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How your attitude can impact your career

  • Story Highlights
  • Your attitude toward work might impact your career more than you realize
  • A numb approach to work raises questions about your performance
  • If you do hate your job, you might be in need of a job or career change
  • Don't look at every bad day as the worst day in history of human existence
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By Anthony Balderrama
CareerBuilder.com writer
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CareerBuilder

Editor's note: CNN.com has a business partnership with CareerBuilder.com, which serves as the exclusive provider of job listings and services to CNN.com.

Don't be like teenagers who think every bad day is the worst day ever to possibly happen to anyone.

Don't be like teenagers who think every bad day is the worst day ever to possibly happen to anyone.

Attitude counts for a lot. Just think of how often people's attitudes affect your perception of them. First impressions often include come down to phrases such as "He had the worst attitude" or "She has the best attitude of anyone I've ever met."

When you walk into your workplace -- whether it's a department store or hospital -- what are you thinking? Do you feel excited because you love your job? Are you filled with dread because you hate your job?

Your attitude toward work might impact your career more than you realize.

The runway model

When models work the catwalk, they act as if the audience isn't there. The flashbulbs blind them, but their faces seem to say, "I don't have time to care about this crowd; I have a catwalk to strut down." They're on emotionless autopilot, if you will.

What works for models doesn't work for everyone ... in case that unsuccessful liquid diet you tried wasn't enough proof. A numb approach to work raises questions about your performance: Do you care about your job? Do you know what you're doing? How long will you stick around? Does anyone even want to interact with you?

Todd Dewett, associate professor of management at Wright State University, suggests these workers take a step back to look at their work in its appropriate context.

"All work is interdependent, yet most people have difficulty understanding where much of their work came from and where it will go -- they don't see the connections in the larger process," he says. "The more someone understands how their work impacts others, the more they are likely to care."

Dewett advises you to think of yourself as part of a team working toward a goal, not as an isolated cog in a machine. Look at the end result of your hard work and maybe you can find a reason to care about your job, even if you don't love it.

The emotional teenager

Teenagers are nothing if not experts at looking at the cruel, torturous underbelly of life. A bad day when you're 15 years old isn't just a bad day; it's the worst day anyone has ever experienced in the history of human existence. Every phone call is a life-altering conversation of importance no one can comprehend.

Hyperbolic workers aren't too different. They don't know how to put their workdays in perspective. Yes, some jobs are nightmares incarnate, but no job is nirvana, either. Difficult customers or incompetent bosses can mar the occasional day. Are you able to draw a distinction between a bad day and a bad situation?

"It is possible to frame things mentally such that you see them as only short-term realities that can change over time. From this 'glass half-full' perspective, any single bad role or colleague is but a few frames in a long roll of film. The focus then shifts from obsessing on the current situation to designing a real plan of action to create a new and better future situation."

On the flip side, rather than make you appreciate your job more, a new perspective might make you realize you belong elsewhere. If you're conditioned to despise work every time the alarm rings, you could end up stuck at a job that's just wrong for you.

"If you do actually hate your job, you might not be in need [of] a job tweak, but rather a full-fledged job change or career change," Dewett suggests. "Having said that, even in the worst professional situations, for the open minded, there is a lot to learn about how you got there and what [likely exists] there that will help you avoid it completely in the future."

Pollyanna

The classic children's book "Pollyanna," which follows a girl whose philosophy to focus on the positive, is an admirable, if not impossible, model to follow. Yet, some workers' abilities to convey Pollyanna's unrelenting optimism astound others and can be detrimental to their own careers.

The drawback to this work method is that you might find yourself out of the loop when it comes to how decisions are made, as they aren't always made in open discussions. Dewett cautions workers to pay attention to how decisions are made so that they can be aware of or participate in the process.

"People with overly rosy views (due to solid 'fit,' a great boss or colleagues or both) can be somewhat naïve politically," Dewett warns. "I would never advocate that a person with character and rosy glasses engage in too much political behavior, but you need to be aware of it."

Don't sacrifice the love you have of your job. After all, many people would be thrilled to enjoy going to work in the morning. A balanced perspective is all you need.

"Love your job, love your company -- but use your network so that you keep up to speed with the major political currents of the day as they might affect you and your work unit."

Copyright CareerBuilder.com 2009. All rights reserved. The information contained in this article may not be published, broadcast or otherwise distributed without the prior written authority

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