If they hired for attitude . . .
SOMEONE SAID: “Hire for attitude and train for success.” And another sloganized: “Your attitude determines your altitude.”
We know that attitude is a strong influencer of behaviour. But Daniel Goleman in his book Emotional Intelligence makes the bold claim that United States companies wasted a lot of money on race-sensitivity training some years ago, only to see the same old discriminatory behaviours continue or be replaced by some new, often more subtle, forms.
His remedy: target behaviour. And he referred to a number of lawsuits that played a critical role in significantly changing racist behaviour at workplaces.
The payouts forced the companies to hold their employees accountable for behaving in certain ways. This was a more fruitful route, he said, because attitudes change very slowly, if at all.
William Kirk Kilpatrick (The Emperor’s New Clothes) is apparently not much more optimistic than Goleman about changing attitudes by direct attack, but he suggests that over time the practice of changed behaviour can lead to changed attitudes.
Of course, none of this is to say that if, for instance, children are trained up in certain ways from early, given good examples and held accountable for better treatment of others, that we would not have a better harvest – behaviour-wise.
However, in the workplace your cadre is hard-backed men and women.
So, what are some of their bad attitudes that result in behaviours that foul up the workplace?
The fundamental one would have to be a bad attitude towards work itself.
Many people nowadays seem to view work as an interruption of real life. As if at the end of the workday normal service will be resumed. That probably explains why not a few people refuse to go to work on their birthdays.
But if one looks at it from both strictly spiritual and practical points of view, work is a necessary and noble undertaking for human beings.
Certainly, Christian philosophy (to which I refer because we often say we are a Christian country – and we perhaps try to cement that idea by having an essentially Christian assembly every school day in virtually all schools in the country) – holds that human beings are here to take care of the creation.
So what could be this real life that work is keeping us from?
Then there are bad attitudes that spawn bad service to customers and fellow workers.
Poor customer service in Barbados is so pervasive and so bemoaned that all I will say here is this: shame on you!
What is not recognized as poor service is the unsatisfactory treatment of colleagues (in human relations management talk these days, they are called “internal customers”).
This takes many forms: bad-talking them, belittling them, gossiping about them, unapologetically imposing your own problems on them, and so on.
Now, some people who display the above forms of conduct rest on the assurance that since they are (at least in their own eyes) “good workers”, nothing should be made of their shortcomings in their treatment of workmates.
But the fact is that a set of workers in an enterprise are supposed to be a team seeking to reach optimum productivity and if you disaffect, demean and damn others, you more than likely negatively affect the chances of accomplishing that. So, what these bad-behaved “good workers” give with one hand, so to speak, they take back, many times, with the other.
Another critical attitude shortfall is in the area of relations between management and subordinates.
It is known that not a few rank and file workers behave as though they are their own bosses.
They are overly pushy and show no sensitivity to the fact that the buck does not stop at them.
They harass their superiors, and persist in a tug of war that poisons the workplace and pulls down productivity.
(Cryptic statement: “I ain’t no angel / but I’ve been sitting out a few more dances with the devil.” Pick sense outta that.)
On the other hand, many bosses have earned a reputation for being disrespectful, demotivating, high-handed, insensitive, divisive, stifling of initiative and a slew of other bad attitude epithets that should be in dwindling supply because of all we now know and can develop ourselves in. They engender more bad blood than leukaemia, and cause many a “death” on the job. Bad attitudes, unfortunately, know no station.
Clearly, something has to be done to stop bad (attitude) apples from spoiling a bunch of others and the whole enterprise.
In the meantime, in this new year of depression, with the increasingly precarious job situation, and before somebody has to do something about your behaviour, ask yourself this: if they hired, rehired or fired for attitude, would I get a pick?
• Sherwyn Walters is a writer who became a teacher, a song analyst, a broadcaster and an editor. Email [email protected]