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I have a friend who always goes on that I have a bad work ethic, though I am not lazy. At the same time, he says he has a good work ethic, but is lazy.

The definition of having a good work ethic is that you believe work helps further your character/moral fibre, while the definition of lazy is not wanting to do work.

My friend usually treats homework as something that needs to be done, for its own sake. For example, if a maths problem is particularly difficult, then he'll skip over it. Nothing wrong with that per se, but if he later learns how to fix it, he does not bother because he's done with it. Thus, he is disinclined to do the work (lazy), but does it anyway (not an attribute of having a good work ethic).

What is a better adjective to describe my friend? Or, failing that, is there a quick way to describe him eloquently?

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It sounds to me like he doesn't do it, i.e., he skips over it and then never goes back to do it- he is not diligent. He is dutiful as long as it is easy. –  Jim Jan 18 '13 at 1:49
If he's lazy, then he doesn't have a good work ethic, he merely avers that he has: He talks the talk but doesn't walk the walk. "Work ethic": "Work ethic is a set of values based on hard work and diligence. It is also a belief in the moral benefit of work and its ability to enhance character. An example would be the Protestant work ethic. A work ethic may include being reliable, having initiative, or pursuing new skills. IOW, your friend's a bullsh*tter –  user21497 Jan 18 '13 at 2:32
You friend simply has his own notion of what a "good work ethic" is. Basically, he probably defines it as meaning he has a healthy attitude to work, taking into account both its costs and its rewards. But this question is Not Constructive, because he could hold any number of different positions that broadly fall into that category (which is after all normal). –  FumbleFingers Jan 18 '13 at 3:33
Try workplaceSE, or SE sites related to psychology & behavioral Sc. –  Kris Jan 18 '13 at 6:24

3 Answers 3

up vote 6 down vote accepted

Lackadaisical: http://www.thefreedictionary.com/lackadaisical

lack·a·dai·si·cal  (lk-dz-kl)
Lacking spirit, liveliness, or interest; languid

1. lacking vitality and purpose
2. lazy or idle, esp in a dreamy way

Indolent: http://www.thefreedictionary.com/indolent

in·do·lent  (nd-lnt)

a. Disinclined to exert oneself; habitually lazy. See Synonyms at lazy.
b. Conducive to inactivity or laziness; lethargic: humid, indolent weather

1. disliking work or effort; lazy; idle


without enthusiasm or determination


unenthusiastic [ˌʌnɪnθjuːzɪˈæstɪk]
lacking in enthusiasm
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Indolent is very, very good. Just to be safe however, I'll wait until tomorrow to accapt this answer. I was going to use Lackadaisical (knew it before hand) if no one could have gotten a better answer. I'd up vote if I could (Sorry: first time on English part of Stackexhange) –  Timidger Jan 18 '13 at 2:04

Your friend makes a perfunctory effort.

That is, he performs the task mechanically, with little personal attachment to the outcome.

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Colloquially, we can say such a person gives the job a lick and a promise.

Lately, such a person could be called a slacker, i.e.,

  1. One who shirks work or responsibility:
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