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It's A Gray Area: Workers' attitudes can make or break them

September 03, 2011|By James P. Gray

Because Labor Day weekend is upon us, I am passing along to you some insights I have picked up over many years while working to help resolve employment disputes. I hope that they can help you or people close to you in applying for, keeping and being successful in a job.

The first insight came from a manager of a large company who said that workers are hired for ability and fired for attitude. Like anyone else, employers are attracted to people who have an optimistic and "can do" spirit, and who appear happy to be on the team. And not only does optimism provide a better work environment, it also attracts and retains customers.

Another important thing for workers (and businesses) to keep in mind is that if you give value to your employer (and customers) you will always be in demand. In other words, if you bring more benefit to companies than it costs them, or you charge less for your work or products than they are worth, you will always have work if you want it.

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So even if you are unhappy, discouraged or bored in your work, or if you are looking for employment somewhere else, do not give even a hint of that to your employer. Why? Because if your employer sees that to be your attitude, your days there will be numbered. (The exception is that once you have found a new position, you should always give reasonable notice to your present employer, so that you can maintain your integrity and be able to leave on good terms.) For example, once the partners of my former law firm discovered that I was applying for an appointment as a judge, they realized that I did not see my future as being with the firm. Thus never again did I receive a raise in salary, or even a year-end bonus.

If all else fails, workers should play the "as if" game that many successful marital counselors encourage their clients to play. That means that the workers should act as if everything at work (or at home) is simply fine. If done effectively, usually their job performance and also their job satisfaction both improve. In some ways this is putting into effect the recommendation of Harry Truman, who said: "Always be sincere, even if you don't mean it."

Some more specific suggestions are, first, to be a team player. Do not stoop to gossiping about anyone on your team; make your boss look good; and pass credit for success on to your colleagues.

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