English Language & Usage Stack Exchange is a question and answer site for linguists, etymologists, and serious English language enthusiasts. It's 100% free, no registration required.

Sign up
Here's how it works:
  1. Anybody can ask a question
  2. Anybody can answer
  3. The best answers are voted up and rise to the top

Inspired by this question, I'm left wondering if the phrase “work ethics” has a slightly different meaning in Australian English than in other dialects.

I came across this term some time back: Flexible work ethics in an ad for an IT job. Anyone know what it could mean? Im sure its not as dodgy as it sounds

To my (US) ear, it sounds like the ad is looking for people willing to engage in ethically questionable business practices. I'd hope that's not the case, and that it's just a nuance in the meaning of “work ethics.” My best guess is that “flexibe work ethics” actually means “willing to work flexible hours.”

A quick search reveals several job listings that use the phrase, mostly in Australia.

Is this a case of differing meaning in a dialect, or is it just really, really poorly worded corporate-speak?

share|improve this question

While I have seen it on Aussie job sites, I don't believe that the use of this phrase is endemic to the Antipodes.

Flexible work ethic (normally used in the singular and rarely in the plural) is basically used to indicate that you should be ready to be a "team player" when it comes to working hours, sick leave, etc. If it's busy, you might have to work long hours. If somebody is sick, you might have to come in on your off-day to cover for them. If the office is short-handed, you might be expected to cope with additional duties beyond your assigned purview.

In other words, we are going to push you and you're required to budge.

While I agree that the use of ethic here is odd, I suspect that it is being used in the sense of principles rather than morality.

share|improve this answer

Your Answer


By posting your answer, you agree to the privacy policy and terms of service.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.