It was early morning, and as I stepped off the plane, I was greeted by the attendant waiting to take a wheelchair to a passenger on the plane. She smiled with a big “Good morning! Welcome to San Antonio. Are you ready to have a great day?”

Wow, I hadn’t thought about it until then but … yes … I was ready to have a great day, thanks to this airline employee’s contagious enthusiasm.

In this issue of Promotional Consultant Today, we are examining the important role of a positive attitude and how not to let negativity drag your team down.

Managers are exhorted to hire for attitude and train for skill. It’s a smart theory, yet a bitter chorus of moaning and groaning attests that something goes constantly awry. We expected a positive attitude because, well, the new hire promised he had one. His resume looked impressive and he had good references, so we figured he could do the job. How bad could his attitude be? Then the honeymoon ends and old negativity re-emerges:

  • Promises turn into excuses—your brilliant problem solver can’t even solve morning traffic.
  • Deadline after deadline is missed—yet in a remarkable coincidence, it’s always somebody else’s fault.
  • Complaining becomes an Olympic sport—and guess who’s going for the gold medal?

An employee with a rotten attitude can cause more damage than an employee who doesn’t know how to do the job. It would be interesting to know how and where bad attitudes are created, but even if we understand the source of a bad attitude, it doesn’t solve the problem.

There have been almost as many failed strategies for dealing with bad attitudes as there have been people with a bad attitude. The strategies to deal with these people include:

  • Complain about them.
  • Discipline them.
  • Ignore them.
  • Assign them a mentor.
  • Promote them out of your department

Discipline Doesn’t Improve Attitude.

Attitude building is a training challenge, not a disciplinary function. The best strategy for an employee with poor behavior skills is only a slight variation on the strategy for correcting poor job skills: a training program with defined skill objectives and even more positive reinforcement.

When a job skill is practiced until the employee is deemed “competent,” we call that a successful training. “Good attitude” is also a job skill to be consciously practiced until competence is achieved. Think of it this way: a parent’s goal is to teach their child to become competent in manners, respect and taking out the garbage. The workplace manager is a substitute “parent” of a grown-up child, with the same lessons to teach—using adult learning techniques.

To teach a skill, we show examples of the desired result. We set a standard and describe rewards when the job is done right and consequences when the standard isn’t met. In training for attitude, we often overlook the standard-setting conversation, with a mistaken assumption that our standards are known and accepted by all. For a person operating in negativity, however, the apparent standards really aren’t seen the same. And people can’t start learning something they don’t even see.

A trainer’s role is to elevate each employee to competence. If hiring for attitude is a good idea, then training for attitude is a great one. For people who didn’t learn their behavior patterns from a positive example, operating with a good attitude is no more automatic than operating a new piece of equipment. It’s a skill that can be learned.

Create a strategic training plan for every employee that includes building and supporting their positive attitude! Start with these simple skill-builders:

  1. Say a cheerful “Good Morning” to everybody.
  2. Tell colleagues that you appreciate their help.
  3. Smile while listening and talking.
  4. Speak well of your employer.
  5. Tell the boss about something good a colleague has done.
  6. Choose not to gossip—or listen to gossip.
  7. Accept assignments with a smile, saying “I’ll be happy to.”
  8. Make somebody feel better daily.
  9. Volunteer for a job that needs doing.
  10. Offer sincere congratulations when others have a success.

Source: Gregory Lay is editor of the website Accidental Career. He is also a speaker and trainer with a core message of strengthening employee involvement and building job satisfaction.