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From Where We Sit

Getting the right work attitude

Ramilito L. Nañola Ramilito L. Nañola

Getting the right work attitude

I have been a Certified Public Accountant in public practice for the past 27 years and have seen people come and go at P&A Grant Thornton. My 16 year-stay in our branch offices, particularly the one in Davao, gave me the opportunity to get involved with our people’s employee lifecycle from attraction to separation.

A few years after I moved to our Makati Head Office in 2006, I was given the opportunity to head our People and Culture Group (Human Resources Unit for others). When it comes to employee engagement, my new role gave me a different perspective on people and how challenging it is to respond or attend to the various stages of employee engagement on a firmwide basis. P&A Grant Thornton must utilize its available resources in ensuring that employees at all levels in the organization have the right people experience. However, I realized that, even if a company can provide the right work environment, the desired right work attitude may remain inevident across the organization. The question is– why?

The Merriam-Webster Dictionary defines attitude as “the way you think and feel about someone or something.”

Your choices of action towards someone or something determine your attitude. An employee, confronted with a choice between going to office late to watch his favorite sports game or going to office early to complete a task, will make his choice based on what pleases him at that moment or what he thinks is crucial at the time. His response to specific stimuli defines his attitude and is anchored on what is essential for him at that time.


We often hear of stories about new hires with undesirable work attitudes. We typically point our fingers at Human Resources for not carefully screening applicants. The reality, however, is that it’s quite challenging to establish if a person has a good or bad work attitude in just a couple of interviews. The current norm in hiring people, which is doing behavioral interviews, may help establish the pattern of attitude based on the candidate’s personal experiences. Using this process somehow helps employers choose the best candidates, but it’s still not a guarantee.

Uncovering a person’s attitude requires constant dealings and collaboration. It takes a while to know a person’s attitude as opposed to identifying a person’s character.

It’s also tough to judge a person if they have the right or bad work attitude by merely citing a single instance of poor performance or lack of concern towards work. A person who consistently delivers quality work may sometimes fall short of their work commitments. However, despite this shortcoming, you’re confident that person will bounce back and will be on the right track again because you have known him well.

Similarly, there are also situations where longtime employees noted to be performers suddenly became mediocre or vice versa. There could be many reasons for the change in attitude. It can be a change in priorities or plans. It’s, therefore, essential for employers to develop ways to better understand their employees and the pattern of choices they make.

One way is through coaching or mentoring, where a more senior personnel will have regular opportunities to talk about work. Coaching or mentoring could also be a good venue, but only if there’s already a certain level of trust and comfort to discuss the personal aspirations of employees.

When an employee anchors their choices from a defined goal, you can expect consistency in decisions being made. For example, if an employee has established that their compelling and short-term goal is to provide financial support to ailing parents, somehow you can expect them to do their job well and possibly to look for additional earning opportunities.

Defining one’s purpose, however, isn’t enough if it can’t be aligned with what you’re doing. If traveling around the world is in your bucket list, but your present job might not be able to provide you with the means or opportunities to do so, then there could be inconsistencies in your attitude toward work.

However, it doesn’t mean you don’t have a good work attitude. It just so happens that you can’t find the connection between what you’re presently doing vis-a-vis your aspirations. Inconsistencies in your work performance might surface.

However, if you have a mindset that your current role is just a means to earn more in the future, either through a promotion or moving to another company, then such alignment between your current work and aspirations would be evident in your performance. The key here is the alignment of what you’re presently doing towards the fulfillment of your defined purpose.

Providing the right work environment isn’t enough to ensure consistency of the right work attitude among employees. Understanding employees, knowing what motivates them, and identifying their aspirations are also critical. The challenge is how to align personal goals with the organization’s vision and values.


As published in The Manila Times, dated 01 August 2018