Need a change? Leave the bad attitude at home

Nashville Business Journal

July 17,2015


In our culture we tend to share the bad and keep the good to ourselves. Unfortunately the practice plays out in the workplace, too. People criticize the company and grumble about the boss. What if we were to turn that practice upside-down? It’s my experience that positive, enthusiastic attitudes are the key to moving organizations in the right direction. 

But like anyone else, I had to learn this the hard way. A seasoned businessman who was new to retail replaced my boss, the company president, shortly after I joined Tractor Supply. Since we all liked the previous president it was natural to resent the new guy. But I soon realized that complaining about the change was never going to help the situation. So I decided to work closely with our new president while many of my peers kept their distance. I gained newfound confidence by passing on my retail knowledge to the new boss. In return, he helped me grow and mature as a leader. 

My hard work and support of the new boss paid off handsomely several months later when he promoted me to Senior VP, the No. 2 position in the company. The lesson? I achieved this outcome simply by changing my attitude from negative to positive—and pitching in. I was in the right place at the right time, and took advantage of the opportunity. Looking back, I realize that these early actions put me on the path to becoming president and later CEO of Tractor Supply. 

Now consider your own situation. How positive are you day in and day out? We all have bad days when we get out of bed on wrong side, but that needs to stay at the bedside and never make it to the workplace. What if we all committed to showing up for work with a positive attitude? Imagine how much better your boss could lead and how much more your team could accomplish if everyone was on the same page with an optimistic, constructive attitude. Instead of “We’ll never get this done,” leaders need to hear “We can.” 

The empowering thing is positivity and pitching in and it is all up to you. You don’t have to project a loser’s image, losing the respect of your peers and most likely the next promotion. Take it as a challenge to change the culture: Try to become the most enthusiastic person on your team. You might be surprised at how much respect you’ll gain—and how much fun you’ll have earning it.


Joe Scarlett is the retired CEO of Tractor Supply Company and Founder of the Scarlett Leadership Institute

He can be reached at

Comments and Discussion:

Reply to Peter

Posted Jul 22, 2015 at 1:35 PM by Joe Scarlett
Pete – it is unfortunate if the boss is driving down morale but that does not mean others should join in. Having a positive attitude rubs off on employees and customers. In addition, a positive attitude will likely earn the respect of your coworkers. There is simply no upside in anything other than a positive attitude regardless of the circumstances. My observation is that most bosses with bad attitudes usually self-destruct. ~ Joe

Good leader

Posted Jul 22, 2015 at 11:52 AM by Peter Calcagno
Joe, this does assume that the new person is a good leader and worthy of your positive attitude. What do you suggest when the new boss does not exhibit good leadership skills and is dragging down morale. There seems a fine line between being positive and sucking up to the boss. Thoughts?

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