Applying emotional intelligence in the workplace

The importance of attitude

Of course, for any role there is a minimum set of capabilities someone needs to be safe and competent, but beyond the essentials, knowledge and skills can be taught.  Peoples’ poor attitude towards work however can be much more difficult to manage. 

Describing poor attitude
Where poor attitudes & behaviours exist within a team they can be very detrimental and disruptive.  Employees with negative attitudes are not only less productive individuals, but their character impacts on those around them too.  If not addressed their poor attitude will affect not only those immediately around them, but it will pervade throughout the teams they engage with too.  ‘One bad apple…’
One reason staff attitude can be difficult to manage is that they can be difficult for managers to clearly describe.  It may reflect in a lack of effort, low attention to detail, disrespect, poor time-keeping.  All of which affects their relationship with the team and how they (and ultimately the team) are perceived by others.  Whilst we may become frustrated by the attitude of some individuals, we can only manage the manifestation of this – their behaviours.
Behaviours are the physiological attributes displayed by a person; their conduct and demeanour as visible to others.  Examples of positive behaviour may include; smiling, making eye contact, and a gentle, polite tone of voice when speaking with colleagues.  Conversely, negative behaviours may include; being short or brusque in conversation, not greeting colleagues, disregarding office ‘social etiquette’.
Setting behavioural standards
If you need to manage staff attitude & behaviours, it is necessary to be clear about the expectations you have of people.  As the boss, you can simply make the rules, but if you want to make that a sustainable change, it is essential for the behavioural standards to be accepted by staff; to be owned by them.  They should be generated from members of the team themselves ... and not a hand-picked group!
The standards and expectations of behaviour should be developed by a self- selecting, cross-representative group, well networked within the organisation, and openly supported by the organisation.  This group should be charged with setting minimum standards of behaviour (below which cannot be tolerated), very simple, very clear and very few, and also an ‘excellence framework’ (a direction of travel) which is aspirational, flexible and adaptable.
Walking the walk.
It is essential that the expected behaviours are clearly demonstrated by managers and leaders at all levels.  They should also be encouraged in the formal and informal influencers and ‘change champions’ within the organisation.  They should be incorporated within policies and procedures and talked about in team meetings and one-to-ones to ensure they are embedded.  This will require a supportive environment and encouragement from you.
Celebrating the positive.
Having identified the attitudes and behaviours you aspire to, it is necessary to embed them in the culture of the organisation.  This is about recognition, praise and celebration when those behaviours are exhibited. How you best achieve this depends upon the size and underlying culture of your organisation.
Addressing non-compliance.
Addressing non-compliance is probably the most complex and also the most important part of embedding behavioural standards.  If they are not enforced uniformly, they will not become embedded.
In organisations of any size there will be those who don't agree with the change; the ‘laggards’.  They will find excuses like:  “…too much effort”, “…don't see the point”, or “…weren't engaged in the process”.  You need to be seen to manage the laggards or they will undermine the advocates at a grass roots level.
Dealing with the laggards requires three stages:
1. If possible, separate them from other laggards so they do not develop a ‘sub-culture’,
2. Give them encouragement and opportunity to change,
3. Challenge non-compliant behaviour in a fair, robust, and timely manner.
The advocates.
Advocates for the change will be enthusiastic ... for a while.  An enthusiasm that will wane if they do not feel supported and encouraged.  You need to support your champions by recognise their efforts and reward them (in an appropriate way for them).  If you support your champions and openly demonstrate commitment to the behavioural standards, they will eventually become self-sustaining.
Recruiting for values
In the process of changing the attitudes and behaviours of staff it is important that when you are recruiting you are careful to recruit for values that align with your company.

All the stages of re-thinking your organisations’ attitudes and behaviours require consideration of the best approach for your particular circumstances; the size of your’ organisation, organisational structure, the nature of your’ business.  If your’ organisation is small you can manage this within your existing team, however your change is critical or complex you may require external facilitation.

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