Everyone has bad days, but most of us bounce back quickly from them. Sometimes, however, you encounter people who seem to have nothing but bad days. Pessimist, cynic, killjoy — these are all words used to describe someone who displays this unpopular personality trait. Sooner or later, as a residential electrical service business owner, you’ll likely end up with this type of person on your team. And we all know nothing can bring down a tech meeting, service call, or general office atmosphere faster than a worker with a toxic attitude. Chances are, when you hired this person, he or she didn’t behave this way. So what happened, and how can you fix it?
It’s important to realize that every employee is different, and employment fulfillment and satisfaction may change over time, based on individual circumstances, available career opportunities and advancements, and incentives. Not all negative employees started off this way; many developed this mindset over time. People go through job cycles just like they do life cycles (e.g., childhood, adolescence, adulthood).
The first stage a new hire experiences is sometimes referred to as the “honeymoon” phase. Like newlyweds, recent hires are excited to embark on something fresh, challenging, and exciting. They put their best foot forward, and strive to make a good impression by doing things like showing up early, putting effort into their appearance, being a team player, and expressing high levels of motivation and energy.
After the honeymoon phase ends — and it usually does at some point — employees enter what I like to call the “daily grind” phase. During this stage, they feel comfortable completing the tasks assigned to them, continue to positively interact with coworkers and customers, and strive to maintain good relationships with their supervisors and prove their worth. After several years, however, you may see a change in attitude, as they enter the “what’s in it for me” stage. At this point, they feel they deserve a raise, promotion, or some type of extra pat on the back for their performance — this is often where the negativity spawns.
The question is how do you bring these employees back to the early stages of their employment? Working with individuals instead of against them is a great way to promote positivity. Think of a simple rope. When you push the rope, it jumbles up. However, when you pull that same rope, it miraculously straightens out. The same thing happens when you push people to do things. But when team leaders (managers) pull them in the right direction — always working together as a cohesive unit — you’ll be surprised at how quickly attitudes straighten out. Here are a few ideas that can help ensure an enjoyable and productive place to work:
• Don’t participate in office gossip.
• Look for solutions to problems instead of complaining about them. Encourage your team to do the same.
• Be an excellent example to those you are leading.
• Praise in public, and criticize in private.
• Inspire your team to motivate themselves (this will take stress off you).
• Set realistic, reachable goals for your techs, and be their biggest supporter.
• Offer incentives and awards based on attitude and character as well as performance.
• Always tell your employees to vent up and not out or down.
• Consider leadership training for your team.
These are just a few helpful ideas that could cause an emphatic change in customer service, sales, and retention. Remember, you lead the charge in setting the mood and developing the culture in your business. The best way to improve your work atmosphere is by surrounding yourself with good people, information, and training. There is a lot to be said about having a happy and productive electrical business. Making the emotional health of those you lead a priority will go a long way toward achieving a positive environment.
Talbot is a licensed, master electrician in Georgia, where he was born and raised. He has been in the industry for 17 years and is currently the operations manager for Mister Sparky Atlanta, where he manages a team of technicians. In his spare time, he plays with his kids, volunteers, and is flipping his fourth house. He can be reached at [email protected].