When I first visited Croatia in the 1970s, I was struck by the negative attitudes of retail workers and their reluctance to provide assistance to customers. I remember entering one shop where I felt I wasn’t allowed to touch the merchandise, let alone ask for assistance. I quickly exited.
Years later, I am reflecting on this earlier experience and comparing it to my recent visits. What a difference a government makes! In the 1970s, Croatia was ruled by a communist regime, but today its government is learning and applying democratic principles. The change in worker attitudes is unmistakably positive. This trickle-down effect can be applied at any level, macro or micro, such as at the corporate level; literally anywhere there are leaders and followers.
Imagine working in an environment that does not encourage innovation, is change averse, and does nothing to reward employees for extra effort. If you are an employee in this environment, what is your attitude? It may very well be negative and perhaps, obstructionist. Because you are not given the tools and experiences with which to flourish, your organization’s operations may even be compared to those of a Third World country.
While it is true that we, as individuals, can choose to have a positive or negative attitude, employers have a responsibility to provide an environment that encourages positive attitudes. However, this does not admonish the individual. It is simple to blame our employer for our negative attitudes, but we also need to consider that we do have a choice. We can choose to be positive or negative, no matter what our circumstances.
Some psychological studies suggest that negative attitudes may prevail when one is dissatisfied with one’s lot in life and this leads to resentment of anyone else getting ahead. A resentful person in the workplace may exhibit behaviours such as not getting things done on time, not being helpful to others, not freely offering information that they know can save time, etc. There can also be a general reluctance to behave in a businesslike or professional manner.
What does this negative behaviour contribute? It contributes obstacles to increased productivity, obstacles to higher salaries, obstacles to more jobs, obstacles to advancement, and other work-related concerns. Effectively, growth and development is stifled; not only for the individual, but also for the organization (or the country, as the case may be).
A lesson can be learned from citizens from underdeveloped countries who immigrate to developed nations. These same individuals who held negative and obstructionist attitudes in their homelands hold markedly different attitudes in their new homes. The opportunities provided by governments of developed countries help these individuals acquire positive attitudes (or, perhaps, shed the negativity that they learned in their native land). These citizens work hard to be successful because their positive attitudes propel them to succeed.
If your organization is struggling, start the evaluation at the top of the hierarchy to determine what leaders are doing to help their employees have a positive and productive mindset. Like opportunities in developed countries, positive attitudes and strong work ethics trickle down from the top.