June 21, 2018

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Why Skilled Employees Develop an 'Attitude'

I am often asked why skilled people develop attitudes like cockiness, sarcasm and unabashed boldness. This is a tough question and one that defies precise analysis. But the question is asked often enough and I have certainly interviewed enough skilled people to see something of a pattern. Without doing a detailed psycho-study we can get some general ideas by looking at it in general personnel/staffing terms. The following, though not rigorously scientific, are a few observations on the subject:

  1. A Drive or An Edge has to be present to develop skills. Skills simply do not appear. Usually there is some strong combination of ambition, motivation and interest. It may be money, prestige, pride, etc. Skilled people are driven to get to an upper level. This drive possesses them and they have difficulty understanding people that do not feel that way. They view the less skilled as less worthy.

  2. Impatience is often a characteristic of the skilled. They cannot understand why others are lazy or why others don’t ‘do what it takes’. Night school, tutors, self- instruction, etc. are not easy but they are not optional in obtaining skills. Skilled people often laugh at ignorance. They are not sympathetic. The great equalizer is that all of us were ignorant once.

  3. The Demand for skilled employees is great and growing greater. Skilled employees know they can walk down the street and find another employer. Skilled employees know they do not have to put up with abusive management/owners.

  4. Skilled Employees often know they can hold management hostage. If they walk the business may shut down. This is why my goal with most clients is to make them not overly dependent on any one employee. This overdependence can make the business very vulnerable.

  5. Skilled employees often have to help others do their jobs. This means that if they do not help others the job will often not get done. If skilled people get irritated enough they will not help coworkers. This is why skilled people often dislike teams and equal profit sharing. They are not equal, the value they deliver to a business and its customer base is greater than other employees. And they know it. Skilled employees place great emphasis on the work environment and their teammates.

  6. Skilled employees view work as a challenge--not a problem. If attitude does indeed determine results this could be a key to determining potential skilled employees. I use this question in almost every interview.

  7. Skilled employees have a career plan – either written or mental. They know their needs and have a plan to meet those needs.

  8. The skilled have enough interest in their work to read and study when not on the job.

  9. The skilled derive satisfaction in what they do. This keeps their interest and motivation at a high level. Because they are motivated by interest they derive greater satisfaction. This cycle creates astounding results.

  10. Skilled employees often see their skills as being under compensated and consider opening their own business. Side jobs and moonlighting tend to reinforce this viewpoint.

  11. Skilled employees are usually more aware of the importance of writing, communication and people skills. They understand that weaknesses in these areas may affect the market value of their professional skills.

  12. Skilled people prefer to socialize, marry and interact with skilled people.

  13. Skilled people know their value to a business and are usually cooperative with doing more when the workload is heavy.

  14. Skilled people are usually looking at what must they do in their own specialty to remain at the top.

It is hard enough to make any generalizations about skilled workers. They come in all shapes, sizes, and colors. Skilled workers have different personalities, work ethics and life goals. Yet there are certain traits that skilled workers have in common. As the demand for skilled workers increases it becomes increasingly important for owners to understand, recruit and retain skilled workers. This is not optional: the bottom line demands it.

-Jack Deal