What’s with the Attitude? Everything!

At this time of year, it’s easy to get frustrated with long store lines, incessant Christmas music and having to get frisked at the airport during your no-longer-cheerful holiday travel routine. But don’t let it turn you into a Grinch. Having a sunny attitude helps in any situation but it’s particularly important when you’re up for a job opening, promotion, plum assignment, or new business.

Showing poise, enthusiasm and willingness to work hard often goes further than just being the most qualified person for the gig. There’s nothing worse than a bad attitude from an employee, coworker, or vendor. It’s like going to a great restaurant, but having an obnoxious waiter: the food and setting may be of high quality, but if the service stinks, you’re unlikely to return or recommend it to others. In this day and age, when companies are paying closer attention to their bottom line and making fewer hires and promotions, having a positive outlook and a team-player mentality will win you extra points in the workplace.

Here is some advice that will help you steer clear of an attitude-generated misstep:

Never say “That’s not my job.” With smaller staffs and more to do, companies are asking employees to take on bigger roles, sometimes with assignments that fall outside of their exact job description. If you want to move up and be valuable, take on the extra assignment, even if it’s not in your wheelhouse. You may learn something new. The worst reaction when a boss or client asks you to go above and beyond the norm is to complain that it’s not your job to do such-and-such. If you’re a math-challenged writer and you’re being asked to do the company’s accounting, then it’s okay to say, “I’m more than willing to take on extra work, but I’m afraid that accounting is not my strong suit, and I don’t want to let you down. Is there another assignment you need help with that’s more appropriate to my skill set?” That way, you’re turning down the request because you lack the knowledge to handle it properly, not because it’s technically not your job.

Watch your expressions. We’ve all seen it: people rolling their eyes or making faces behind their boss’ back when they hear something they don’t like. Though you may think no one notices, it’s just bad form. Keep your negative thoughts inside and, to take a cue from Lady Gaga, learn to have a poker face (or even better, a happy face!) in front of others.

Quit your complaining. We all have moments at work where we’re annoyed at our boss, colleague, or client, and are tempted to whine about the situation to coworkers or office friends. Here’s the thing: complaining in the workplace is not only unprofessional, but it’s also dangerous—not to mention negative PR for yourself. You may think you can trust that cubicle mate with whom you eat lunch every day, but she very well could be angling for an assignment or promotion that you’re up for and now you’ve armed her with the knowledge that you’re unhappy about something at work. If you’re truly upset about a situation, set up a meeting with your boss, client, or colleague to address it in a professional, clear way instead of griping about it behind their backs. When you’ve had a bad day or someone has rubbed you the wrong way one time too many, save your rants for later when you can safely air your grievances to your best friend, mom, or spouse.

Don’t stew in your own juices. People aren’t mindreaders, so just say what you mean. Instead of sighing and muttering to your boss, “I guess I’ll just stay late again” because you have so much work to do, sit down with her and say, “I appreciate the additional responsibility you’ve given me, but I’m trying to figure out how to get everything done within normal working hours. Though I don’t mind staying late on occasion, it would help me to hear from you what projects take priority so I can tackle those first.” That way, you can get clear direction from your supervisor instead of toiling away every night until you get bitter or burned out. Had Jet Blue flight attendant Steven Slater, whose meltdown made headlines in August 2010, communicated his frustration about how customers were treating him instead of letting it boil over, he might have avoided his “I’m mad as hell, and I’m not gonna take it anymore” moment, saving his job and keeping him out of trouble.

When has a negative or positive attitude hurt or helped you in your career?  Share your thoughts with us at Facebook or Twitter (@bestpublicist).

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