Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

Good attitude or bad: the choice is yours

It's a new year and a good time to assess how you approach challenges in your workplace

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The first step in making a New Year's resolution is to realize the active role you play in your own life. No, you aren't the victim of circumstance. No one else is to blame for the fact that you have not been able to quit smoking, lose weight or save money. Only once you become aware of how many of your daily choices you control, you can take positive measures towards becoming a better you.

When it comes to workplace resolutions, one thing that you do control is your attitude. Attitude is a choice. This might come as a surprise to those who believe that external factors such as unexpected experiences and encounters influence our moods and behaviour. But the truth is, your attitude is not happenstance; it's how we choose to respond to those factors.

Thankfully, choosing your attitude doesn't mean pasting on a fake smile or being forced to squeeze into a one-sized outlook. It's perfectly fine to be angry or sad if the situation calls for it. Choosing your attitude means being aware of how your attitude affects you and those around you. Once you accept that you are able to control your attitude, you can decide to keep it the way it is or change it into something that's more satisfying to you or beneficial to others.

Here are some examples of how choosing your attitude can positively or negatively influence the outcome of your actions:

Scenario No. 1: Your boss pairs you with a difficult co-worker to finish a project.

Choose a negative attitude: "This will be like pulling teeth. We're never going to get along." You roll your eyes remembering what it was like the last time you had to collaborate, visualizing that the person will keep you from meeting the coming deadline.

Choose a positive attitude: "We may not see eye to eye on everything, but we each have our individual strengths." You then break the project down into steps towards completion, staying focused on what you each do best in order to get things done.

Scenario No. 2: You've made an embarrassing mistake and it's too late to fix it.

Choose a negative attitude: "This is the worst thing that could happen. My boss will kill me!" Before anyone points a finger in your direction, you frantically try to cover your tracks or shift the blame. "If they hadn't done that, I wouldn't have done this!"

Choose a positive attitude: "Everyone makes mistakes, and I'll figure out how this could have happened." You admit to the slip-up and suggest ways to ensure it doesn't occur again. Then step back and ask yourself, "What can I learn from this?"

Scenario No. 3: A computer or other equipment malfunctions and brings work to a halt.

Choose a negative attitude: "Well, isn't this just great. Now my whole day is shot." Then you spend the next several hours waiting for a technician while complaining about the shoddy, outdated equipment that the company makes you work on.

Choose a positive attitude: "These things happen. Until it gets fixed, I'm sure I can reorganize my desk, finish reports, return phone calls, or lend a hand to someone who needs it." Then you do it, ensuring that the remainder of your day is still productive.

Scenario No. 4: A co-worker is promoted to a managerial position above yours.

Choose a negative attitude: "How come these things never happen to me?" you grumble. You realize you'll probably have to take on heaps of extra work that will go unappreciated while your co-worker gets settled into their cushy new arrangement.

Choose a positive attitude: "Good for them. I realize that if I want to advance in my own career, I also need to work hard and improve my skills," you say, offering to support your reassigned co-worker. "Stepping up now could be my chance to shine."

Every morning you wake up, you consciously choose to shut off the alarm clock, roll out of bed and go to the office. Likewise, the good attitude ("This is going to be a great day!") or the bad attitude ("Ugh, only eight hours to endure.") you put on and wear at work all day is up to you. Let 2011 be the year you realize that the choice is yours to make.

-- With reporting by Barbara Chabai

John McFerran, PhD, F.CHRP, is managing director of Boyden Global Executive Search. He can be contacted at


Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition January 15, 2011 I2

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