No doubt you’ve heard the saying “Attitude Is Everything”? While attitude might not really be “everything,” in many situations it is the single most significant determining factor of success.

Winston Churchill reportedly said “Attitude is a little thing that makes a big difference.” Many organizations are now finding that the best people to hire are not those who are the brightest but those with the best attitudes. Workplace culture, however, can significantly influence employee attitudes.

Although personal attitudes are influenced by core values, attitude is an element in producing—at all levels in an organization—a quality product or service and it is greatly influenced by management. Employee attitude about the product, about their work, about their managers, and about the company will ultimately determine the quality of their work.

Most attitudes are formed as we grow up. Teachers, ministers and parents all influence our attitude. Once an attitude is formed, it’s pretty much the way a person will think about any subject. We vote, select a spouse, pick an automobile, and raise our children based on that attitude.

If we work in a dirty or cluttered factory, with rejected material sitting around or with a supervisor who will ship anything, what kind attitude is likely to develop?  Often, managers can’t understand why their products and services suffer a high defect rate when the answer is in front of them. They practice bad habits every day, but expect a different result.

If we work in a clean, well-organized, well equipped and safe factory, employee attitudes will be influenced by a positive atmosphere and positive habits. There are many ways for management to influence a positive attitude. Management may think their people have a good attitude, but then again, maybe they don’t.  Employees know all about management’s attitude; they know what management will tolerate.

Since an attitude is a habit, something is needed to break an old habit and establish a new one. For instance, a special event, such as kicking off a new quality improvement program, announcing a new product, a new manager, or a new customer can help establish a new habit. If done well, it could be a fresh start for everyone.

Attitudes are also affected by repetitive messages such as training, communications, and advertising. Some quality experts argue that advertising doesn’t work; however, there is evidence that, if done correctly, it can be very positive. Advertising is one of the most effective attitude adjustment tools known to man.

I have a friend who thinks BMW is the quality standard of the auto industry. That’s his attitude. Yet, he never owned one and never even drove one. Who convinced him it was the best? Could it have been the publicity campaigns for the BMW product?

Keep the quality message in front of people at all times using posters, special events, award presentations, etc. Do it with good taste, with sincerity, and consistency to be effective.

Housekeeping should be a big issue. Are the yellow lines on the floors getting a little pale? Are overhead lights dim because of dust? Are desks, file cabinets, and machines piled high with paper that should be put away or tossed out? Are the rest rooms and break rooms clean? Is it a nice place to work? These little things send a powerful message.

Managers must be the role model for the quality attitude and performance standard they want their organization to have! Workers will emulate their version of manager’s attitude and their vision of the manager’s performance standard. It’s the manager’s attitude that has the most direct effect on their employee’s attitude, and thus on product quality. A manager who is willing to bend the specification to get something out the door to meet a shipping order has demonstrated the negative “that’s good enough” attitude in the people he or she leads.  

Should we measure attitudes to determine their impact? There are many scientific tests to evaluate a person’s attitude. Forget them! We already know how to measure attitude because we do it every day. After failing to get service from a clerk at a return counter, we might leave thinking, “That person has a lousy attitude.” You don’t need to put a number on it.

 The important thing is that we recognize the importance of attitude and do something about it. First, hire people with good attitudes. Second, make sure you are doing everything possible to influence positive attitudes in the workplace. Third, take a close look at the attitude of the people who lead others. Get rid of people who fail to transfer their bad attitudes into positive behaviors and start with those who influence others. Forth, keep attitude in mind when making decisions. John C. Maxwell said “People may hear your words but they feel your attitude.”