The first line manager’s responsibility is to keep a positive atmosphere in their work group. There is a saying that people do things for their reasons not yours. This is “ok” except when it comes to the workplace. Attitude is so important; it has such a great impact on workforce performance. Attitude cannot be left to the employee’s reason, to float from one extreme to another based on their perception of the workplace. The first line managers must clearly demand a positive attitude from the employees in their department. This critical performance measure cannot be left to chance.
I talk with employees about my experience in managing a business department. I tell them there are four types of employees in any work group.
Some employees like to start fires about what they do not like about a decision or a person. These employees like the fire. They usually start the fire by playing the “ain’t it awful game”. These employees are “Arsonist”.
Other employees contribute to the fire. They have stories to add and complaints to expand the issues. These employees are “Stokers”.
Some employees see the flames and smoke from the fire. They come to see what is burning. They do not get involved in the discussion, just stand around and nod their head and smile. This group is, in the main, is the largest group. They are the “Rubber Necker’s”.
A few employees come upon a fire and say wait a minute that story is not exactly the truth. These employees are actively trying to put out fires. Few employees fall into this group. A work group is lucky if they have one. These employees are “Fire Fighters”.
I ask the employee why are there are so few employee fire fighters. Before they can answer, I say, because it takes a lot of courage to run into a fire.
It is at this point, I ask the employee what kind of employee are they.
This conversation lets the employee know I have an understanding of how employees interact with each other. I tell them I want fire fighters not arsonist. It is their choice, they are responsible for their attitude. I am here to help them keep a positive attitude. I will discuss any business issue that causes them concern.
The first line manager must correct negative attitudes as quickly as possible. It takes courage to counsel an employee with the admonition to change their negative attitude. Employees with negative attitudes must correct it; because this negative attitude can spread like fire. First line managers must do as Barney Fife said, “nip it in the bud”.