Peter de Jager is a provocative Speaker,
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I recently conducted a survey on “The Consequences of Bad Attitude” in preparation for a presentation. The results gleaned from the more than 100 respondents uncovered three interesting bits of information.
1) According to the respondents, a solid 10% of our employees are deemed to possess
this thing called “Bad Attitude”.
2) Of that 10% we fire, terminate, let go and constructively dismiss more than 66% of
them for reasons ultimately stemming from their bad attitude. That’s close to 7% of
all our employees terminated because of Bad Attitude.
3) The general consensus of the respondents, based on their commentary and the
termination percentage listed above, is that managers have little, if any, control over
an employee’s attitude… the turnover cost of that belief is significant.
Many, if not most managers agree with the related statement, “You cannot motivate someone to change. Their motivation must come from within!” This resonates with the belief that the attitude of our employees is beyond management control.
Yet, those same managers accept without question the existence of great leaders. What is a leader, if not someone with the proven ability to motivate people through difficult times and towards great achievements?
The existence of leaders, and their ability to motivate, contradicts our belief that motivation (attitude) is internal to the individual. This contradiction means that somewhere we’re making an invalid assumption. Contradictions don’t exist.
We know for certain that leaders exist; Churchill, Gandhi and King led people through war, to peaceful freedom and to equality. They succeeded where others failed, and motivated their sometimes reluctant followers to great sacrifices, perseverance, heroic acts and ultimately victory.
If leaders make their mark on the world because they motivated people to action, then the notion that motivation is entirely an individual choice must be wrong. This observation or deduction, if accurate, immediately places all managers into a peculiar bind. Contrary to our practice of firing 7% of our employees for bad
attitudes (FIinding #2 above), we’re forced to accept that we have another, underutilized option.
It is possible to lead (motivate) those employees to a better attitude. We might not know how to do this, but we know, based on the achievements of the leaders we look up to, that it’s possible.
Now… almost every manager reading this is going to raise an objection. There are people who just have a sour outlook on life, they don’t want to work, and their bad attitude is invulnerable to all attempts of transformation. Even Gandhi’s peaceful nature would be sorely pressed if faced with some of these individuals. Etc. etc.
Having met at least one such individual during my career, I have to allow some leeway. I must allow for the possibility that some bad attitude employees are beyond all redemption, but they’re rare and make up less than
the full 7% that we give up on and terminate.
Here are some of descriptions of folks with bad attitude and extremely terse descriptions of what we might do to resolve the source of the problem.
1) Those who just don’t like working for a living.
These might be that 1% beyond redemption.
2) Those unwilling to accept unavoidable change.
Extremely rare, if the change is truly inevitable, most adapt.
3) Those with psychological problems of some type.
Often solvable by counseling or transfer to less stressful position.
4) Those with stress/life challenges unrelated to the organization.
Temporary and addressable via acceptable concessions.
5) Those who don’t like their current job.
Often solvable through internal transfers.
6) Those who disagree with a management practice.
Two cases here:
If the management is at fault (e.g. favoritism) then change the practice.
If it’s merely a lack of understanding of why the practices are
the way they are, then communication is the solution.
7) Those incorrectly labeled as having a BA.
Not all BA are really BA. Asking “why?” is not necessarily an act
of insubordination, it’s often nothing more than a plea to understand.
Bad attitude cannot be tolerated, mostly because it spreads like an infection; degrading productivity everywhere it’s found. In the end, if management is incapable of motivating an employee towards a more productive attitude, then management has no choice but to jettison both the employee and their attitude. Harsh actions perhaps, but as managers we’re responsible for departmental morale. Bad attitudes are infectious.
The key phrase in the paragraph above, and the one which will cause the most controversy is, “if management is incapable of motivating an employee... then...” It suggests at least three things;
1) Managers differ in their ability to manage people problems. (obviously)
2) The need to terminate employees with bad attitude is a direct consequence of
management’s inadequate people skills. (Also obvious, but more difficult to accept.)
3) We can reduce turnover significantly (Remember, 7% of terminations are due to bad
attitude. 7% is significant) by training managers to overcome and change bad attitudes.
All of this hinges on our personal belief in the existence of leaders. If they exist, then they exist because we recognize their ability to motivate us. Since magic doesn’t exist, their ability isn’t magical. They are doing something other humans,
(the category of 'Humans' includes 'managers'... honestly!), can emulate. Discovering how to become a leader, in other words, how to motivate others, is the
achievable goal of every manager.
<For more attitude survey details, visit: http://www.technobility.com/docs/article081.htm>
© 2006 Peter de Jager – Yes, he's a speaker with a passion for Change. You can contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org
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