The Workplace through the Lens of Attitude by Gcina Mthembu

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The South African workforce is operating under volatile, uncertain, complex and ambiguous (VUCA) times. Another writer said that VUCA times is a catchall for “Hey, it’s crazy out there”. Things are volatile in terms of all the challenges of quality, legislation, access, cost and things are constantly changing all the time. The South Africa workforce is currently faced with political instability, labour disputes and hiking prices of fuel to name a few. Organisations are therefore finding themselves having to operate with less for more. Such times can definitely put a damper on the employees’ morale and general attitude towards their work.

“A negative thinker sees a difficulty in every opportunity. A positive thinker sees an opportunity in every difficulty” Zig Ziglar. This is an interesting quote about attitude and I  think it puts a challenge on leadership in terms of;  How does then leadership ensures that employees sees such times as opportunities and that they continuously carry positive attitude towards their work?

Business Dictionary defines the word attitude as A predisposition or a tendency to respond positively or negatively towards a certain idea, object, person, or situation. Attitude influences an individual’s choice of action, and responses to challenges, incentives, and rewards (together called stimuli).” One of the problems is that attitude is intangible and is difficult to come to grips with but it is critical for the individual employee to find means and ways of cultivating a positive attitude towards their work from within.

Success in the workplace is therefore not only just about the ability and knowledge that employees possess; but also about this other so overlooked but yet important ingredient of achievement called “Attitude”. Many employment programmes and studies that have been focusing only on competence based are now realizing the the role that attitude play in the workplace.

What will be more beneficial to the employer is not only the expected carried outputs but also that “pleasant smile” and the “can do way” of thinking from employees. Employees need to realise that attitude is one thing that we have under our control; whether you are in a managerial level or bargaining unit position.

I am convinced that a positive attitude in life is one of the critical ingredients for facing each day in the workplace during these VUCA times. I certainly agree with Zig Ziglar; the right kind of attitude actually has within it the power to change ones’ narrative, to foster better relationships with colleagues and promotions from ones’ employers. It is the employees’ responsibility to take charge of their outlook on situations and create the type of reality they want through their attitude. This is definitely not only leaderships’ responsibility.


Gcina Mthembu

Assistant Officer HR – ESKOM


Nathan Bennett, James Lemoine , Havard Business Review January – February 2014 Issue,

Philip Baker, 2000, Attitudes of Amazing Achievers.