Summary: An Apple design secret - the connection between attitude and productivity.
Unfortunately you need a subscription to read the content over at technologyreview.com, but they had a nice article a while ago on "The Secret of Apple Design." I really like a quote they had about a person's attitude, and the relationship of that attitude and the impact on their work:
"Someone in a positive mood," Norman says, "faced with something that doesn't work, might say, 'Oh, I'll get around it.' But someone in a negative mood will get frustrated and have a 'Damn it' moment." That's where design comes in. "Studies tie attractive design to positive attitude," he says.
I'll bet this statement about mood/attitude is true for a lot of things -- maybe everything. If you're in a good mood, and you're asked to do something you don't like, hey, it's not such a problem.
Attitude, and a great day from my youth
When I was fresh out of high school I worked for a local Kmart, and while all those days don't stand out, I do remember working back in the Garden Center one special day. That day the weather was beautiful, the plants and flowers were beautiful, and I had one of the best days of my life. I talked to every customer like they were my best friend, helped people find plants, and checked them out faster than any other cashier at the same time.
Later in the day, when my boss asked me to move some insanely heavy bags of dirt and manure, I just said, "Yeah, I'd like that." In fact my mood was so good that day that three female employees asked me what I was doing after work, and several girls in the checkout lines chatted me up.
That day still stands out as one of the Top-10 or Top-20 days of my life, and it was all just because of one thing: my mood (or attitude). And all of this was triggered by external factors.
As a person and as an employee, I strive to find that same mood most days, just because, hey, the days are a lot more fun that way.
I had a similar buzz when I moved up to Alaska and spent a lot of time up in the mountains, and whenever I'm having a bad day back here in Kentucky, I try to remember and visualize those times alone up in the mountains.
Attitude and working atmosphere lessons for managers and business owners
If you're a manager or business owner, I think it's part of your responsibility to help create a great atmosphere like that. As you saw from that simple Kmart story, when I had a great attitude, I was quite literally willing to move tons of crap with a huge smile on my face and a helpful attitude for my customers.
I know you won't get that type of attitude from your employees every day, but I think you want to put them in a position where they have nothing to complain about, and everything to be happy about. As my own experience shows, happy people are more productive.