Your Attitude is Showing - Now What?

Dr. Purushothaman
November 22, 2013

Your attitude is showing - and it's not good. What to do about it?

A story about an attitude needing adjustment - and about critical personal decisions.

A very close friend had her position cut from full time to 3 days a week. Her duties and responsibilities didn't change - just her hours and her compensation - which was cut by 40%. She was given 24 hours to decide whether or not she would accept the change. She decided to stay and work through the situation. But it hasn't been easy. Three months into the part time situation, she received her annual review - by mail. Her boss has marked her attitude as "meeting standards" toward her job and toward her fellow workers. All of her previous reviews were "excellent." It's red flag time.

She works in a branch location - and with all the things she has to do there, the reduction to three days doesn't allow for face time with her boss and peers at the main location. She's disappointed that peers who were not affected by the reduction in hours and pay haven't reached out to talk to her. She feels hostage to the feedback her boss receives from other members of his staff. Her boss spends no time with her.

She feels she is being poorly dealt with - and she's right - and it shows.

But the reality is that it is her attitude that is the key issue in her review - not how she's been dealt with. And there is no more damning thing to be said about a person in a leadership role than to be described as having a "bad attitude."

Her attitude has changed - from being a key member of the leadership team dedicated to making a new enterprise work, to being a part time worker who is expected to remain a dedicated leader of the new enterprise. It's easy for her to feel like a victim. Her boss notes in her review that she is not the same person since the "temporary setback" and that she needs to talk to him about how to "fix" her attitude. The implication is that should things stay the way they are, her attitude will be considered unacceptable. And we all know what that means.

A tough place to be - but it happens more often than we would like to think.

What should she and the thousands that find themselves in similar situations do?

There are two sets of issues to be deal with. The first has to do with the situation - be it a job, a relationship, a career - and it does need to be dealt with first. The second has to do with attitude.

The first issue deals with the situation. Whether to stay or go? There are so many factors in that analysis that are specific to each situation that there can be no easy answer - but it's absolutely critical that there is an answer. Too many people just stagger along, feeling some weird kind of comfort in the status quo, and then waking up years later, as Thoreau describes it, finding themselves "leading lives of quiet desperation." So the first order of business has to be the decision to stay, or to leave - and the terms and conditions for either alternative. The realization that there is a choice can, by itself, be tremendously liberating.

Then the attitude issue needs to be addressed. Once again, choice is the key. Our manager may not be able to control or choose the circumstances that led to her cut in pay and hours, but she can choose how it affects her - and how she expresses how it affects her. It's perfectly human to be angry, depressed, and feeling victimized when negative changes happen, but after the appropriate "mourning" period, it's time to choose the best response - the one that affects behavior positively. It's important not to fall into the victim mode. Victims show negative behaviors, and in addition to being repellant, very little good ever comes from them.

In our manager's case, she has decided that some projects in her job are near and dear to her heart. They are in process now, they require her full attention, and they keep her involved and associating with people outside her organization who she really enjoys - three good reasons for her decision to stay. Longer term still needs to be decided, but the success of the projects will be good for her organization, and of long term career benefit to her. Plus she can feel good that she has kept her word and her integrity and not left commitments undone. The act of making that decision has helped her dig out of most of the negativity she had been feeling. She's no longer a victim - she's in charge of herself.

The attitude issue needs work - but the stay or leave decision has made that issue an easier one to deal with. It has made her inner attitude much more positive. She is reaching out to friends, to her boss and to associates to better understand how others perceive her attitude, and to adopt behaviors that accurately express her much improved inner attitude. She wants to be positive, and focused, and optimistic, and she knows she owns the rights to those qualities. She's going to make it happen.

If you see yourself or someone else in this kind of situation, use the two issue approach to get back on track. Situations change, so can attitudes and behaviors.

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