Attitude and Altitude
by Jake Block
I’ve lived long enough to know, and have screwed up enough to confirm, that your attitude has at least as much, if not more to do with how far you will go in life as skill. I’ve seen instance upon instance of circumstances where people who were brilliant in their jobs, with the potential of rising to the top of their field failing miserably because of their attitudes. They are so caught up in their own sense of self that they make the fatal error in thinking that “this company would be nothing without ME.” Soon, the rules don’t apply to THEM, and they become arrogant, thinking that they are in control. They push, when cooperation would serve them better, demand when requesting will get them what they need, and they’re always taken aback when they get that Friday afternoon appointment with the corporate boss who thanks them for their service, tells them to clean out their desk by the end of day, and are escorted by security out the door.
They were good… they were productive… but they became a disruptive element in the corporate structure and corporations don’t do well with loose cannons. Like the weapons for which they were named, unless adequately harnessed and controlled, they can careen across the deck, leaving havoc and destruction in their path. Sometimes, when a weapon is too bulky or powerful to be restrained, it’s better to just shove them off the deck to sink of their own weight into the sea. Human “loose cannons” too must sometimes be let go, for they fail to remember the “corporate golden rule.” Simply stated, it’s “He who has the gold makes the rules.” Failure to follow the rules or simply “fit in with the corporate culture” can and will get you fired.
“A bad attitude from a chronic complaining employee is like a cancer; it will only spread and infect others. This can take your business down in a nanosecond. You must cut out the cancer and invite them to seek employment elsewhere. Quickly.”
— Beth Ramsay
In the military, we called it “affected attitude.” A display of bad attitude could result in loss of your days off for 30 days. If that didn’t change your attitude, then an Article 15 (Non-judicial punishment) could put you in the slammer for a “short tour” of 30 days and/or take a substantial portion of your pay away and even a reduction in rank. If THAT didn’t work, you could be discharged with a Bad Conduct Discharge, which is bad, but if your behavior was bad enough, a Dishonorable Discharge, with harsh penalties that can follow you for a lifetime.
Those with a bad attitude seldom rise though the levels of employment to positions of authority and trust. You might be the best thing since sliced bread, but the employer (or person in charge) has to ask themselves if keeping you around is worth the aggravation that you cause. Part of that is simply that they don’t NEED the aggravation, and part of it is, in part, purely financial. If you are a recently hired person, do they want to put up with your bad attitude as you become more involved in the workings of the company and, inevitably, quit the company in a fit of pique, taking the knowledge that you have gained with you to benefit the competition? And if you have already “risen through the ranks” and have attained corporate skills, is it more cost effective to keep you and your disruptive attitude around, or would it be better to let you go and hire on someone to train at a much lower pay rate, saving money and getting rid of an irritant at the same time.
In my military and civilian careers, I have dealt with the problem of bad attitudes several times and, after attempting to get their attention through counseling and remedial training without success, found that it was both operationally and financially most efficient to send the bad actors on their way. “Thank you for playing, please pick up your lovely parting gift as you leave the building.” I could tell you I felt badly… but I didn’t, because the needs of the group and its success always come first. I would much rather send the bad actors packing than allow their bad attitudes to lead to disruption.
Conversely, those who displayed a good attitude, kept their noses clean and enhanced the group’s efficiency and productivity found me most willing to help them succeed in any way possible, with promotions and pay raises commensurate with their contributions to the group. It wasn’t altruism, and it wasn’t because I’m just a good guy. In being a team player and not “making waves,” their efforts and enhanced production made me look good to my superiors, resulting in promotions and pay raises. My attitude played into my advancements as well, because in well organized and maintained corporate cultures, while it does occur, managers with bad attitudes are often worse for the company’s bottom line than the bad actors in the workforce.
While there are some people who wear their bad attitude like a badge of honor, and find it a ready made excuse for their failures in life, most people find it a detriment to their success and satisfaction and work hard at changing it. Overcoming a bad attitude is a process that requires work, personal effort and admitting to oneself that their attitude is a significant impediment to success. Most often, one has to learn to curb one’s impulse to negativity, sarcastic response, and vengeance for every perceived sleight. Until one gets those traits under control, they will remain a disruptive element, doomed to eventual failure.
There are people for whom a bad attitude is a badge of honor. “Macht nichts” to me. And from the viewpoint of an employer, they don’t really care either, because in the long run, it’s the business and the bottom line that matters. They aren’t going to employ someone who is simply unwilling to work harmoniously with others and the public. In my experience, the person who most considers their bad attitude an asset is the person who will complain the loudest when that bad attitude costs them their job.