Carol Freeland

Johnny Mercer gave us a great lyric in his 1940’s hit, “Ac-Cent-Tchu-Ate the Positive”:

You got to ac-cent-tchu-ate the positive
E-lim-i-nate the negative
And latch on to the affirmative
Don’t mess with mister inbetween

Really! Who wants to work in a negative environment? Who wants to be around negative thinking or behavior?

Employees cite a negative work environment as detrimental to productivity and a reason for leaving an employer. Even worse, typically the best employees are the ones who seek a better environment, leaving you with … well, those who aren’t as re-employable. It is management’s responsibility to create and maintain a positive workplace; this is especially true in the collection industry.

Establishing a positive work environment first necessitates replacing, on a person to person basis, negative with positive thinking. Then, you need to maintain that thinking, allowing “positiveness” to become the standard, the expected, for all employees — even the boss!

A positive attitude can truly pay

Attitude is how we judge the degree to which we have positive, neutral, or negative thoughts about something. Attitude is pervasive and infectious. Employees need to understand the importance of a positive attitude. For example: positive people are more likely to get promoted; being positive reduces stress (which affects health); a positive attitude improves relationships between employees; and, drum roll please…customers are more likely to respond to a positive attitude!

Start with positive thinking. Positive thoughts lead to positive attitudes; negative attitudes leads to stress, a lack of motivation, and poor production. Which do you choose?

On a regular basis, write a motivational positive statement on the wall, where it can easily be seen by your workforce. For instance:

Vision without action is merely a dream. Action without vision is passing the time. Action with vision can change the world.” Joel Barker

Let employees contribute to the board as well.

Frame negative situations as challenges, not problems

Reframe or reword issues, replacing negative words with positive ones and stating possible solutions as part of the challenge. John tells me, “Mrs. Doe lies to me about making her payment all the time. I hate calling her, she just makes me so angry!” If John reframes the conversation with a positive attitude, he is more likely to say, “I think I need to call Mrs. Doe at a different time of the day/month and discuss the payment commitment she has agreed to. It may be too much or at the wrong time. I hear her anger when I call and that needs to be diffused for us to be successful.” As you continue to coach John, encourage him to bring his ideas for solution to the challenges he brings to you. Make him his own change agent.

Focus on how to overcome problems or negativity, and how to get the desired results. We can waste a lot of energy agonizing over the crummy shot to the green that ends in the pebbly sand trap 30 feet from the pin OR we can devote the same energy to figuring out how to get the ball in the cup! Help employees write statements of affirmation on 3×5 cards that they keep handy. These can be sorted through several times a day, or placed one at a time on a computer screen.

It’s up to me.

I am Good at what I do!

The manager must lead by example

As the manager, do not entertain or buy into negativity. It is critical that you set the pace or tone for others. Assess stressful tasks faced by employees and find ways to make them easier or more enjoyable. Practice what you preach. Do not expect overnight miracles. Change comes slowly but when it does come, it is far more permanent. An employee who continues to manifest a “bad attitude” against all that has been done to reverse it probably needs to question seriously if he/she is in the right job.

Visibly show appreciation for positive attitudes. Make your feelings known about an employee who reflects the environment you are working to establish. The adage, “praise in public, criticize in private” goes a long way toward permanent change. Buy a smiley face balloon each week and tie it to the back of an employee’s chair. Put a “Great Attitude” poster on the door to the office or in the break room with the employee’s name in big letters.

Write a short note (handwritten) or card to an employee acknowledging his/her efforts in attitude change. It lets him/her know that you care and that you are paying attention.

Nancy. I know you have been paying attention to your attitude when you prepare to make that difficult phone call! I hear it in your voice. Good job. Stay the course!

Finally, for best results on a permanently positive work environment promote concepts around a healthy work environment. Positive attitudes are typically exhibited by employees who are rested, who exercise regularly, and have healthy eating habits. Do not underestimate the effect of these elements. You might even consider starting a wellness program at your company.

And always remember, you are in charge of your attitude!

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