Do people with a bad attitude get you down? Of course they do. Humans respond to each other’s feelings on conscious and unconscious ways. People respond to your attitude whether you express it with words or not.
We recently fired our painters. Their painting was good enough; it was their attitude that put us over the edge. They bid the job knowing they would have to move furniture. They also looked at our aging banged up woodwork and knew it needed lots of patching. Yet they continually complained about it. Every day it got worse.
My husband was the one who told them we were letting them go. I wasn’t there. Honestly, I was grateful to be out of town.
Here’s how it went down. My husband pulled the head painter into his office and said, “We’re making a change; we’re bringing someone else in to finish the job. We’re letting you go because you constantly complain and we’re tired of dealing with it.”
The painter was stunned. “Are you kidding me? We were just grumbling to ourselves. You’re going to fire us over a little complaining?
My husband said, “No, I’m firing you for a lot of complaining. It affects me, and our family. It’s starting to affect the other tradespeople working here. It makes me question how much effort you are putting into your work.”
The painter called me to try to talk his way back in. By that point I’d gone back to look over their work, and sure enough, the quality was going down.
Attitude always affects effort. Early in my career when I was unhappy in a job, my father said, “If you are unhappy with them, you need to leave. It’s only a matter of time before they’re unhappy with you.”
We often delude ourselves, thinking our attitude isn’t apparent to others. But people are more transparent than we realize. Sometimes others assess our attitude even better than we do.
We recently helped a client, a financial institution, introduce new organizational behaviors. We created four simple behaviors we wanted to make standard across the company. One of the behaviors is: We greet everyone with a smile. Everyone includes employees. During the rollout session, one of the leaders who had a reputation for having a negative attitude stood up and said. “I’m worried we aren’t going to be able to do this. You all know me. You know I always try to have a positive attitude. But I don’t think everyone else here is positive.”
The rest of the room was stunned. Did this guy really think they were the negative ones, and he was Mr. Positive? The simple answer is, yes. He probably does believe he was a positive person. Just like our painters, he would be stunned to find out how negatively other people are experiencing him.
Here’s how it happens: we think we are reacting to negativity in others. They think they are reacting to our negativity. No one sees that the other person started the day hoping things would be better. All they see and hear is negative.
The very people constantly complaining about everyone else don’t realize people perceive them as the root problem.
If you think you work, or live, in a negative environment, ask yourself, how much do I complain about it? If the answer is a lot, consider the possibility that part of the negativity is coming from you.