Decoding the Hiring Dilemma: Beyond “Attitude vs. Skills”

I bet you’ve heard the age-old advice: “Hire for attitude and train for skills.” It’s a catchy phrase, and it certainly makes for a great motivational poster in your breakroom. But is it really a practical approach to hiring top talent?

Let me break it down for you.

Imagine telling a job candidate, “We didn’t hire you because you have a bad attitude.” Sounds harsh, right? And let’s face it, no one would actually say that. Instead, you might say something like, “While your background and skills are impressive, I didn’t quite sense alignment with our company culture during the interview.”

Now, if you’re in the business coaching game like me, you’re well aware that talking about someone’s “attitude” is like walking on eggshells. After all, what exactly constitutes a “bad attitude”? It’s a vague, subjective term that doesn’t get us very far when it comes to constructive feedback.

So, what’s the alternative?

Imagine this: You have an employee who appears less than enthusiastic about the new direction your department is taking. Instead of hitting them with the dreaded “I don’t like your attitude,” you opt for a more detailed approach in private:

“When you rolled your eyes, sighed loudly, then looked away during our department meeting, it led me to believe that you might not fully support the new direction we’re heading. Help me understand what you were thinking.”

See the difference? You’re shifting the focus from a vague attitude label to specific behaviors that need to be addressed.

Now, flip the coin. Which would you rather hear from your manager?

  • “You have a great attitude.”
  • “I really appreciate that you consistently arrive early for meetings, actively contribute ideas, and proactively seek ways to enhance our processes. Your positive approach is a real asset to our team.”

Option 2, right? It’s not just about labeling someone as having a “great attitude.” It’s about recognizing and reinforcing the behaviors that contribute positively to the team and the company.

Think about it – even as parents, if we tell our child, “I don’t like your attitude,” chances are they won’t see it the same way. No one thinks they have a bad attitude. It’s all about perspective, just like in the workplace.

So, here’s my takeaway for you: Instead of fixating on whether someone has a “good” or “bad” attitude, focus on identifying specific behaviors. That way, you can provide targeted feedback, foster growth, and drive positive change.

If you’re eager to dive deeper into this concept and explore strategies for transforming your workplace culture, I invite you to check out my book, The Influencer: Secrets to Success and Happiness. In the final chapter, aptly titled “Transforming the Culture,” you’ll find valuable insights and practical guidance.

Share your thoughts, experiences, and creative approaches to influence in the comments below. Together, we can revolutionize the way we communicate, connect, and influence people in our professional journeys.

Edited with ChatGPT

Brian Ahearn

Brian Ahearn is the Chief Influence Officer at Influence PEOPLE and a faculty member at the Cialdini Institute.

An author, TEDx speaker, international trainer, coach, and consultant, Brian helps clients apply influence in everyday situations to boost results.

As one of only a dozen Cialdini Method Certified Trainers in the world, Brian was personally trained and endorsed by Robert Cialdini, Ph.D., the most cited living social psychologist on the science of ethical influence.

Brian’s first book, Influence PEOPLE, was named one of the 100 Best Influence Books of All Time by Book Authority. His follow-up, Persuasive Selling for Relationship Driven Insurance Agents, was an Amazon new release bestseller. His latest book, The Influencer, is a business parable designed to teach you how to use influence at home and the office.

Brian’s LinkedIn courses on persuasive selling and coaching have been viewed by more than 650,000 people around the world. His TEDx Talk on pre-suasion has more than a million views!

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