Foreign Secretary William Hague has called on bosses to stop "complaining" about the economy and work harder.
Speaking to the Sunday Telegraph , Mr Hague said: "There's only one growth strategy: work hard."
He said the UK needed to "reorientate" itself, when it came to exports, towards expanding economies such as India, Thailand and Indonesia.
But the British Chambers of Commerce said businesses were already "busting a gut" and the government could do more.
Labour said it was "ministers" who needed to "work harder".
'Rescue the work ethic'
Mr Hague's comments come after the coalition announced moves designed to boost economic growth.
The Communities Secretary, Eric Pickles, said he agreed with Mr Hague.
He told BBC One's Sunday Politics: "Government can't create growth, it can create the conditions for growth but we're only going to be able to do this if we all work harder.
"The world has changed and our competition has changed and I think the only way we can pull out of this is by us all working harder."
But Labour's deputy leader Harriet Harman has said Mr Hague will have "infuriated" people with his comments.
Interviewed for BBC Radio 5 live's Pienaar's Politics, she said: "Many businesses who feel they are really putting their shoulder to the wheel, feel that they can't expand their businesses in the way they want to, because the banks won't lend to them.
"The difficulty is if the banks won't lend, if economic demand is flattened because of the government's macro-economic policies, then people are going to be saying 'well you should be doing your job as the government, not telling us how to do ours'."
Mr Hague said in the Telegraph article: "There's only one growth strategy: work hard.
"And do more with less - that's the 21st Century... We're trying to rescue the work ethic just in the nick of time."
He said the economy was undergoing "rebalancing", with the private sector growing while public sector jobs declined.
"They should be getting on with the task of creating more of those jobs and more of those exports, rather than complaining about it."
He also said that changes to benefits, such as the universal credit and a benefit cap, "will be seen in the 2020s as being as important to this country as the trade union reforms and privatisations were of the 1980s.
"This is as fundamental as that."
Asked if his comments could be compared to Lord Tebbit's "on your bike" message to the unemployed in the 1980s, Mr Hague said: "It's more than that.
"It's 'get on the plane, go and sell things overseas, go and study overseas'.
"It's much more than getting on the bike, the bike didn't go that far. 'Get on the jet'."
But Adam Marshall, director of policy at business organisation the British Chambers of Commerce, told the BBC: "Businesses up and down the country are busting a gut to find new growth opportunities, both at home and around the world.
"To borrow a phrase from a politician, businesses are already 'straining every sinew' to deliver growth. And many companies, both large and small, think that government could do more.
"The government needs to recognise that it is a major customer, a maker of markets, and the guardian of Britain's infrastructure and skills policies.
"Unless it acts boldly to discharge those responsibilities, rather than tinkering at the margins, UK business won't be able to deliver up to its full potential."
Shadow cabinet office minister Michael Dugher said ministers should stop blaming other people for their mistakes.
"The Conservatives said after the local elections that they had got the message," he said.
"Instead, these out-of-touch government ministers are burying their heads in the sand and just want to blame everybody else for the fact their economic plan has failed.
"The truth is it's ministers who need to 'work harder' - at getting an economy that promotes growth and creates jobs."