Attitude, work and TGIF

Let's just get through the week!

We can choose our attitude...

Fed up with your job? In a dead end with no immediate way out? We can't all have Instagram Lives, all of the time!

But we can always be in charge of how we deal with the life we have. We can always be in charge ofour attitude towards what's going on around us.

That's the key to being in charge of you - to driving your own bus in life.

They thrived on their lot

He wasn't just serving coffees and pastries for around a minimum wage.

He was a performer who liked people. Chatty, smiling and engaging – even with surly customers. Cups were sometimes spun on his fingers, cream dispenser flipped in the air. He had attitude.

She wasn’t just a supermarket till cashier – unlike the cashier she’d just taken over from. She was a people person – who very efficiently worked the belt and got the customers moving. Chatting with everyone – even making eye contact. She had attitude.

He isn’t just a car garage owner – he’s passionate about his customers and their cars. He explains things, won’t give in with a tricky problem, offers you a lift home if the work’s likely to take long, and always seem to have time for a friendly chat. Attitude - again.


People like these three tend to stand out because they are so different from the multitude of jobsworth people. And the supporters of TGIF (Thank God it’s Friday). And the ‘Bored at Work’ supporters.

For jobsworth people working time is something to be endured; you spend the first half of the week thinking and talking about what you did last weekend. And the second half of the week looking forward to the next weekend.

I know, I tried it years ago.

The first few years of my career were spent in bookkeeping and accounting. I definitely was into getting through the day. And recovering from one weekend and looking forward to the next.  Then I took a sabbatical of around seven years to do some travelling - with periodic returns to the UK to work hard and build up funds for more travelling.

This was when I encountered some really boring jobs.

It was also when I learned, through necessity, that we can make any job whatever we want it to be.

The bakery job

This one was memorable. 12 hour shifts, six days a week, two consecutive weeks on days followed by two consecutive weeks on nights.  We’d begin, for example, at 6 PM on Sunday and finish at 6 AM next morning and then continue in this routine till the weekend arrived at 6 AM on Saturday morning.

My work involved standing at a waist high conveyor belt and loading the endless stream of loaves into 6 foot high metal bins. All night or all day depending on the shift.  There was variety: there'd be a run for an hour or two of  small loaves which I had to grab in batches of 7 to put into the bin – and then the large loaves would arrive -- and they were loaded in batches of five. Then there’d be a run of wrapped loaves and so on.

The money was definitely good and the long hours meant the non-working time was usually spent recovering and sleeping.  I could have spent the working time dreaming about places I'd been to - and about places I would be going to next time.  But that would have been discounting a chunk of my life.  (In two stints working for them I worked there for a total of about a year.)

Instead I decided to occupy my mind by learning the rudiments of foreign languages: French, Spanish, Arabic, Turkish, Hindi, etc.  Two feet in front of my work station was a green-painted wall. I hammered a nail into it at about eye level, clipped my language phrasebooks to this with a bulldog clip, and taught myself useful phrases and, very importantly, how to count in various languages. I also read travel guides and various Teach Yourself books. My shifts became my learning time.

Continental waiting staff

In learning to reframe my attitude to work I had many, many mentors. And none of them knew nor cared how they were affecting me. And none of them would likely have even heard of NLP back then. (NLP only began in the early seventies.)

My mentors were the people who worked in the European and Asian cafes, bars, restaurants and shops.  They were so different from the surly jobsworth people I'd encountered and had, for a while, been part of in England and Ireland in the seventies.

I used to sit and watch these ‘foreigners’ in amazement.  The style with which they performed – the word ‘worked’ wouldn't do them justice.  The way they interacted with customers.  The pride they took in the workplace.  And the pride they had in themselves.

Learning about attitude

Observing these performers I recognised that it wasn't so much the skills they had but the style with which they used and embellished their skills.

They had attitude.

They weren't making the best of a bad lot, they were fully engaged in  and committed to what they were doing while they were doing it.  They made their job what they wanted it to be.

They didn't need to be given a new title like 'service workers' to feel good about what they did. They felt good about what they did and it showed unequivocally.  Attitude.

So I worked at modelling this - at developing this approach, too.  And it’s worked ever since. My language learning may not have got very far beyond Wahad, itnin, talata, arba'a, khamsa’ or Ek, do, teen, char, panch… but my learning about life was quite a bit more profound.

As they Chinese Proverb suggests: We can light candles – or curse the dark. 

See also 

First published March 2011 - and revised November 2018



  1. Martin Rodgers on 23rd March 2011 at 1:29 PM

    Hi Reg,

    As always this is a great blog one that made me smile for all the right reasons. My question would be How do you support the development of the right attitude in a work place? How do you develop a culture that empowers people to have this attitude?If it is possible.



  2. Ruthie Culver on 23rd March 2011 at 7:31 PM

    I was having exactly those thoughts at lunch today Reg. My colleagues preferred to find to a chain serving well chilled cardboard, so I stood alone in the queue of one of those Italian sandwich bars – big portions, lively flavours – admiring the ‘eh bella, you want olive oil or butter?’ service that will take me back there tomorrow.

  3. Reg on 24th March 2011 at 9:37 AM

    Thanks Martin. “How do you support the development of the right attitude in the workplace?” and a “culture that empowers people to have this attitude?”

    What is common to the examples in the blog article is that they didn’t need support.

    They were “self-starters” who did things for themselves – and, in the case of the cafe and supermarket worker, their attitude shows through spite of of their tough working conditions rather than because of institutional support.

    And if you did want to support the attitude and have it appear more widely in the workforce then you would likely have to provide people with the means to develop higher self-esteem – and the resulting “self-starter” attitude. and it’d be difficult to calculate a direct ROI on such a programme.

  4. Reg on 24th March 2011 at 9:41 AM

    Hi Ruthie: in a strange sort of way the example in your Italian sandwich bar contradicts my previous “it’d be difficult to calculate a direct ROI am such a programme” comment.

    “People buy people first” – really good service stands out. And, like you, the customers come back…. with their friends.

  5. Tim on 24th March 2011 at 10:58 AM

    Hi Reg: “Attitude” having the right attitude about my own life – I would not have achieved some of things I’ve done in life (such as giving up an addiction) without having a life attitude.

    But saying that, I agree it’s the people around you that you notice that have a good attitude. You remember them in what they say, do and because of the attitude/persona they give off.

    It’s infectious.

    A company boss in North Wales tried the Mr Benn experiment – he asked his employers how they would describe good attitude in the work place and then showed them the cartoon of the 1980`s Mr Benn`s shop and asked them to associate the word attitude to a piece of clothing and come in everyday with that piece of clothes on.

    To cut the example short, it was not a success with all the staff but those who really got into the idea did say they felt better about themselves at work and at home.

    One guy who did not use clothes as a tool said he worked better, the work place was better because he felt the shop floor was infected with “good attitude” and spread around the work force.

    He said the main thing is it started with one person having Attitude.

  6. Reg on 24th March 2011 at 11:31 AM

    Hi Tim: Having been around when you were moving beyond that addiction I can vouch for the great attitude and belief in self and in your groups that you demonstrated and used to do it.

    Some achievement.

    I’d never heard of the Mr Benn story – so had to google it 🙂

  7. Tudor Barker on 24th March 2011 at 12:42 PM

    For me it is the management letting you “own” your job and your own space, once they do that you have a sense that your job matters and that you are important to the firm/company.

    A lot of British management are really good at giving orders and bossing people around, and very poor at encouraging and facilitating.

    For the individual or employee remaining positive and enjoying the work is a mind set which depends on how they perceive the work in hand.

    Ie, does the work “just” provide a wage, or is it a thing of enjoyment, obviously both would be nice.

    I’ve worked at some incredibly boring jobs, but managed to find enjoyment whilst doing them, especially in interaction with my fellow workers, enjoying their banter and conversation.

    I have also been very lucky in having worked at some very interesting jobs and place as well, sometimes my enthusiasm would p*** people off :-)) but nobody’s perfect.

  8. Sarah Reed on 26th March 2011 at 11:24 AM

    Very interesting article. My own experience is that at the heart of doing a job with glee and getting real satisfaction from it is a combination of caring enough to do it well for yourself and your self-respect (pride in a job well done) and having some understanding of the person who you are doing it for – whether the boss or the customer (empathy). It’s like strawberries and cream – you can have either alone, but most would agree that they’re better together!
    The biggest issue I encounter in the TGIF zone tends to be lack of self-esteem. Often, the effort people make isn’t appreciated enough (lack of empathy by superior/s) so they lose the will to do more than the minimum and they feel that they don’t have enough voice, choice or control to make a difference anyway.
    In general, too few managers receive leadership coaching and training provided for their subordinates has everyone caught in knowledge/experience silos.

  9. Reg on 26th March 2011 at 6:08 PM

    Hi Sarah: I think you’ve hit the nail on the head pointing out that self-respect is at the heart of the matter.

    If I ‘need’ someone else’s support I’m primarily doing it for their approbation – for their praise and for their words of encouragement.

    Enjoying these is one thing – needing these makes us hostages to the other person’s moods and agenda.

    …and I still (choose to) feel good when someone says my article is ‘very interesting’…. 🙂

  10. Margaret(Margarita) Johnson on 28th March 2011 at 10:21 PM

    I have to agree with the self respect thing. The question is “Where does that spring from and how does it sometimes manage to disappear from view?”

    I seem to have gained a very healthy dose of self respect as a small child, then to have some of it snatched away, to return when I proved to myself that I was just as valid as anyone else.

    I do believe early life experiences and the experiences of others attitudes do have an effect on the sort of person we become and how we respect and value ourselves. Getting that early dose of self respect seems to give a resilience that enables people to rise above the indignities that are sometimes heaped on the heads of those wrongly undervalued by others.

    I have a photo of myself as a small child shushing and shooing chickens in a pen. One of the short sighted birds had pecked me when I was feeding them fresh grass through the wire netting. I had run crying to my father and spoke my first sentence, indignant and upset that my kindness had been so badly repaid. Not wanting me to be frightened of the hens he had led me into the pen to show me that I could deal with the hens and not be scared of them.

    This I am sure lead to the attitude that people who peck at others can be dealt with too.

    Attitudes to work may be set in a similar way.

  11. Reg on 29th March 2011 at 7:21 AM

    Hi Margaret: What a wise man (your father). Instead of giving the young child lots of words he taught through action.

    I’ve no doubt this is just one example of the manner in which your innate self esteem was protected and nurtured.