Attitude is everything in the workplace


With all this talk about behavioral competencies and performance metrics, it often still boils down to something as squishy as "attitude" when it comes to who gets hired, fired and promoted. 

Attitude rates bigger than ever with interviewers.
Someone with a good attitude can trump someone with a fatter resume. When it comes to hiring employees who will fit the job and the company, attitude counts. Even though the number of available employees is dwindling, good companies don’t want warm bodies to fill their empty slots. Interviewers may use pre-employment skill tests and targeted interviewing techniques that ferret out examples from candidates’ past experiences, but they are looking for much more than a passing score and a compelling work history. Smart interviewers have told me, "I would rather have an employee with a great attitude and some related work experience, than a technically advanced employee without enthusiasm." 

But how do you "test" for attitude? Ask open-ended questions that let a candidate tell a story and listen between the lines. For example, "Have you ever had a different opinion than your boss on a project and how did you handle it?" (If he or she says "Oh, I always get along with my bosses, you should be skeptical. Do you really want to hire a spineless toady who won’t tactfully disagree with you about anything?) "Tell me about a time when you had to work out a problem situation with a coworker." (If he can’t tell you about how he solved an irritating problem or a communication glitch, chances are he went and squealed to his boss instead of trying to solve it on his own first.) "Tell me about a project that required you to work longer days or over a weekend." (If she struggles to come up with a time when she has stayed a little late or took work home to get something done, she may not have the initiative and drive you are looking for.) 

Attitude is one of the most important considerations when promoting from within.
If you think this is obvious to most workers today, just ask any business owner to site the percentage of employees who think like "owners" and take initiative with enthusiasm. Many employees are more worried about what the company owes them than what they can do to be worth more to the company. "Gimme, gimme, gimme," is often the employee mantra. "I want more money." "I want better benefits." "I want a fancy title." "The company owes me a promotion." 

The simple truth is this: employers will often bend over backwards to reward employees who step forward and offer to do extra work, solve nagging problems and expand their responsibilities. But the catch is, employees have to do these things before they are rewarded. Somewhere along the line, some employees began to think they were entitled to these things without proving their worth first. 

It’s a myth that you can’t fire someone for attitude because it’s not "measurable."
Bunk. Attitude can be very observable and, therefore, measurable. I was working with a manager recently who was avoiding giving feedback to his negative employee because he thought he would be sued if he confronted his employee for something other than attendance or direct work performance. The employee was routinely sarcastic to his co-workers, insubordinate to the manager and even rude to an internal customer.

 I explained that the way to confront this behavior is not to say, "You have a bad attitude," Instead, describe the exact behavior in precise terms. "During the meeting today, you said, ‘You haven’t had a fresh idea since the day you were hired’ to your co-worker. That isn’t acceptable. An important part of your job is getting along with other members of your team and I want you to change how your relate to your team members. That comment—and other comments like that—have caused your fellow team members to avoid working with you. I can’t have that in this department." 

Now more than ever, attitude is everything. 

Joan Lloyd is a Milwaukee based executive coach and organizational & leadership development strategist. She is known for her ability to help leaders and their teams achieve measurable, lasting improvements. Joan Lloyd & Associates, specializes in leadership development, organizational change and teambuilding, providing: executive coaching, CEO coaching & leader team coaching, 360-degree feedback processes, retreat facilitation and presentation skill coaching and small group labs. Contact Joan Lloyd & Associates at (414) 573-1616,, or 
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