When his family was young, my brother-in-law had a special code phrase he shared with his children when their behaviors were less than acceptable in public. “Would you like to come with me for an attitude adjustment?” he would ask. Most times, that did the trick. The kids usually straightened up their wings and adjusted their halos. No Southern child wants to tempt fate when an “attitude adjustment” could mean a quick trip and swat behind the woodshed.
Oh, that it were that easy to adjust attitudes in the workplace! A nasty case of the grouchies can get any of us at times—job stress, personal issues, health, the weather, a difficult customer—all of these can make us temporarily testy. When faced with these things on a regular basis, we just might become permanently difficult. Not only is that dangerous for the company’s health and success, but it seriously threatens our personal job security. Assuming that there is no woodshed available at your workplace, it may be time to develop some strategies for turning our own poor attitudes around.
Make no mistake about it: for those of us in the communications fields, it is never okay to display a bad attitude at work. A receptionist must always greet patients or clients with a smile, sales reps must stay positive and upbeat, and telephone operators must keep an even, friendly voice. A client must never know when the service provider on the other end of the line is having a bad day. Why? Because it’s not about us, it’s about the comfort and trust of the customer.
Here are some simple ways to check and correct your own attitude at work:
- Get an Accountability Partner. Find a trusted co-worker, and develop a signal. Your fellow employee doesn’t need to take you behind the woodshed to adjust your attitude. Much simpler codes will do. She might tap her nose, or clear her throat a special way, or otherwise signal you when you are getting out of control. She can do this in a meeting, in front of a boss or client, or when overhearing a phone conversation you’re having, and it will all mean the same thing: check yourself! Sometimes that simple reminder—like the code question my brother-in-law asked his kids—is all you’ll need to reign yourself in.
- Grab a Mirror. If you spend a lot of time on the phone, post a mirror in front of your desk or on a wall you look at often while you talk. Note when you are grimacing or creating angry expressions. Make it a point to smile at yourself when you talk. Not only is your mood bound to lift, but smiling actually raises the pitch of your voice, and the client on the other end of the line will hear the smiles in your voice.
- Follow Your Mother’s Advice. Take a break. Go outside. The fresh air will rejuvenate you and give you renewed energy and pep. Turn the phones over to a good answering service, and breathe.
- Make a No-Complaint Pledge. Nobody likes a complainer. Small and snarky remarks add up to a big attitude problem. Try meeting little annoyances with humor instead.
- Identify Your Stressors. Is something at work causing your attitude to go south? Deal with them—but that’s another blog.
We’ll keep the conversation about attitude going for a while. Meanwhile, let me know how it’s going with you.
Challenge: Who in my workplace would make a good accountability partner for my attitude? When can I have a conversation with that person to discuss the possibility of monitoring one another?