Attitudinal Shifts

Guide your employees to look inside to make a good job great.

With the economy still in the pits and companies closely watching their wallets, most of us feel overworked and underappreciated. What was once a great job now feels difficult, tedious and stressful, which in turn sets the stage for tension to rise with coworkers, employees, bosses and even customers.

Given that new jobs are hard to come by and we can't change anyone but ourselves, our personal motivation dwindles and we become increasingly unhappy. Moreover, employees often mirror our attitudes and rationalize that if their managers, owners and executives don't care, then neither should they. Inherently, customers suffer the most, as revealed by slipping sales numbers.

So before we can talk about ways to motivate employees and keep them happy, perhaps we should take a look at our own happiness on the job. I have firsthand experience with this subject, having recently considered a job change that I thought would make me happier. After the interview, I realized that my job wasn't what needed changing; it was my attitude, which made me think about just how infectious both bad and good attitudes can be.

In her New York Times bestseller, “The Happiness Project,” Gretchen Rubin explains: “To be happier, you have to think about feeling good, feeling bad and feeling right, in an atmosphere of growth."

Most of us focus on the negative. We rarely take a good look at the positive parts of our jobs or our lives. For my part, it took a long time for me to realize that I like working in a grocery store. I like the fast pace on the store floor and all that comes with it, which also includes — as corny or far-fetched as it might sound — working with my husband. With this in mind, I believe that the greatest challenges before us as managers, specialists, owners and executives are to find more aspects of our jobs that make us feel good and then make more time for our employees.

I've also come to learn that it's also important to acknowledge that there are aspects of our jobs that just don't click with us for any number of reasons. I'm a cheesemonger, and there are a few things about the role that are admittedly not my favorite thing, foremost to which is cheese cutting. Thankfully, however, everyone's not the same, and other members of our cheese team feel quite the opposite. While I can't avoid cheese cutting completely, I delegate some of it, and our entire team is happier for it.

“Feeling right,” an infinitely more complicated mental state than feeling good or bad, “is about living the life that's right for you — in occupation, location, marital status and so on. It's also about virtue: doing your duty, living up to the expectations you set for yourself,” according to Rubin. Sometimes, to feel right, we need to make big changes, but more frequently, we need only to make minor ones like creating a better workplace for ourselves by working harder, building better relationships or just taking some time to breathe. When we find ways to make our jobs right for ourselves, we can more effectively motivate others to be happier and work harder, thereby fostering an atmosphere of growth, an essential part of a successful business.

Growth doesn't have to involve anything extraordinary. We can learn more about our products, source new ones or become better organized. Employees grow when we encourage and teach them new ways to enhance performance. We can also help customers grow when we educate them on products or recipes.

When we think about our feelings — good, bad, right or otherwise — we will gain the perspective to forge new relationships with our bosses, employees and customers, instead of holding on to our bad feelings.

The author can be reached at [email protected].

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