27 September 2023

Attitude sickness: How your discontent is more obvious than you think

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Lisa Earle McLeod* says people who have a consistently negative attitude to their work should consider moving on, because eventually they may have no choice in the matter.

Do people with a bad attitude get you down? Of course they do.

Humans respond to each other’s feelings in conscious and unconscious ways.

People respond to your attitude whether you express it with words or not.

If you have a bad attitude in the workplace, everyone around you will feel it.

These emotions eventually trickle down to your work, and you guessed it, you could be let go.

A pivotal piece of workplace success is recognising your own happiness.

Unhappiness creates, consciously or unconsciously, low performance.

If you’re continuously unhappy, research indicates you should quit before you get fired.

We recently fired our painters. Their painting was good enough — it was their attitude that put us over the edge.

They bid for the job knowing they would have to move furniture.

They also looked at our aging, banged up woodwork and knew it needed lots of patching.

Yet they continually complained about it. Every day it got worse.

My husband was the one who told them we were letting them go. I wasn’t there.

Honestly, I was grateful to be out of town.

Here’s how it went down.

My husband pulled the head painter into his office and said: “We’re making a change. We’re bringing someone else in to finish the job.

“We’re letting you go because you constantly complain and we’re tired of dealing with it.”

The painter was stunned: “Are you kidding me? We were just grumbling to ourselves. You’re going to fire us over a little complaining?”

My husband said: “No, I’m firing you for a lot of complaining. It affects me and our family. It’s starting to affect the other tradespeople working here.

“It makes me question how much effort you’re putting into your work.”

The painter called me to try to talk his way back in.

By that point I’d gone back to look over their work, and sure enough, the quality was going down.

Attitude always affects effort.

Early in my career when I was unhappy in a job, my father said: “If you’re unhappy with them, you need to leave.

“It’s only a matter of time before they’re unhappy with you.”

We often delude ourselves, thinking our attitude isn’t apparent to others.

People are more transparent than we realise. Sometimes, others assess our attitude even better than we do.

We recently helped a client, a financial institution, introduce new organisational behaviour.

We created four simple things we wanted to make standard across the company.

One was: We greet everyone with a smile.

Everyone includes other employees.

During the rollout session, one of the leaders who had a reputation for having a negative attitude stood up.

“I’m worried we aren’t going to be able to do this,” he said.

“You all know me. You know I always try to have a positive attitude, but I don’t think everyone else here is positive.”

The rest of the room was stunned.

Did this guy really think they were the negative ones and he was Mr Positive?

The simple answer is yes. He probably did believe he was a positive person.

Just like our painters, he would be stunned to find out how negatively other people were experiencing him.

Here’s how it happens: We think we’re reacting to negativity in others. They think they’re reacting to our negativity.

No one sees that the other person started the day hoping things would be better.

All they see and hear is negative.

The same people constantly complaining about everyone else don’t realise people perceive them as the root problem.

If you think you work — or live — in a negative environment, ask yourself how much you complain about it?

If the answer is a lot, consider the possibility that part of the negativity is coming from you.

Continually expressing discontent, regardless of the circumstances, is a self-fulfilling cycle of experiencing discontent.

Is work sunshine and rainbows all the time? No.

Work can be hard, it can be stressful, but it shouldn’t be soul-sucking-awful.

If you find yourself constantly ‘venting’, consider the long-term repercussions.

If you’re unhappy with them, it’s only a matter of time before they’re unhappy with you.

Do you have experiences with a complainer or negative employee?

How do you perceive that person’s work? Take some time to consider how the people around you perceive your attitude.

*Lisa Earle McLeod is best known for creating the popular business concept Noble Purpose. She is the author of Selling with Noble Purpose and Leading with Noble Purpose. She can be contacted at mcleodandmore.com.

This article first appeared on Lisa’s blogsite

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