Does the Boss’s Attitude Determine the Employee’s Attitude?

Once upon a time in my working life I had a boss who had a bad attitude. And his attitude affected everyone in the building. What should be the relationship between a boss’s attitude and an employee’s reaction? What is the ultimate effect on the bottom line?When any employee called in sick, my boss would hang up the phone before the conversation ended. To all of us employees it seemed that this was his way of punishing anyone who had a notion of missing a day of work.

This boss also used other intimidation tactics to control his workforce. When someone approached him with a complaint, he made no bones about expressing his irritation: In a raised voice he would say, “That’s just the way it is.” In most cases his tactics worked. His employees learned not to express their grievances because it was a no-win situation.

Whenever an employee refused to accept the status quo, the boss would say, “I didn’t ask you to work here.” If the employee continued complaining, the bosses’ final statement was “If you don’t like it, find yourself another place to work” and that was the end of the subject.

This definitely stopped the complaining but it also stifled productivity. The boss never connected the dots between the reason the line went down for two hours and the complaint that went unanswered or an employee with a bad attitude wanted revenge.

I remember one time getting the courage to confront my bosses’ attitude. I explained to him that when he hangs up on others it is intimidating. His response was to tell me that I was the only one who felt this way since I was the only one to bring it up. His second response was to tell me that he never raised his voice it was only my perception. (Had he never heard of the theory that my perception is my reality?) He then justified his behavior by paraphrasing Eleanor Roosevelt, “No one can make you feel anything without your approval.”

Looking back on this situation I realize that there are two philosophies when it comes to attitude: The idealistic philosophy and the realistic philosophy. The idealistic approach is that each person is responsible to choose his attitude no matter how someone else treats you. The idealistic approach goes along with Eleanor Roosevelt’s saying” No one can make you feel anything without your approval.” A minor flaw in this way of thinking is that there is a difference between knowing and doing. Most of us know that we are totally responsible for how we feel, but we are more used to reacting than we are to choosing consciously.

The realistic approach is more of a William Penn statement: “No man is fit to command another who cannot command himself.” The realistic philosophy embraces the philosophy of personal choice but acknowledges the truth that we are often influenced by each other. Some people just make it easier to choose a good attitude.

It’s easier to choose a good attitude when the boss has a great attitude. It’s easier to choose a good attitude when others welcome you with open arms. It’s easier to choose a good attitude when you feel like a valued customer.

Recently I tried a brand new restaurant in town. Several minor mistakes were made. Just when I was thinking that I might never return, the manager approached my table and told me the meal was on the house. The manager realized a profound business truth: If the customer leaves with a good attitude she will return again and again.

Think about the times you have been to the grocery store and you walked away frustrated. Chances are someone was rude to you, you didn’t get help out with the groceries, the place was a mess or they were out of the advertised specials. Perhaps you kept your attitude in check, but I’ll bet that you stopped shopping there nonetheless.

If you attend a new networking group and you are not greeted or made to feel welcome, it influenced your attitude. You might have silently quoted Eleanor Roosevelt, while you researched other networking groups to join.

If you are a leader in any sense of the word, you must never forget the influence you have over others. According to Jim Loehr and Tony Schwartz in their book Power of Full Engagement, “Leaders have a disproportionate impact on the productivity of others.” None of us work in a vacuum. Attitudes cause a chain reaction. As a boss, your attitude affects your employees. Your employee’s attitudes affect your customers, and your customers are the lifeblood of your business. The result of bad attitudes whether it be yours of your customers, is lost business.

Marlene Chism MA works with companies that want to stop the drama so that teamwork and productivity can thrive. She offers this How-To plan for decreasing stress and negativity in the office: The #1 Workplace Problem: Seven Tips for Reducing Stress and Negativity

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