Saturday, February 6, 2010

Volume 5, Number 4: Attitude and Incentive

In my life, I've found that attitude and incentive go hand-in-hand.

What do I mean by that?

Consider the workplace--any workplace. From an employer's perspective, an employee with a good attitude is more likely to do good work, stay with the company for a long time and be considered for promotions down the road. On the employee's side of the coin, if they work towards an incentive and that incentive gets yanked away from them, or they work for a company for a long time but are not considered for promotions or even pay raises, their attitude towards their job and that company will ultimately go south.

People have lost jobs, loved ones and even freedom due to a loss of temper. What does that have to do with attitude and incentive? Well, they lost sight of what they stood to lose--the incentives--and why? Because they put their emotions ahead of everything else--a poor attitude adjustment.

When attitude and incentive are out of balance, there's something wrong. Certainly, the 2008 case of a Michigan postal worker failing to deliver mail was beyond wrong; what happened in that instance was simply criminal. Jill Hull, a mail carrier for 3 1/2 years prior to resigning on August 16, had stashed more than 9,000 pieces of mail into a storage unit. According to postal agent Douglas Mills, "When asked why she did it, Hull stated that she could not do the job but needed the job."

When people seek even greater incentive than the more-than-adequate compensation they were already getting for a job, that can be construed as another example where their attitude toward a job had changed. Consider two recent cases from the world of sports where individuals compromised their morals in order to obtain something more for themselves. NBA referee Tim Donaghy used his whistle depending on whether some oddsmaker wanted the "over" or the "under." Evidently, his six-figure salary wasn't good enough for him. And as I mentioned in a previous blog entry, baseball slugger Barry Bonds just wasn't satisfied with having the richest contract in baseball; he resorted to steroids and other performance-enhancing substances to steal the records for the most home runs in a season and the most career home runs in Major League Baseball history.

You could also apply the principle of attitude being tied to incentive to the realm of learning. I wasn't interested in learning how to repair or maintain a car until I had my own car. I had no interest in the inner workings of my washing machine until that day four years ago when it broke down. Being interested in a given subject can be construed as characteristic of a good attitude; if, on the other hand, someone says they're not interested in whatever you're talking about, that doesn't resemble a good attitude.

So next time you find yourself occupied with some great reward someone gave you, or have a bad taste in your mouth over a transaction that went sour, consider the balance between attitude and incentive. You just might see the matter in a whole new light.

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