When you’re thinking about leaving a job, it’s usually because you’ve decided it doesn’t have much to offer you. Or simply that you can do better elsewhere. But rarely does the idea of changing YOUR attitude enter the picture. And yet, if you do it right (it’s not just about smiling more), it can make a big difference even beyond your job.
It’s easy to construct a checklist of things that are wrong with the job. Haven’t we all taken a piece of paper and listed “Good Things” and “Bad Things”? And depending on our mood at the time, we can make either column come out the winner, especially if we don’t try to match the weights of each item.
What we don’t put on that list
One of the things we don’t usually add to that checklist is our own attitude toward the job. And our attitude toward our boss and coworkers. We need to ask ourselves “have you really given it your all when it comes to managing, and if needed, changing your attitude?”
Most people when asked that question will say “yes” immediately. They’ve been doing their best even with annoying coworkers and a less-than-communicative boss. But I would guess that in nine out of ten cases, the real answer is “no.”
There are many things we bring to a job, both positive and negative. For the most part, our resumes only tell about education and things we’ve accomplished while employed. But when I help employers find the right person for an open position, I’m not as interested in what you’ve done, as in how you’ve done it. And how people see you in the workplace.
Who are you in your job as others see you?
Are you someone that sees each obstacle as a challenge or just another stinking thing to figure out how to handle? In interviews, most people have learned to say they love challenges. But it’s a rare person who really means it.
And this has nothing to do with personality. There are many people who know how to turn the charm on. But when it comes to going the extra mile, they find an office to hide in until the all-clear signal sounds. Or they volunteer to help and then grumble the whole time. Or worse yet, they remind you every minute that they are doing you a favor.
Then there are some people who are great at complaining that they never get a chance to use their talents. But they are so busy judging what is a fitting use of their skills, the opportunities to shine pass them by.
People you work with see all these things. And, to them, a great attitude can make all the difference. But so can an attitude that resists and judges at every turn. And one that finds fault more often than solutions.
Need an example? Let’s look at Ryan. He’s a bright young man who has a great deal to offer any employer. But he chooses to wallow in negativity. At any given time, you can hear him complaining that his boss underutilizes him and doesn’t let him work on anything interesting.
Truth be told, most of the time Ryan sits around doing fairly menial work. He thinks it’s because of his looks or background. Or maybe because he doesn’t “kiss up” to the right people. But what he doesn’t see is that his boss has given him general areas to be responsible for that offer quite a bit of opportunity.
And yet Ryan never initiates work for himself. Unless told exactly what to do, he sits around and feels resentment about being overlooked. And he rarely suggests ways to improve procedures or help others. There are many things he could take on within the general range of his duties. And there are things that no one is tending to that he could ask to take on.
His boss often wonders why Ryan takes no initiative but, instead, prefers to whine to himself and others. And because of this, his boss doesn’t even consider giving Ryan any new responsibilities. After all, he hasn’t done much with the ones he has now. And no one has time to spoon-feed him.
Why a new job may not be the answer for Ryan
Ryan has all the right skills, but his attitude keeps him from getting ahead. Wherever he goes, this will be the case — unless he does something to change it now. And if you told him that his attitude was the problem, he’d probably respond defensively. He’s say that he has a great attitude. It’s just that no one gives him a chance.
But Ryan is sadly mistaken. Wherever we wind up, we can influence our own chances in life. This is true in a job as much as anywhere. Although there may be obstacles — some harder than others to surmount — life gives us the chance to start fresh daily.
And attitude is one of the most important things we can bring to a job or relationship. Or simply the way we move forward from this point on. Again, I’m not saying people don’t have real challenges. I’m saying whoever you are, your attitude can play a major role in getting you where you want to go.
Changing your attitude checklist
I’d like you to be honest with yourself as you read through this list. (This is just between us anyway.) And please feel free to add things that you realize you do, maybe even on a daily basis.
- If something goes wrong, do you go to your boss, tell her the problem, and wait for HER to resolve it?
- Or do you go to her with potential solutions, and ask to help if needed.
- Do you look for things that need improvement? Or do you just complain.
- If the faucet is leaky in the office bathroom, do you tell someone? Or do you just add that to your list of things wrong with the place.
- Are you a team player or a glory hound?
- Are you a whiner? Or do you try to make things better.
- Can you be counted on? Or do you find ways to weasel out of things. (Be honest with yourself.)
- If you get stuck working with someone you can’t stand, do you sulk? Or do you decide to make the best of it without being a martyr.
- How much of your mental day is spent finding faults with the job or people? And how much is spent dreaming up solutions. Or simply making someone else’s day better.
Do a sincere attitude reality check on yourself
When it comes to success, so much of it is about attitude. If you have a huge list of things wrong with the job, ask yourself how many of them you’ve tried to make better. And just how important each one really is. Also ask yourself if you are focusing on only the problems and ignoring the good things. A poor attitude on your part can make any job feel like the wrong one.
One more thing that comes with a bad attitude: you usually get back what you put out. Do you enjoy working with someone with a rotten attitude? Neither do your coworkers. Your poor attitude only adds to your problems, because your coworkers most likely avoid you because of it.
But perhaps your picture of yourself is like Ryan’s. He felt he was fun to be with. After all, he always had funny stories to tell about how much the place sucked. And he did whatever he was specifically given as well as anyone. But was that the truth? I think you know the answer. Often we just don’t realize how much of our day is spent on the dark side of the street.
One of my favorite attitude jokes
Although I found this online many years ago, I have no idea who the author is. Whoever they are, it’s perfect. Here’s the short version:
Excerpt from a Dog’s Diary
8am – Oh boy! Dog food. My favorite.
9am – Oh boy! A car ride. My favorite.
10am – Oh boy! A walk. My favorite!
11am – Oh boy! Chasing a stick! My favorite!
Excerpt from a Cat’s Diary
Day 637 of my captivity. My captors continue to taunt me
with bizarre little dangling objects. They dine lavishly on
fresh meat, while I am forced to gag on dry cereal. They
rub my head to show me who’s boss, and I am obliged to
hold still during this fiendish torture. The only thing that
keeps me going is the hope of escape. And the mild
satisfaction I get from ruining the occasional piece of
furniture. But I can wait. Each day I learn more of their
cunning ways. And I sleep with one eye open.
All right. Let’s be honest. Which one do you think you most resemble? (Again, I won’t tell anyone.) Most of us, unfortunately, are much closer to being cats. And we feel pretty good about it. Who wants to be as empty-headed as that dog? Happy about every little thing!
But the truth is, people who are “dogs,” especially at work, are much happier. I’m not talking about the people who just PRETEND to be happy — that can eat you alive! I’m talking about the ones who actually see each situation as an interesting opportunity or challenge.
Attitude is a choice. And it can become a habit.
Putting some practical reality to the attitude joke
Now first if all, I love cats. And dogs. Just had to be said. And I don’t expect you to become a cartoon character, loving everything and everyone who comes along. “What, sir? You’d like me to make you 10,000 copies of this by hand by 5 pm? Oh boy! My favorite!”
No one can be happy ALL the time. But see if you can catch yourself scrutinizing and analyzing every move at work. How much of your day are you viewing in a less than positive light?
You may actually be adding to whatever real misery may be there. And if so, you’re helping to create your own rotten job. It’s just that, as with most people, you might not be able to see it yet.
Even if you haven’t reached a point where you can really feel positively disposed to a person or situation, there is an old trick that teaches you to smile even when you aren’t thrilled. That smile helps lighten your mood enough to get your brain in full gear.
A few more thoughts about changing your attitude
Again, I’m not telling you to cover up your job reality with some kind of insane denial routine. And I’m not suggesting you walk around with a constant smile. That could be scary.
But spending too much time in a foul mood decreases your ability to take in information in a helpful way. Your bad mood creates a “filter” that may start to perceive things to match your mood. So you catch the more negative nuances and miss the positive ones. See how this can build up inside?
By setting your attitude to “smile” or at least OPEN, you will experience a very different communication. And you may even change the way others deal with you. This is not lightweight, Pollyanna advice. People react to your mood, even if you don’t pick-up on it.
Have you heard the saying “positive energy attracts more positive energy”? It’s no myth. In business, as elsewhere, your mood can influence the way you perceive everything around you. And it can influence the way people see and treat you. Confident and positive will get you a lot more in the long run. And so can a mindset of “what can I do to help” vs “why is everything so wrong?”
Attitude has many levels. Check it regularly.
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