Before my current state government position supporting AmeriCorps programs, I spent two years working as a community development consultant in Madagascar, the large island off the southeast coast of Africa. While living and working in Madagascar — a country and culture so different from our lives here in America — I learned a lot about perspective. And perspective directly affects one’s attitude. Whether you’re a government worker in Washington, D.C., or a community development worker in the rural villages of Madagascar, your perspective matters and can really impact your attitude and your work satisfaction. The following are three tips for a better attitude. Although I learned these while working in Madagascar, you don’t have to move 10,000 miles away to learn or implement these tips in your work life!
1. Accept the Differences
One of the biggest lessons I learned while working overseas with a team of both locals and foreign expats is to accept the differences of my co-workers, supervisors and partners. We all come from diverse backgrounds and viewpoints and are not going to agree on everything. (You like to drink warm spoiled milk when we’re working out in a rural village? You want to focus on this project, and I want to focus on something else? You like to eat turtle soup and want me to eat it, too?) Instead of focusing on what separates us, I learned to focus on our similarities and be OK with the differences we have. You don’t have to change others to be more like you, but you will be able to improve your attitude if you accept that others are different and that’s OK.
2. Know When to Re-Align
This is a biggie, and it took me a year into my job to figure this one out. After spending a year doing in-depth research for five different tribal groups in the southwest region of Madagascar, living in local towns and villages, learning the local language, and formulating three separate community development project plans based from this research, my supervisors determined that these projects were not worthwhile and could not be implemented. Ouch. After the initial shock and disappointment, I turned to those who were excited about my research, including other colleagues and national partners, and re-aligned myself with them. I was able to gain support, learn a lot, and cast the vision for my work with those who believed in what I had done and were eager to move forward with training others. What was an initial setback for me turned out to be the best step forward for getting my work done and helping to improve the lives of others. When you come to a roadblock or impasse, ask yourself if you need to realign or refocus your efforts with others to get the project done. You may be pleasantly surprised at how realignment can really help improve your attitude and your outcomes.
3. Embrace the Awkward
I really learned how to laugh at myself and embrace the awkward situations presented to me while living and working in Madagascar. Whether it was laughing at myself when I misspoke while speaking the local language, tried new food or meals, or learned that being two hours late to an event is actually really early, I learned to adapt to different and sometimes awkward situations. This is also a helpful attitude to have when working with our colleagues, supervisors, and stakeholders, so we can be flexible and accomplish our project goals despite different situations and personalities we may encounter.
In the comments below, please share:
- How has your perspective about your projects/position/colleagues affected your attitude and work?
- Additional tips or advice for us to have a better attitude in our work lives?
Christina Smith is part of the GovLoop Featured Blogger program, where we feature blog posts by government voices from all across the country (and world!). To see more Featured Blogger posts, click here.