Posted by: Christine Donovan | June 20, 2009

Living in Excellence: Your Attitude and Job Security

I’m not sure how long I’ll be ruminating about attitude and negativity… but pull up a chair and pour a cup of coffee, because it’s a big topic and deserves a lot of discussion.

In this tough economic time with unemployment at 9.4% (at the time of this post), the phenomenon of attitude has to be lifted to the top of the priority list.

And yet, this presents a paradox — because during hard times most normal people find themselves struggling with “attitude” — fighting the tendency toward negativity, and perhaps even embracing it.  But so many give into to a negative mindset, which just breeds more and more problems that we really don’t need: stress, health, family/relationship conflicts, depression, etc.

If you are fearful about losing your job, for example, you are very likely finding it harder to get up each day and just get to work.  And while you’re there, the idea of going the extra mile, being positive, being helpful, seems ridiculous if not impossible.  The problem is that this is the very time when you need to change your attitude, get over yourself, stop being a victim and take charge of your life. 

And it is a time when it feels nearly impossible to do that. 

It’s hard to be positive and cheerful when you are scared to death.  Psychologists would call that cognitive dissonance.

I’ll tell you very bluntly, as a corporate manager who had to make some tough decisions about who to let go during slow economic times, I first looked at the people who were most valuable to the department… to the organization.  Who couldn’t we live without?  Who could I count on to maintain energy and positivity after other coworkers had been laid off?  Who would pitch in when we found ourselves short-handed because of reduction in staff?

I certainly ruled out the whiners and complainers, the victims, the dead wood and slackers.  And it didn’t matter what their seniority was, or salary level, or job title, or any of those criteria.  (I should mention that I had primarily administrative staff, no union members, because then the guidelines are very different.)

But my decision (as most of the managers I worked with) was to take a good look at my team and restructure it into a strong, proactive unit that could weather the storm of a layoff.  Afterall, such a stressful time only begins with the releasing of staff… there is always a secondary phase of difficulty for those who are left behind.  There is often survivor guilt (why wasn’t it me?) and anger.  There is a good chance that, if the wrong people remain, low morale can bring the team down even further.

So the decision about who to let go often comes down to attitude.

If you still have your job right now, I really, sincerely, suggest that you do a quick self assessment, and if your attitude has been a bit on the negative side (complaining, gossiping, sarcastic, unsupportive, judgmental…) or if you’ve been a bit passive-aggressive (i.e. resisting authority, coming in “slightly” late, leaving “slightly” early, doing the bare minimum) that you do a major and visible turnaround NOW. 

This is your wakeup call and your shot of motivation all rolled up into one message.  Companies are still laying off… we’re not out of the woods yet, and I truly hope it’s not too late for you if you’ve been a bad attitude case.

When you get up on Monday morning, have a talk with yourself and decide to go on a negative attitude crash diet.   Walk in and say to your boss, “I’ve been thinking about how I can contribute more to our department/company, and wanted to ask you how I can do that.  How can I make your job easier?”  And then do whatever they ask you to do.  If it’s possible to stay later and come in earlier DO IT.  And make sure it’s noticed.  

Offer to help your coworkers; become the poster child for positive attitude; make it clear that you’re not interested in gossip; be the solution not the problem.  Show your company how valuable you are… and stop, stop, stop complaining.

This is not easy to do if you’ve been in the habit of complaining… which is an addiction in itself.  So ask your close friends and family for help.  Ask them to tell you when you start whining, because my guess is that you don’t even know when you’re doing it.  If you have to vent to someone, designate a good friend, spouse, or sibling that you can call to complain to confidentially, but DON’T do it at work.

Become the beacon of confidence, positivity, hope…. Be the person that others come to for support.  Read about “The Law of Attraction,” or watch “The Secret”  and learn how our words become reality… and start uttering only positive words.

It’s not easy, but as Roger Staubach says, “There are no traffic jams along the extra mile.”

Go the extra mile… or 100 extra miles…if that’s what it takes.


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