What A Positive Employee Looks Like

“It takes 20 years to build a reputation and only five Minutes to ruin it. If you think about that, you will do things differently.”

Warren Buffett, world-class investor

If you’re a manager, you can’t afford to have negative, non-performing people on the payroll. 3M discovered that. When they laid off the bottom 10% or their poorest performers at one facility, their productivity went up 18%. When they laid off another 10% — or the next poorest set of performers — productivity went up another 4%. 3M learned that negative employees not only produced less, they cost more.

And you know the kinds of employees I’m talking about. Negative employees destroy morale and turn off customers by talking negatively. It’s like the manager who asked his new secretary, “Why don’t you ever answer the telephone?” She said, “Why should I? Nine times out of ten it’s for you!”

Negative employees do just enough to get by. They don’t have a lot of drive, and they don’t take a lot of initiative. They may even say, “I’ve just got 7 more years, 3 months, and 2 days, and I’m out of here.” In other words, they’ve got a lousy work attitude.

Likewise, if you’re an employee, you can’t afford to take a negative attitude to your job. According to Dr. Marion Stottlemire at the Kansas University Public Management Center, “One of the greatest causes of stress in the modern world is unhappiness with our work or our work situation. YOU CANNOT AFFORD TO BE UNHAPPY ON THE JOB. It is killing you.”

That being the case … how does an employee with a good positive attitude BEHAVE? He/she will always exhibit four characteristics.

1. Positive employees know hard work is good for the soul.

Most people know it’s good for the company. It’s good for the customer. It’s even good for the country. But only the winners know it’s also good for the soul.

Best-selling author Rabbi Harold Kushner says it so well. He says, “Work hard, not solely because it will bring you rewards and promotions, but because it will give you a sense of being a competent person. Something corrosive happens to the souls of people who stop caring about the quality of their work…and begin to go through the motions.”

2. Positive employees decide to enjoy their work … no matter what.

Certainly, no job is perfect, and there’s always room for improvement. There’s always something to complain about. In spite of that, winners decide they’re going to like their work. It’s a decision they make, not a feeling they have if everything is going well.

Winners are like Robert. When I learned that he had been passed over for a promotion, when I learned that a subordinate had gotten the job, I asked him how he was dealing with it. He replied, “Well for a while I was quite bitter. Then I realized that I was making myself miserable. I decided that I had always liked this job, and I was just going to keep doing it and make the most of it.”

Your job may not be fun. It may not even be meaningful. But if you’re a winner, you’re going to enjoy your work … no matter what. I know it sounds a little harsh, but I’ve often told my audiences, if you think your job stinks, if you think employment is bad, try unemployment for a little while.

3. Positive employees see the good in every situation.

Like anyone else, Emotionally Intelligent people can see what’s wrong with a situation, but they don’t get stuck on that point. Emotionally Intelligent people keep themselves motivated by seeing the good in any situation and focus on how they could make it better.

By contrast, the negative people focus on a minor annoyance and let it ruin everything. It’s like the person who was chosen to attend my two-day program, “The Journey To The Extraordinary.” Even though the trip and program were paid by his company; the hotel was very nice, and the training was excellent, his only comment about the entire event was the fact that the chairs in the training room were uncomfortable. I’m sure they were. But his focus on the uncomfortable chairs kept him from experiencing the transformation everyone else was experiencing.

Of course, positive employees … who see the good in every situation … may annoy the losers in the company. The losers may see these positive people as Pollyannaish or blind, and they may be disgusted with those people who aren’t wallowing in the negativity with them. So be it.

4. Positive employees ask how they can do more than is expected.

They’re never satisfied with merely getting by or doing the bare minimum. They know … if they were to do that … that they couldn’t possibly feel good about themselves.

So positive employees find out what’s expected and do their best to exceed those expectations. Whether it’s dazzling a customer with better service than she’s ever experienced before … or surprising a coworker by offering extra help … positive employees focus on how they can do more, not less.

Concluding Thought: If you’re trying to assemble a top-notch team, look for these four characteristics. And if you want to move ahead in your career, display these four Emotionally Intelligent behaviors. They always work!

ACTION: Choose this day … choose this week … to consciously, deliberately display more positive behaviors at work.