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Checking Worker Negative Attitudes

CHAMBER VOICE

By IAN FERGUSON

MOST employers will admit that finding employees with a positive attitude is a most difficult thing to do. Our corporate world seems flooded with individuals who are lethargically present at work, but have no real desire or passion to be there. Their principal motivation is pay day, and they remain on the job merely to finance their bills and support their lifestyle. This is evidenced in general workplace conversations, the employee's low levels of productivity, reports from customers and from feedback in training programmes for companies who brave having them. Finding and retaining highly-motivated, enthusiastic employees who truly love what they do and do it well, is becoming increasingly difficult.

Our article this week opens the conversation, and addresses the cause and effect of negative attitudes in the workplace. Human resources professionals, and those who have been trained to source and recruit talent, will all agree that it is wise to hire by considering the potential employee's behavioural patterns first, and their skills and competency levels next. Most skills can be easily taught and trained, but shifting attitudes and mindsets, which have existed and evolved over the course of a person's life, are more difficult to manage and manipulate.

Most behavioural scientists will argue the point that from pre-adolescent to puberty, certain events alter an individual's values, beliefs and behaviour towards people and things. These occurrences shape and define our emotional character, yielding some persons who are more positive than others. Essentially, they argue that persons with negative attitudes are those individuals who have deeply-rooted, emotionally unresolved issues and baggage.

It is true that this is often further exacerbated by an unpleasant working environment - difficult co-workers, a ridiculous supervisor, a poor salary scale, chronic complaining customers, and other negative-attitude provoking forces. Sometimes these and many more stress factors cause individuals to become negative, but we believe that the root cause of the employee who constantly demonstrates a poor attitude resides deep in their own place of emotional wellness.

Negative attitudes are like the cancerous sores that infiltrate the work environment and adversely affect the health of the company. Bad attitudes are contagious. People who have the disease sometimes lead many unsuspecting co-workers down this dark path of passionless void. It is true that misery likes company. Negative attitudes result in poor work habits, low productivity, low staff morale, poor customer service skills and, by extension, low customer satisfaction. In the final analysis, the employee with a nasty attitude will cosy you your customers, will weaken your brand, will destroy your reputation, will cost you your profit, and will cause your business to fail.

If you have agreed with much of what we have shared thus far in this article, then certainly you are beginning to ask the all-important question: What can we do to correct negative attitudes in the workplace?

While we support various interventions, including employee focus group meetings, employee satisfaction surveys, attractive employee reward-recognition systems and bonus programmes, staff appreciation periods and extensive training programmes, we believe that since so many of the real issues are deeply rooted in the psyche of the employee, some greater effort should be made to address them psychologically.

There are a number of organisations who have adopted an Employee Assistance Program (EAP) with trained psychologists and psychiatrists on retainer, but there still exists the negative stigma attached to reaching out for professional help. While some scoff at the thought of offering these services for their team members, or determine it to be another unnecessary expense, many others have seen the need and benefit tremendously from having the service. Perhaps those companies who extend the services should be more deliberate in strongly encouraging employees on a more consistent basis to have dialogue with the professionals. If we are to be honest with ourselves, we all need an 'ATTITUDE CHECK' every now and again.

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