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Opinion: 6 ways leaders can avoid a bad attitude

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So many times, a leader, manager or supervisor encounters a problem employee and declares that the employee has a bad attitude.

However, I’ve found the employee’s problem isn’t as frequently due to a bad attitude as management might claim. Instead, the boss either didn’t want to take the time to dig into the issue or they were unsure about how to handle the situation. So, they blamed it on the employee’s attitude.

Another problem I see is that negative attitudes frequently occur in management ranks. When a leader is the one with a bad mood, the impact can be severe. Not only is it contagious, but it can lower employee morale, increase turnover, lower productivity and harm the customer’s experience.

Our attitude primarily reflects how we think and feel about life, and our behaviors toward something or someone exposes those inner thoughts and feelings. Fortunately, our outlook is not a fixed state, and we have the power to choose our outlook on work and life every day.

Leaders need to get a handle on their attitudes. Anyone can begin by avoiding the typical trappings of negativity. Here are six things to avoid:

1. Inaction. When leaders procrastinate, not taking decisive action decreases momentum, and it can create a lethargy or a ‘what’s the use’ attitude among employees. People want leaders to be proactive and make the necessary improvements.

2. Perfectionistic. Imposing the burden of perfectionism on ourselves or others is damaging. I had a boss that was nearly impossible to please. I learned a great deal from him – but it was mainly in what not to do. His attitude made it a burden instead of a joy to go to work.

3. Pessimistic. A few years ago, a leader I was advising had a tough time seeing any positives in the continually changing business environment. His pessimism affected work routines and caused employees to become discouraged. Employees don’t appreciate a pessimistic view, and the wise leader will make sure they see and regularly communicate the brighter side of things.

4. Blaming others. It’s easy to criticize and condemn others, especially when we fail to examine our part in the problem. Before blaming someone, first look into all the possible sources of recurring issues such as flawed processes, policies or equipment. When employees see leaders admit to their shortcomings, it helps them take greater ownership of their outcomes.

5. Undervaluing people. One CEO I coach can rattle off an impressive array of numbers for the business, but he can’t tell you anything special about the personal lives of his longer-term employees. Unfortunately, his lack of engagement made it look like he only cared about the numbers. Take a caring interest and have engaging discussions on a human level and watch how people enjoy the attention.

6. Stuck in a rut. One leader I know often says, “I’ve always done it that way, and it worked out fine,” or “We’ve been successful for 20 years, and I can’t see why changing now accomplishes anything.” Employees want him to ditch the status quo and work on being an adaptive organization. Be proactive and willing to take the necessary steps to keep the organization on pace with change.

It’s challenging to be a successful leader who possesses a positive attitude through all the ups and downs of today’s modern workplace. Even the most influential leaders find it challenging to handle the pressures of managing employees and the demands of customers or leading people to hit deadlines and make the numbers. At the same time, they also attempt to navigate the choppy waters of continuous change.

One of the best ways to maintain a positive perspective is by aggressively managing the negative attitudes that creep into the way we could view a situation or another person.

Consultant, professional speaker and author Mark Holmes is president of Consultant Board Inc. and He can be reached at


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