Few weeks back we had conducted a poll on LinkedIn. The responses were solicited to the question- Which is the most important change for anybody to emerge stronger during this current crisis? The results
Overwhelmingly, respondents voted for change in attitude. Since the profile of respondents had CXO level professionals, academicians, and representation from over eight industry sectors and functional roles, I am assuming that the verdict reflects the thinking of the larger populace. The question is how does one change one’s attitude? But before that how does one define attitude? I talked to people at home, work, experts and tried to understand what attitude is. I conclude that all of us use the word without a concrete definition in our mind. Something like the word professional at the workplace. The definition of the word attitude as per Cambridge dictionary is ‘a feeling or opinion about something or someone, or a way of behaving that is caused by this’. The word behaviour is closely related to attitude with all the individuals whom I spoke with. And communication is one of the ways of understanding a person’s attitude is what I heard most people say. “People may hear your words, but they feel your attitude” is what I had read somewhere. Therefore, our behaviour and communication individually or in conjunction makes others ‘assess’ or form an opinion about our attitude. Let us stay with this as this seems to represent public opinion. I remember studying in B School that behaviour of an individual is a function of the person’s heredity and environment in which the person has grown up. Most of the fiction that we see or read corroborates this theory. If this is true, then attitude is an ‘outcome of a cause/stimulus’. What we often describe as behaviour is a manifestation of traits which lie underneath. Angry behaviour could be a manifestation of a deep-seated insecurity within a person. Therefore, if one needs to change attitude, one needs to change the ‘causes’ whose ‘outcome’ is the attitude displayed by an individual. Lot is spoken and read about positive attitude. Positive attitude is what needs to be inculcated and is desirable. However, negative attitude can often inspire an individual to achieve what positive attitude may not. Organized, destructive behaviour as we often witness is a result of a negative attitude or feeling which drives such people. In my experience as a working professional, I believe that attitude at work is a combination of an individual’s attitude towards self, work, and workplace. The intersection of the three ‘attitudes’ presents the individual’s attitude as assessed/understood by people at workplace. Let us examine all the three in the current context and what could help any individual to bring about the ‘change in attitude’ which the poll suggests. Let us talk about self, first. My experience suggests that our attitude towards self is a combination of our skills, knowledge, conviction, and confidence about what we need to deliver at work. This combination makes us ‘believe’ in ourselves. Often this belief about self is misplaced in context to others at work. This leads to superiority or inferiority complex at work. Which, in turn influences our behaviour and paints the picture of our attitude. In the current context, the most important attitude that any organization will look for in its people is adaptability. The business scenario is extremely fluid, and the pressures are from different angles and layers. Decision making is based on ambiguity and ever shifting milestone. Adaptability is more about unlearning and relearning. Clinging on to formula which has given success in the past may be suicidal. Adaptability starts with a singular thought in mind- flexibility. In the current scenario adaptability can be driven by honing existing skills or acquiring new skills. The set of skills- functional and behavioural- are being driven by altered business dynamics due to the pandemic. To adapt, individual needs to overcome fear of failure and get out of the individual comfort zone. It is no longer an option. It is a compulsion. There is no point in brooding over the past or the need to change. The willingness to attempt and embrace change is the first step towards improved adaptability. Attitude towards work is closely interlinked with one’s attitude regarding self. Several organizations with whom we consult have been forced to reduce salaries due to variety of compulsions due to this pandemic. A handful of individuals in these companies are of the opinion that why should they work full time when they are not being paid full salaries? In my opinion these individuals are suffering from a false sense of indispensability. No work is perfect. It cannot be. In the current circumstances one might need to do several things at work which one did not need to do during the pre-pandemic days. One needs to accept this as the demand at work at this moment and align oneself to the same. There is no other alternative. This links to the previous observation regarding learning new skills or honing existing skills to remain ‘relevant’ to the organization and business. That must be the singular objective of every individual- remain relevant. Else future could be jeopardised. Workplace has a new meaning with work from home being the forced option for many. This is a huge challenge. As well as an opportunity. Nobody is ‘watching’ me at work does not make me a free bird. Conscientiousness is the key. What is important is achieving what is expected of me on a daily, weekly and/or any periodicity basis. Those who are working from home will provide significant insights for their supervisors and senior management regarding their attitude towards workplace and work. I am not following a daily goal at work. Neither is my team. Instead, I have broken up the week into two halves. By end of Wednesday I must achieve what I am expected to in the first half of the week. Team review is also Monday morning to understand week’s plan; Wednesday morning to assess progress and Friday evening to close the week. Every Friday one member of the team must ‘teach’ the rest about a relevant subject pertaining to our business. We believe that this framework of the workplace has benefited us. Business leaders must innovate in this area to suit the requirement of their businesses. That will reflect their attitude towards their team members. It is said that a picture is worth a thousand words. I could not resist sharing this picture which I received as a forward. It says it all that I wanted to say.