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How to Change Employee Attitudes

by Erin Schreiner

Employees who come to work with a chip on their shoulders, uneager to do anything but make it through the day and collect a paycheck, may leave your workplace in a lurch. If your employees’ attitudes need a bit of adjusting, take charge and make this happen. While changing the way people think and feel isn’t something you can do overnight, with focused effort, you can effectively modify your employees’ attitudes and, potentially, improve the overall productivity of your workplace.

Uncover Attitudes

You don’t stand a chance of modifying your employees’ attitudes if you only have a cursory understanding of what they think and feel. Begin your efforts with an employee an attitude survey. By composing and conducting an effective survey, you can get a clear picture of what your employees think. A survey is useful because employees may be reluctant to share some of their negative thoughts and feelings in a less-anonymous format. In addition, the mere implementation of a survey sends a message to employees that you care, which can effectively begin turning the tide on negative attitudes.

Focus on Phrasing

It’s not what you say, it’s how you say it. When it comes to producing a happy workforce full of vim and vigor, understanding this truth is vital. Try to eliminate negative words -- like" not" and "don’t" -- from your vocabulary altogether. Instead, phrase things in a positive manner to reduce the degree to which your corrections become attitude killers. For example, instead of saying, “Don’t format your quarterly reports this way,” try, “Great effort, Sarah. In the future, can you please format the quarter reports in columns? Do you want me to show you what I mean?” With a supportive and positive correction, you can show employees that you care and you can effectively modify their attitudes towards both you in particularly and the workplace in general.

Feed Positivity

Is you workplace full of negative attitudes? If so, try starving them out. As Linda L. Martin and Dr. David G. Murchler suggest in their book, “Fail-Safe Leadership,” one largely effective way to modify employee attitudes is to feed your employees a daily dose of positivity and, while doing so, deny them access to negativity. Try posting bold banners around the workplace that celebrate success. At company meetings, lavish praise on those who have done a good job, allowing all to see how much you appreciate their work. Put as little effort into negativity as you can. When you don't focus on negativity, this cancer in the workforce will die out as it becomes overshadowed by the almost overwhelming positivity you put into place.

Consider the Attitudes of New Hires

The old adage, “One rotten apple can spoil the whole bunch,” is surprisingly germane to the hiring process. If one employee brings a bad attitude to work, she can hurt the outlook of the other workers, serving as a black cloud that overcomes their otherwise sunny dispositions. While you likely won’t fire your workers for attitude problems they may possess, it is highly appropriate to consider attitude when hiring new workers, suggests Mark Murphy, author of “Hiring for Attitude.” By putting a concerted effort into hiring workers who are upbeat, motivated and eager, you can not only increase the likelihood that these new hires won’t contribute to negativity, but also potentially change the attitudes of existing workers by bringing in a new model of appropriate attitude for them to emulate.

About the Author

Erin Schreiner is a freelance writer and teacher who holds a bachelor's degree from Bowling Green State University. She has been actively freelancing since 2008. Schreiner previously worked for a London-based freelance firm. Her work appears on eHow, Trails.com and RedEnvelope. She currently teaches writing to middle school students in Ohio and works on her writing craft regularly.

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