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Tim Millett
Published by Tim Millett
08 October 2013

When you read the Merriam-Webster definition for attitude, there is a list of 7 different explanations as to how the word can be used. Reading down the list it is abundantly clear that attitude is not only a state of emotional or physical being but it is also something we consciously choose to adopt. In effect, attitude reflects a decision that has been made about a response to stimuli.

In the workplace, attitude plays an enormous role in the ability of an organisation to be effective and efficient. It defines a company’s culture and determines its responsiveness to customers. Attitude also comes into play in management-staff interactions and can make the difference between developing a productive team and coping with a dysfunctional unit.

As an interesting exercise, it’s possible to go through each of the official definitions for attitude and apply them to the business organisation. One of the interesting facts about attitude is that it affects every type of business whether it’s a sole proprietorship or a large corporation with an extensive customer service department.

It also impacts each organisational member. You may be in charge of the entire sales and service department, the CEO or the mail clerk and will find attitude is affecting how well the job is done or the unit is performing.

1. Arrangement of the Parts of a Body or Figure

Obviously the first dictionary definition for attitude, “arrangement of the parts of a body or figure”, refers to posture. But if you think about the organisational unit as being a single person that needs to maintain a particular posture, the definition fits.

  • Does your company willingly adopt a posture that promotes open communication between the parts of the unit? Like the brain needing to communicate with the hand in order for the hand to grasp, an effective organisation will adopt a posture of open communication and will promote information flow upward and downward.
  • Does management encourage staff participation in decision making? Or does management present a posture that discourages communication within the organisation.
  • Does the organisation look more like a bully with closed and raised fists or a friendly person with an open hand of helpfulness?

2. A Ballet Position With Raised Leg Bent at the Knee

You can relate this definition of attitude to business in this way: Does your management understand how to make decisions that support the company mission? Or do managers frequently make decisions that are “bent”?

  • Do decisions fail to motivate employees and evoke the wrong responses?
  • Are there time management failures leading to inefficient (bent) use of human and operational resources?
  • Is the route towards profitability bent due to poor sales and service performance?

These are just 3 of the “bent” questions an organisation should ask itself. You need to look for the bends in your organisation that prohibit efficient and effective operations.

3. A Position Assumed for a Specific Purpose

A business can have a threatening attitude or a cooperative attitude. An organisation can adopt a positive attitude towards innovation designed to promote employee creative thinking. But an organisation can also adopt a suppressive attitude that clearly lets staff know their opinions are not solicited or encouraged.

In other words, management tends to adopt an attitude designed to support a certain leadership style or even certain results. Market leaders are almost always noted for their ability to respond quickly and effectively to market changes. On the other hand, companies that assume a stance and dig in the proverbial heels, refusing to be flexible, are seldom able to remain successful over the long term.

4. Mental Position With Regard to a Fact or State

This is where the definition for attitude really gets down to the nitty gritty of the qualities that make market leaders.

  • Does your customer service department have a helpful attitude towards customers?
  • Can the customer service department maintain a rapport with customers despite the transition to e-commerce?
  • Is there an attitude within the company that superior customer service is crucial to success?
  • Is the staff provided leadership training opportunities that foster cohesive teams?
  • Is the emotional intelligence of the team members cultivated so that social awareness, market sensitivity and leadership abilities are nurtured?

Company or team leaders do not suddenly appear on the business doorstep. They are often developed through formal team training. But those development opportunities will only be present if the organisation has an attitude that external success will be possible by enabling the internal success of employees.

5. Position of a Spacecraft Determined by the Relationship Between the Axes and Reference Datum

This definition for attitude addresses defining the location of an aircraft in relation to a reference point. But it still applies to a business organisation if you consider the company to be the spacecraft and the reference point to be the marketplace.

  • Has the company developed sensitivity to a multi-cultural market?
  • Has the company fostered an attitude of commitment to its customers?
  • Does sales performance properly reflect effort?
  • Has the company fostered customer loyalty?

An organisation must continually take coordinate readings to insure it is well placed in the market and is positioned to target potential customers. It is all too easy for organisations to get complacent and assume “once a leader, always a leader.” An attitude of complacency is an enemy to successful adaptive companies.

6. State of Readiness to Respond in a Characteristic Way to Stimulus

Stimulus can take many forms. It can be a market study that indicates changing consumer preferences. It might be a team that consistently fails to meet deadlines. It might be a new marketing concept that includes innovative product development.

In other words, a stimulus can be a positive or negative concept, event, situation, idea or object. The questions is whether the company is ready to respond to the stimulus in an effective and efficient manner.

  • Are teams developed in a way they are solution oriented?
  • Does the communication structure promote or discourage new ideas?
  • Is time managed in ways that support the company mission or are deadlines unrealistic?
  • Is marketing supportive of the company vision?
  • Is the business able to measure sales success or failure in a timely manner and make necessary changes as needed?

A business must be organic and ready to adapt, change or grow in response to a variety of stimuli.

7. Hostile State of Mind

Do company managers see customer complaints as problems rather than as opportunities to improve service? Are front line sales personnel encouraged to share customer comments and issues with managers? Is a department’s low productivity always assumed to be due to inadequate staff effort rather than improperly designed procedures? Is manager and staff training ongoing in recognition of rapidly changing marketplaces?

A company that has a hostile state of mind always assumes the customer is needlessly complaining or remains defiant in the face of strong market indicators dictating a need for change. An organisation can adopt a defiant attitude that says, “We are not the cause of the problem…you are!” These are the companies that eventually find eroding sales threaten their very existence because customers today are savvy. If your company fails to satisfy their customer needs for certain service levels, buyers can simply go online and find one that will.

If you want to succeed in today’s marketplace, the company attitude must be one of service and excellence. If Merriam-Webster was a business dictionary, attitude definitions would include types of responses to leadership and manner of communication with customers.

Every company needs to regularly measure its attitude. And that’s why attitude is all about performance training.

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