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Why A Manager's Attitude Matters

Attitude is “manner, disposition, feeling, position, etc., with regard to a person or thing; tendency or orientation, especially of the mind.” 

Typically, we use the terms “good attitude” or “bad attitude.” Neither of very specific or objective. But we know each when we see them in a manager, and we are affected by those attitudes. Attitude is an intangible soft skill that everyone wants their manager to have even if it’s not easy to define.

The Attitude Of A Good Manager

People with a bad attitude dwell on the negative, grouse about circumstances that are out of their control, lack confidence in themselves and others, complain a lot, and are defeatists.

By contrast, people with a good attitude exhibit these 10 things:

  1. Focus on goals and a vision of an ideal future state.Graphic Showing Attitude of a Good Manager
  1. Put time and energy into what they can control to chip away at problems or obstacles.
  1. Believe they can make an impact, even if it starts out as a small one.
  1. Have confidence in others around them, even if it means helping others grow and get ready.
  1. Regulate their emotions and choose, more often, to minimize stress and maintain self-control.
  1. Adopt a growth mindset to try new things and accept failure as a learning opportunity.
  1. Identify opportunities, workarounds, and contingency plans to keep going.
  1. Are generally optimistic that things will turn out all right.
  1. Look for the good in others and assume good intent vs. being suspicious or jaded.
  1. Genuinely want to succeed and to see others succeed, too.

Attitude starts with mindset. Being optimistic, confident, trusting, growth-oriented, and open staves off insidious thoughts that take us to the negative.

Highly successful managers work, intentionally, to maintain a good attitude. They understand that their attitude will be contagious, and they avoid bringing negativity into the workplace. They don’t indulge their emotional whims without forethought about the impact on others. And they certainly don’t expect others on the team to provide emotional support and lift their spirits. Instead, good managers set the tone and take their negativity elsewhere.

Good managers know that positivity and a “can do” spirit are also contagious. That’s why they are upbeat, inspiring, and radiate optimism even when the going gets tough.

How Much Latitude Do You Have with Attitude?

 By now, you may be thinking that this seems impossible. To be optimistic even in the face of adversity? To be inspiring when you’re struggling to see any light at the end of the tunnel? To show confidence when you feel stuck or defeated? Maybe, you’re thinking, that’s too much to ask.

Think about this from another perspective. Who would you rather work for? A manager who cracks under pressure and is a chronic naysayer? Or a manger who keeps trying and believes it’s possible to win, even when it’s difficult to do so?

Of course! We’d all prefer to work for someone who believes. That’s because we need to believe that our work is meaningful, that we are building toward a better future, and that the goals are achievable. We all work harder when we believe we can accomplish something. Without that belief and hope, our work becomes meaningless and unfulfilling. 

That doesn’t mean you have to be inauthentic or “on” all the time. You’re going to have moments when you’re unable to conjure positivity. There will be times when you truly can’t see a way through the obstacles and aren’t sure if things are going to turn out okay. 

There’s a difference between being in a bad mood and having a bad attitude. Mood is temporary. Attitude becomes pervasive and long-lasting. Your mood can affect your attitude if you let it. More often, though, your attitude is what will influence your mood. You can take charge of your attitude and will likely experience a better mood when you consciously choose to develop a good attitude.

Here’s where attitude needs to get coordinated with action.

When you’re not feeling positive, you have a choice. You can grumble, fret, and exhibit pessimism and frustration. Or you can withdraw until you regroup and find positives to focus on.

Focusing on positives and developing the mindset we’ve described here requires action. Don’t wait around to feel good and hope that a positive attitude will materialize on its own. Instead, choose to work on your attitude even if your mood isn’t great. 

As we discussed in a previous post about emotional intelligence, this is about regulating your emotions and staying in control of them. Feeling something doesn’t necessarily require expression of that feeling. As a manager, you have an impact on others. You have to decide which impact to have and when. Unfettered feelings may not serve you well.

The Impact of Your Attitude on Others

As a manager, everything you say and do has an impact. Your attitude does, too. A positive attitude from a manager produces positive attitudes in employees. A negative attitude has the opposite effect.

When team morale and employee engagement is low, the responsibility lies with the manager. Engagement surveys almost always show a clear link between unhappy employees and ineffective managers. Questions on engagement surveys that reveal bad attitudes emanating from managers include:

  • Are you confident in the overall effectiveness of your supervisor?
  • Does your manager do things that help you and your team succeed?
  • Do you feel that your manager cares about you as a person?
  • Do you enjoy coming to work each day?
  • Do you know what it takes to succeed in your job?


Employee engagement, you may recall from previous CONNECT2Lead posts, is absolutely essential. A DDI study concluded that “engagement is the primary enabler of successful execution of ANY business strategy.”

Improvements in engagement levels yield higher rates of employee retention, productivity, and customer satisfaction. Subsequently, those improvements produce higher revenues and stronger profit margins. Every bit of this is linked to engagement which, in turn, is linked to you, the manager.

As The Corporate Leadership Council found “the manager has tremendous impact on employees’ levels of commitment to the team, organization and job.” The numbers in this illustration tell the tale:

Attitude of a Good Manager

You’ll notice that this illustration focuses on emotional commitment. That’s hardly insignificant. See, engagement itself is “an increased emotional commitment that an employee feels that causes them to apply additional discretionary effort to their work.”

Attitude is linked to emotions. Your attitude influences other people’s emotions and their emotional commitment to their work. If they aren’t feeling positive about the work, their emotional commitment wanes. Then they apply less discretionary effort to their work. That, in turn, is shown to have an adverse effect on retention, productivity, customer satisfaction, revenue, and profitability.

All this is linked to YOUR attitude and the actions you choose to exhibit!

Research bears this out. Mark Murphy, author of Hiring for Attitude, reported on research with 20,000 new hires, of which 46% faltered in the first 18 months. 89% of those who failed, Murphy found, had issues related to their attitudes.

What that means is that you have to hire for good attitude and then model a positive attitude if that’s what you expect from employees. Since positive attitude is linked to success, you need to be sure it’s one of the characteristics you hire for and model!

What’s more, since people are attracted to work cultures where they feel they can easily fit in, you need a good attitude to attract and retain others with a good attitude. Then, because your attitude affects employees’ emotional commitment, you also need a positive attitude to retain top performers.

Managing Your Attitude As A Manager

Want to know the fastest way to destroy employee morale? Check out this webinar with research about why and how your attitude affects others. Spoiler alert: it’s all about your attitude and how you express your emotions.

This isn’t about denying or suppressing your emotions. They are valid, and you’re entitled to feel what you feel. But consider two things.

First, maybe you can help how you feel. Maybe you don’t have to be consumed by emotions that you indulge and fuel. Maybe you can pause, consider the usefulness of those emotions, and determine what to do with them. If they aren’t going to help you, you may decide to spend less time focusing on them.

Second, maybe you can manage the expression of those emotions in order to be more effective. In any situation, you can determine if showing those emotions to others will help or hurt the situation. Rather than automatically reacting, you can choose to process privately and decide in your own time how to respond (if at all) to that emotion.

For example, maybe you’re hurt and disappointed by something your boss has done. You could carry that emotion all day long, outwardly displaying it to members of your team by retreating into your office or announcing the bad news with strong emotional overtones. But to what end? Will that make you and your team more effective? Will it improve output or morale? Or will it merely make you feel better for a minute?

Remember, mood and emotions are temporary. If you express them without considering the consequences, you might affect others more than you realize. If you do this regularly, it will show up eventually as a negative attitude – in you and in others.

As we said above, a positive attitude can have a beneficial effect on your mood. You can take proactive steps to shift your attitude. Try these seven tips for adopting and maintaining a positive attitude:

  1. Focus on the positives

    What do you like about your job and the company you work for? Shift your attention to these positive attributes and let them drive you in your day-to-day work. Focus, too, on the positives and strengths you see in each member of your team. By “counting your blessings” and deploying them, you will have a better shot at tackling the negatives you’d like to change.
  1. Surround yourself with positive people

    Stop hanging out with co-workers or others who constantly complain. It’s not healthy, and it’s not productive. It’s pointless. Look instead for people who generate new ideas for solving problems and infuse conversations with enthusiasm and optimism. Attitudes, whether positive or negative, are contagious. Don’t expose yourself to attitudes that will be damaging to your team and your career.
  1. Filter your thoughts

    Negativity may creep in from time to time. You may have a lifetime of tapes in the back of your mind that take you down a dark path of can’t, shouldn’t, won’t, don’t thinking. When you find yourself thinking like this, challenge the thoughts. Are they outdated? Irrelevant? Unproductive? Self-defeating? Taking you off course? If so, discard them. Replace them with positive images and a vision that’s worth working toward. This will take some practice, but you will be able to eradicate those habitual negative thoughts in time.
  1. Monitor what you say

    Just because you feel it doesn’t mean you have to share it. Save your complaints for those times when they’re absolutely necessary. That way, they’ll have more impact because people won’t roll their eyes and ignore you. They’ll take you more seriously if your complaints are infrequent vs. constant. Likewise, before you air negative thoughts, consider the impact on your team and others. Is it worth it to say something that, for you, will be gone as soon as you say it? Others will cling to it longer and be affected by it more.
  1. Build positive, affirming experiences into your day

    To lift your mood and make your positive attitude stick, do things that make you feel good. Give someone a compliment or your appreciation – that makes them, and you, feel good. Take a mid-day walk to clear your head. Peek at a private folder of accolades you’ve received in the past to remind yourself of how capable you really are. Pursue a few minutes of learning each day to stretch yourself. Figure out what works for you and use it to recharge your positivity.
  1. Refuse to see yourself as a victim

    Everyone faces challenges and circumstances they’d rather not deal with in their work. You will, too. It’s not because someone is trying to undermine you. It’s probably not about you at all. These are just the circumstances, and your job is to figure out how to reach your goal in spite of them. Seize control of the situation and show others that you can be counted on to make things happen no matter what.
  1. Break problems down into manageable chunks and celebrate the small wins

    Sure, there are things you can’t do right now. But there are also things you can do. Start there. Success breeds success, so give yourself and your team some opportunities to succeed. Break complex problems down into smaller steps. Look for incremental improvements and ways to make progress a little bit at a time. Celebrate that progress as it happens instead of waiting for the whole problem to disappear. Little by little, you’ll get there.

If you need help severing ties with your old habits that foster a negative attitude, consider hiring a certified executive coach. The investment you’ll make a small one because the ROI will show up immediately in employee retention, productivity, customer satisfaction, revenue, and profitability. A transformation in your attitude will also get your career back on track and position you as a leader the company wants to keep on their team. Check out this free self-assessment to determine if coaching is the right solution for you. 

Since positive attitudes start with optimism and confidence, you may also wish to keep building your skills as a manager. That will give you an extra measure of assurance that you can do the job. At PFPS, we’ve designed an eLearning course for supervisors that also includes leadership development. You’ll find ways to build both competence and confidence if you invest in this DIY, self-paced course called Workplace Conversations.

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