If you use the “Hire for Attitude, Train for Skill” approach touted by Southwest Airlines, you may expect that your new employees will continue to display those great open attitudes far beyond the three month introductory period. “Great” attitudes, like the people who wear them, can change over time. Consider some of these attitude erosion factors:
The Opening You cannot meet your new employee the first day; you do not appoint a sub, but leave it to ‘your staff’; you have no allotted space for the person. These may seem like minor factors that you can smile away but added together they set a tone that an employee may read as: your indifference, lack of organization, or plain old unprofessionalism. If not offset initially, these negative impressions take root and produce caution in the employee.
The Midway You find that your new employee is more skilled than you thought, you pile on new duties; you like the work but continually tweak the results; you push the employee in front of peers to show off what s/he can do. These may seem like great opportunities that should boost the employee. You might be surprised if your employee reads these actions as: unfair use or advantage, tweaks show lack of trust, or, all work and no rewards. If not addressed, these negative feelings, hidden at first, may gradually damage the employee’s performance and relationships.
The Last Call You observe that your employee with the great attitude takes longer lunches, seems grumpy more often than not, doesn’t offer ideas at meetings. These may seem like personal problems have crept into the workplace. If these signals are ignored, you may find that great attitude fizzled out completely, and you have another Attitude problem.
While many factors affect attitudes, I find that the direct supervisor or manager – the one must responsible for the outcomes of employees — has the greatest impact on shaping and maintaining employees’ attitudes. That relationship starts in the interview, moves through the offer and on the first day. If The Opening firmly establishes rapport and a solid relationship, minor glitches stay minor — they don’t build up. If The Midway is filled with dialogues and feedback, clear goal-setting and direction, appreciation and honesty, then misinterpretations don’t occur and negative feelings don’t fester. There is no Last Call.
Wait a minute! How about the manager or supervisor who is never around? Always in meetings? Leaves employees alone? Even worse, I say!
That manager or supervisor then leaves employee attitudes to Chance. Chance may take the form of the employee group (team) where there is usually an informal leader who influences attitude. Chance may isolate a new ‘great attitude’ employee for not fitting in. Chance may leave a great attitude intact for a short period of time — but not a sustained period. Chance may let changes infect a great attitude turning it sour. In the end, it’s too chancy for a manager or supervisor to absent himself or herself from employees. Managers’ interest, appreciation and direction still count.