Of course manners do too, and so do a multitude of other attributes such as behaviour and vanity. We could make a case for any one of them being equally important but I contend that despite their being important, attitude occupies the number one position.
Why would I assert that attitude is the numero uno attribute which determines one’s future? We have all worked or dealt with “difficult” people, people who take umbrage at whatever one says or does that is contrary to their world view. Of course they may well be correct about certain aspects of life due to their perspicacity but definitely not about everything.
The crux is never just the fact that they are imposing their view upon one but more importantly, the manner in which they do so. It is often in a demeaning tone that implies that the recipient of that person’s anger or dissatisfaction is an imbecile. In modern management parlance, this is known as lack of EQ – Emotional Quotient.
Numerous psychological tests were performed by Elton Mayo in the early 1930’s in this regard commencing with the progenitor being the Hawthorne experiments at the AT&T Plant. This experiment was instrumental in establishing the pivotal role that one’s treatment of one’s subordinates in this case contributes to their productivity, efficiency and effectiveness.
This was a eureka moment for psychology for up to that moment people were under the misunderstanding that the mistreatment of one’s subordinates would, if anything, improve their output. This behaviour might be conducive to improving productivity in a quarry or a plantation where totally manual labour was being performed but not where more was required.
It was the growth in skilled jobs where subordinates minds as well as their hands had to be engaged, that this philosophy was found to be wanting.
But what is the connection between a subordinate’s output and the superior? It is their attitude. Being demeaned creates negativity which in turn breeds resentment which ultimately lowers output.
Even though this correlation was initially established in an industrial environment, it has been found that this principle applies to all human interactions.
Most people have some forte or strength in life to which other people should tread with caution as they are probably correct. Even in those cases one should never accept their advice without due consideration as a dollop of common sense might indicate the contrary to be true. Even the experts have been proved to be wrong on occasion.
Thomas Edison might have had 1093 patents in his name but he was totally incorrect about the future of electricity. His candidate was direct current whereas Tesla who worked for him at the time proposed alternating current. Despite minimal education, Nikola Tesla proved Edison to be totally wrong.
Often the “difficult” person will destroy a relationship or an organisation. The example that springs immediately to mind was the 1960’s band Cream. They might have only produced four albums – Fresh Cream, Disraeli Gears, Wheels of Fire and Goodbye but they firmly nailed their colours to the annuals of music industry greats.
All three members of the band – Jack Bruce, Ginger Baker and Eric Clapton – were each in their own right excellent musicians. Both Baker & Bruce had previously played together in the band known as the Graham Bond Organisation. After some disagreement between Baker & Bruce, Ginger Baker had threatened Bruce with a knife. Bruce then left the band.
At a later stage when Ginger Baker asked Eric Clapton whether he would join an unnamed band that he was forming, Eric Clapton accepted conditionally. The precondition was that he wanted the multi-talented Jack Bruce as the bassist.
In spite of their previous disagreement, Jack Bruce was prepared to let bygones be bygones. As both musicians were difficult people, the atmosphere within the band rapidly deteriorated & ultimately the dissolution of the band in November 1968, two years after its formation. Whether it was Baker or Bruce who was the most intransigent, I will never know. What I do know is when I view interviews with Ginger Baker, I am always struck that he must be an extremely cantankerous and dyspeptic individual. Hence my money is on Ginger Baker as being the antagonist.
Whether Baker’s obdurateness evoked a passive-aggressive response in Baker which in turn triggered more animosity in Baker, has never been revealed. What is certain is that a superior trio of musicians was lost to music. Both Ginger Baker and Jack Bruce continued performing but neither achieved the same acclaim as they did in Cream. Of course Eric Clapton prospered making his mark in music as a soloist.
This vignette illuminates what usually occurs when one has to deal with a disagreeable person. The cycle is inexorable: initial acceptance, polite rebuffs, annoyance, anger and ultimately the dissolution of the relationship.
In rare circumstances the irascible quick-tempered person does not destroy an organisation. There is only one set of circumstances in which this will apply: they are the owner of the company and they are a visionary. Steve Jobs fell into this category. His drive and ambition to achieve the impossible probably resulted in some of his subordinates experiencing nervous break-downs while others merely resigned. Those that accepted his irrational tirades and impossible deadlines acquiesced to their demeaning treatment.
An evocative example of such a diatribe is provided in the movie Jobs which portrays the life and times of Steve Jobs. In a meeting with the developers of a product, Jobs harangues a staff member for the quality of the lettering. When this developer replies that he there are more important aspects that he is busy with to complete, Steve Jobs publicly dismisses [fires] the person. When a colleague attempts to explain to Jobs that the Developer was the best in the industry and would delay the already behind schedule project, Jobs replies dismissively, “Everything on this project is important including the lettering.”
Steve Jobs was wrong in all respects.
Given Jobs’ esteem and vision, such uncouth behaviour was endured without demur.
In twenty years’ time when future biographies represent a more balanced assessment of the man and are no longer slavish hagiographies, will the human cost of such behaviour be enumerated.
At the root of such behaviour lies narcissism. I am firmly convinced that a majority of senior bosses suffer from this malady. What makes the situation insufferable is that such people often equate disagreement with disloyalty and even treachery.
Therein lies the danger of such behaviour.
Nothing is judged in context and severity. Like Jobs’ diatribe about the lettering it was neither important at that juncture in the Project nor, more importantly, was the manner and the occasion appropriate for such behaviour.
Much misery both to themselves and to their organisations is caused when one’s attitude is harsh, dismissive and vindictive.
Rather let the episode pass.
Hindsight will provide perspective.
The incident was probably prove to be insignificant.
Reflect upon whether an intemperate outburst would have achieved its aim or rather exacerbated the situation.
So for me, attitude indubitably maketh a [hu]man.