No doubt you’ve heard the saying “Attitude Is Everything.” While attitude might not really be “everything,” in many situations it is the single most significant factor of success.

Winston Churchill said, “Attitude is a little thing that makes a big difference.” Many organizations have discovered that the best people to hire are those with the best attitudes. They make the difference as team players and performers. Workplace culture, however, can significantly influence employee attitudes.

Although personal attitudes are influenced by core values, it is greatly influenced by management. Employee attitude about the product, about their work, about their managers, and about the organization will ultimately determine the quality of their work.

Most attitudes are formed as we grow into maturity. Teachers, ministers, and parents influence our attitude. Once an attitude is formed, it’s pretty much the way a person will think about any subject. We vote, select a spouse, pick an automobile, and raise our children based on that attitude.  For the same reason, our attitude about our job, the product or service we produce, and about our leaders influence the quality of our work.

If we work in a dirty or cluttered workplace, with rejected material sitting around and a supervisor who will ship anything, what kind of attitude is likely to develop? An attitude of “That’s good enough” will result in “that’s good enough” work.  Often, managers cannot understand why their products and services suffer a high defect rate when the answer is in front of them.

“People may hear your words, but they feel your attitude.”

If workers have a clean, well-organized, well-equipped, and safe workplace, this positive atmosphere will influence their attitudes. Employees know all about management’s attitude; they know what management will tolerate.

Attitude becomes habit, so something is needed to break an old habit in order to establish a new one. For instance, a special event, like kicking off a new quality improvement program, announcing a new product, a new manager, or a new customer can help establish a new habit. If done well, it could be a fresh start for everyone.

Attitudes are also affected by repetitive messages such as training, communications, and advertising. Some quality experts argue that advertising doesn’t work; however, there is evidence that, if done correctly, it can be very positive.

Advertising can be an effective attitude adjustment tool. The concept of advertising is to get into a person’s head. In advertising terms, the idea is to position your organization and the product correctly in the employee’s mind.

I have a friend who thinks the BMW is the quality standard of the auto industry. That’s his attitude. Yet, he never owned one and never rode in one, let alone drove one. Who convinced him it was the best? Could it have been the publicity campaigns for the product?

Always keep the quality message in front of people using posters, special events, award presentations, et al. To be effective, do it with good taste, sincerity, and consistency.

Housekeeping can be a big issue for an organization. Are the yellow lines on the factory floors looking pale? Are overhead lights dim? Are desks, file cabinets, and machines cluttered with paper that should be put away or tossed out? Are the restrooms and breakrooms clean? These things send a powerful message.

Managers must be the role model for the quality attitude and performance standard they want their organization to have! Workers emulate managers’ attitudes and performance standard. The managers’ attitude has the most direct effect on their employee’s attitude, and thus on product quality. A manager who is willing to bend the specification to get something out the door to meet a shipping order has demonstrated a negative “that’s good enough” attitude in the people he or she leads.   

Should we measure attitudes to determine their impact? There are scientific tests to evaluate a person’s attitude. Forget them! We already know how to measure attitude because we do it every day. After failing to get service from a clerk at a return counter, we might leave thinking, “That person has a lousy attitude!” You don’t need to put a number on it!

The important thing is that management must recognize the importance of attitude and, if it’s not to their liking, do something about it. First, hire people with good attitudes. Second, do everything possible to influence positive attitudes. Third, take a close look at the attitude of the people who lead others. Get rid of people who fail to transfer their bad attitudes into positive behaviors and start with those who influence others. Forth, keep attitude in mind when making decisions. John C. Maxwell, an internationally recognized leadership expert, said, “People may hear your words, but they feel your attitude.”