I recently attended a friend’s outdoor wedding. Maybe it was the heat or my hunger I’d saved up for the free reception dinner that got to me, but as soon as I sat down at the ceremony, I snobbishly began insulting the whole affair. “They printed their programs on such cheap, ugly paper,” I whispered to my husband sitting beside me. “Those power lines right next to the altar are really going to look great in pictures,” I sarcastically puffed out.
After a few more unpleasant remarks, my husband looked at me and said, “This is how they wanted their wedding. Do the mustard yellow programs really hurt you?” An impactful question it was. “Let’s try to be happy for our friends and I bet you’ll enjoy the wedding a lot more,” he gently suggested with a kiss on my cheek.
I won’t lie, I was a little annoyed that he didn’t entertain my banter, but I took his advice anyway. Intentionally having a positive attitude and looking for the good in the details instead of the bad changed everything. By the end of the night, my smile was imprinted on my face from laughing so hard and thoroughly enjoying myself all because I was reminded that attitude goes a long way.
Why am I telling you this? This elementary truth applies to the workplace just as much as your personal life.
I know plenty of people who choose complaining about work as their go-to conversation topic. At my company, everyone is reading through The Energy Bus (link: http://www.theenergybus.com/) by Jon Gordon. A resounding takeaway from this enlightening fable is that “I am the driver of my own bus.” In other words, I choose how my day will go with my attitude and actions. We have to look at our own behavior and attitude thoroughly to see how we are affecting our work and home life before we can assume someone else is at fault for our own discontentment.
I understand that some things (projects, co-workers, resources, budgets, bosses) can frustrate even the most positive of people. Yet, I wholeheartedly believe in and have witnessed the irrefutably positive results of taking ownership of my own attitude and actions.
Here are a couple strategies to implement to improve your attitude at work:
1. Be impartial – We have a partiality problem in the workplace. We hire people who are just like us, we blame people who are unlike us, and we favor the ideas of those who we’d like to be more like. This sort of “in-group favoritism” is seen at every level of the human race (think ethnocentrism), and is certainly toxic.
When we act partial toward a particular person or group of people, distaste for people unlike them grows within us, sometimes unknowingly. I worked in a restaurant for many years before I entered the corporate world. There, I allowed myself to be partial towards guests who would order expensive drinks and entrees. Forget their personality or the opportunity to simply serve a patron well, I wanted big checks which usually meant a big tip. This partiality watered seeds of resentment toward individuals who ordered less which undeniably defined how much enjoyment, or lack thereof, I got out of the shift and they got out of their experience dining with me.
By dispersing our interest to all types of people, co-workers, customers, etc. we are less likely to overlook the unique skills/abilities/value that they offer. That means listening to the client who tells you their life story in every conversation when all you called about were references. Maybe a collaboration with the least likely person ends up scoring you your biggest deal.
2. Use Appreciative Inquiry – Appreciative Inquiry looks for the best in people, organizations, and the world around us. It shifts mentalities from asking the question, “What’s wrong with that?” to “What’s right with that?” Discovering what brings life to someone or something, instead of focusing on its deficiencies, helps you appreciate it more.
If I had used Appreciative Inquiry at the wedding I attended, I would have said, “These mustard yellow programs really match the bridesmaids’ dresses well!” At work, your mentality might shift from, “My team communicates terribly,” to, “My team is exceptionally creative and we have many resources at our disposal. Using these assets, how can we communicate more effectively?”
In my experience, taking ownership of my attitude gives me far more satisfaction than when I choose to let a glass-half-empty mentality creep in. When you choose to make the most of your circumstances, having a great day or brightening a co-worker’s or customer’s day is simply an unconscious overflow of your own happiness, which increases your sphere of influence and develops your positive reputation in the office. The choice is yours.
What are some ways you stay positive at work?
Brett Hicks joined C&A Industries in the fall of 2013 as an intern. Now, a full-time Project Manager in the Training department, she supports the company with eLearning and creative work, writing, editing, and some classroom training. Brett is also a wife and a twin, a singer and pianist, and believes that listening well and encouraging others makes the world a better place.