How’s your attitude been lately?

  • Published
  • By Chief Master Sgt. Rich Johnston
  • 71st Operations Group Enlisted Superintendent
More than 20 years ago I served at Clark Air Base in the Philippines, one of the best assignments in the U.S. Air Force at the time. For many, including myself, Clark was the jewel of the orient.

The assignment offered great weather and tons of stuff to do off-duty, such as pristine Services and fitness facilities, golf, scuba diving, deep-sea fishing, great Space A travel opportunities and a lavish night life both on-base and off. Yet, to my surprise, some of the fellow Airmen I was stationed with thought Clark, and the Philippines, was the arm pit of the world.

Most of the discontented Airmen were those I classify as "homers" -- people who restricted their lives to a routine of going from the dorm to work and back mixed in with a weekly trip to the base exchange.

Most "homers" also had a knack for constantly complaining about everything that was wrong at Clark and in our work center. No matter what suggestions I offered on how to improve their lives, the answer I received was almost unanimously the same - "I'm just counting down my days until I am out of here."

One thing I noticed in common with most "homers" was that their very negative view of life. Their negativity was highly contagious and spread like wildfire throughout our work center. Rumors and gossip also ran rampant. As a result, section morale and discipline suffered causing a higher than average occurrence of mistakes and errors. I believe the root cause of their negativity was their attitudes.

According to Wikipedia, an attitude is a hypothetical construct that represents an individual's like or dislike for an item. Most attitudes in individuals are a result of observing and learning within their immediate environment.

Attitudes are directly linked to an individual's immediate environment. It makes sense to me that if you improve a person's environment, there's a good chance you will transform his attitude as well -- a "win-win" for all.

Here are a few recommendations on how to combat negative attitudes:

Overcome negative attitudes with positive ones. Do your best to set a healthy and positive mood in your work place. Make a habit of meeting and greeting coworkers each day and displaying a positive attitude or mood. Positive attitudes are contagious.

Think positively. Norman Vincent Peale wrote a whole series of books on the power of positive thinking. When you're having a bad day, sit back and put your problems into perspective. Are things really that bad after all? Cherish the fact that we live in the greatest and most prosperous country in human history. Citizens of poverty-stricken countries dream of opportunities to migrate to America and experience the prosperity which we have.

Try encouraging others when they seem down. Discover ways of conveying thoughts which are both positive and sincere. Believe me, your co-workers will appreciate and take comfort in your honesty and optimism.

If all else fails, try avoidance. Accept the fact that there are some people that you just can't change. In such cases, it may be best to take steps to avoid them entirely. If others in your work center follow your lead, negative thinkers may get the hint that something is really wrong with their point of view.

Just like my experiences with negative attitudes at Clark AB some 20 years ago, the attitude you portray in your work center is important. Believe it or not, attitudes have an impact on leadership policies, on teamwork and overall job performance. I've learned over the years that each assignment is all of what you make it.

Your wing's mission, the base environment and surrounding areas are all important. But it's the base people and their attitudes that really define an assignment. So I ask you -- how's your attitude been lately?