industry – getting new members and retaining existing ones. Every decision you make and every action you take needs to be based on these two things. Ask yourself; ‘what is my role in the club, and how can I use my role to help acquire new members and retain our current ones?’ Business skills can be taught and developed in those willing to learn, but work ethic is a choice.
By choosing wisely, your positive, proactive mindset will be clearly apparent to employers, colleagues and clients – and success will follow.


Ish Cheyne
As New Zealand’s South Island Personal Trainer of the Year 2008, Ish is highly regarded for his motivational, entertaining and informative
seminars. A leading international presenter, he assists Les Mills New Zealand and Les Mills International in the area of training development, having written and presented DVDs seen by over 80,000 group exercise instructors worldwide.