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Do You Suffer from Attitude Parasitism?

There’s absolutely nothing wrong with being motivated by money. Hell, anyone who says they aren’t is probably trying to suck up to the boss! But money isn’t everything, and employees who show up to work and demonstrate they’re there just for the paycheck are probably suffering from what I like to call attitude parasitism.

What is attitude parasitism? Simply put, it’s what happens when a bad attitude grows into a dangerous, ambition-sucking force that can’t be stopped. It also relates to the primary difference between a hardworking employee and an indifferent one.

Common symptoms of attitude parasitism in the workplace include (but are not limited to):

  • Complaining and gnashing of teeth at the idea of doing the bare minimum job requirements
  • Talking, texting, spacing out, or screwing around instead of completing projects
  • Mouthing off to managers and/or superiors
  • Never finishing your work on time or to specifications

This condition has another unfortunate side effect: its reach tends to multiply if left untreated. That means that attitude parasitism can affect employees exposed to the infected individuals! Traditional parasites feed off of their hosts and suck nutrients in order to survive, just like attitude parasites feed off of negativity and suck initiative from other employees. Think about it…wouldn’t you find productivity challenging if you sat near another employee who constantly slacked off (and maybe even urged you to do the same)? How about if that indifferent employee was getting paid the same as you to do half as much work?

I have good news, though. Attitude parasitism isn’t always contagious! If you spot a staff member who embodies the aforementioned traits, then you can use one of two techniques in order to distance yourself from him or her.

First, you can talk to the offender and express that you want no part of their bad work ethic. If that doesn’t work, try talking to your supervisor about the problems you’ve noticed (or slip an anonymous note under your manager’s door if you feel like you’re “tattling”). Second, you can choose to ignore them. This method won’t bring the issue to management’s attention, which means the issue may linger, but it may provide you with peace of mind.

My point is this: you don’t have to let other employees’ attitude parasites affect your productivity or workplace morals. We’ve all worked with negative people who try to bring down the work ethic of everyone else (sometimes they’re referred to as slackers, bad eggs, bad seeds, or lazy asses), but we don’t need to play their little games. Find value in your job, abide by the rules, and work hard and you’ll avoid the infectious and highly contagious condition known as attitude parasitism!

Are you adding value to your company, or are you just coasting along like destructive bacteria? Can you think of any other symptoms, treatments, or cures for this?



Jill Tooley

Jill has been obsessed with words since her fingers could turn the pages of a book. She’s a hopeless bibliophile who recently purchased a Kindle after almost 6 years of radical opposition, and she loves stumbling upon new music on Pandora. Random interests include (but are not limited to) bookstores, movie memorabilia, and adorable rodents. Jill writes for the QLP blog and assists with the company’s social media accounts. You can connect with Jill on Google+.

Comments

  1. JPorretto

    Caffeine seems to be a short term remedy, especially for normally “healthy” employees suffering from “one of those days”. But those suffering from the chronic variety is another issue entirely. I fear that eradicating the infected parts is the most reliable solution. It’s like an amputation. Some times you have to cut off the leg to save…. ok I’ve taken this metaphor far enough now.

    • Jill Tooley

      Oh yes, the chronic variety of attitude parasitism is trickier. Amputation is really the only way to go! :) You crack me up – thanks for getting into my metaphors!

  2. Scooby DOO!

    Its a GREAT thing that paracite has not shown up here at QLP!

  3. Joseph Giorgi

    Awesome post! I just Googled “attitude parasitism” to see if it was a real, psychological term or condition. It really seems like it could be. Did you seriously make that term up? If so, well done!

    Then again, I should have known that you were one of those tricksy hobbitses. ;)

    • Jill Tooley

      I’m probably not the first to use the term (it’s a big, big world out there and I’m sure there’s NOTHING 100% original anymore!) but as far as I know I’m the first to play it up as an actual disorder. And thanks! :)

      P.S. How fitting of you to mention tricksy hobbitses, because I actually have a LOTR-related post in the works!

  4. Bret Bonnet

    Scooby DOO!… I think the scientific or generally accepted word used to describe this parasite is “gomezenitus”.

    It’s incurable from what I’ve heard so it should be avoided at all costs.
    :)

  5. Amanda Sneed

    Jeff-Agreed, caffeine is very helpful for an off day. =) And for the off day that turns into an off year, “amputation” will solve the problem for good…..what a funny metaphor!

    Around QLP, there is a huge variety of stress balls to make one feel better also….so being a newbie, I see that as a helpful thing. It’s got to be hard to have a terrible day around here though, everyone is so nice!

  6. Dennis Salvatier

    It’s so very true. My Mom used to say “you are the friends you keep” and it took a few decades, but it finally made sense. This holds true even in the workplace. This is such a slippery slope, but you’ve found some great solutions.

    • Jill Tooley

      Thanks, Dennis! I was always told a similar expression: “You’re only as good as the company you keep.” Like you said, it didn’t really mean much to me until I was old enough to understand that the behavior of others can affect me as well. Being associated with slackers probably won’t get you far in school or in the workplace. But it’s up to us to squash those bad habits as soon as possible! :)

  7. Rob Berman

    Jill:

    The whole idea is similar to “hey boss I quit 6 months ago but forgot to resign.” Clear them out of there as fast as possible. Once the culture begins to change it will rapidly descend into a mess.

    Rob

    • Jill Tooley

      Well said, Rob! That mentality is far too common as of late…

  8. Catarina Alexon

    Jill you haven’t seen the worst example of people working just for a pay check can behave.

    In Saudi Arabia there is something called Saudization. Companies are forced to hire young Saudis in order to create jobs for them.

    And part of these people actually don’t lift a finger. Companies have to install fingerprint checks at the entrance, if not they wouldn’t even show up. They hang around doing nothing and at best can be used for filing.

    A group of them were hanging out doing nothing at the company I worked at in Riyadh. They were smoking non stop and were so lazy they threw burning cigarette butts into a waste paper basket starting a fire.

    • Jill Tooley

      Wow, that’s terrible! That behavior goes above and beyond anything I could have imagined. It’s unfortunate that they are not only unwilling to do their jobs but that they’re also unconcerned with the safety of others… :(

    • Catherine Lockey

      Wow – what a story Catarina. It just goes to show no one is entitled to a job.

  9. Billye Survis

    What a great article! I love the comparisons and unfortunately have to admit that I know some of these “Attitude Parasites” I’m going to be sharing this blog with others.

    • Jill Tooley

      Thank you, Billye! I unfortunately have known a few of them as well, and it’s a challenge to stay focused when they’re around. I once worked with a guy who was lazy and nervy enough to ask ME to do his work for him but let him take all of the credit for it so he wouldn’t get into trouble. It was unreal…

      Thank you so much for commenting, and please share away! :)

  10. Keyuri Joshi

    What a great post. As I was reading, the floodgates of bad work ethic examples opened… but I won’t bring them up here! When I look around… particularly at today’s youth I get really worried. Many have a “what’s in it for me” attitude with little or no concept of team work or working hard. I suppose as parents, we can take responsibility for our own kids. I impart work ethic skills to my son (age 15) no matter what he’s doing whether it’s cleaning his room or doing homework. He’s starting a job next week bagging groceries. He WILL do an awesome job. :)

    • Catherine Lockey

      I bet he will Keyuri!

    • Jill Tooley

      Thank you, Keyuri! That “what’s in it for me?” attitude may not be visible right away, but it doesn’t take too long for someone to show their true colors and start slacking off. Jobs should be valued…otherwise, what’s the point of going in at all? It sounds like your son has his ducks in a row and I’m sure he’ll do just fine at his new job! :)

  11. Samantha Bangayan

    Great strategies, Jill! The last time this happened to me, I was working in partnership with an attitude parasite. I chose to take the other extreme by working even harder! Instead of being forced to work on a project with her, I asked to do it myself — she loved that and I avoided having to deal with her. =P

    • Jill Tooley

      Thank you, Samantha! That’s a good strategy as well. Even though you did all the work, you made sure it got done right and you avoided her in the process! Thanks for the comment. :)

  12. Diana

    Jill, I see this less in private corporations but it seems widespread here in government offices in Italy. People have this attitude and a person who comes into the system with a great attitude just gets demoralized as their managers don’t make any attempt to bring about any change. There are no consequences and whether you work or don’t work you get rewarded just the same. This means that most staff end up doing the minimum necessary. It’s very discouraging and the public ends up dealing with the consequences of red tape and inefficient service.

    • Jill Tooley

      That’s a shame, Diana. Poor work ethic should never be rewarded, and I get a bit sad when I hear about companies that incorporate a “one size fits all” attitude when it comes to the treatment of their employees. If they don’t shape up, then ship them out!

      Thanks for your comment! :)

  13. Catherine Lockey

    Hi Jill,
    I first glimpsed this attitude in the workplace about 15 years ago in the GenX generation. Many of them would brag about how little they accomplished at work. I couldn’t understand their thinking – as though they had accomplished something by accomplishing nothing. Have you seen a generational change in the work ethic?

    • Jill Tooley

      I don’t understand that, either. Why brag about being lazy? Isn’t that like bragging about finishing a race in last place?

      I’m on the cusp of Generation X and Generation Y, and I’ve worked with lazy people from all different generations. I think that work ethic depends on a variety of factors, and age doesn’t weigh heavily into that. I’ve known just as many slackers from Gen Z as I have from the Baby Boomer generation…attitude is such a tricky beast! :)

      Employers shouldn’t reward every employee equally unless everyone is doing the same quality of work. I think that’s a major problem; attitude parasites develop that lazy mentality because they figure that working hard and not working at all will yield the same results. In their minds, the “what’s the point?” attitude makes sense.

      Thanks for your comment, Catherine!

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  16. The Boss

    Attitude Parasites come from every generation. Some people truly do not want to work but if you know how to conduct a good interview you can easily weed them out. Unfortunately they can also be created. The newbie that bullies the veteran employee and kisses the bosses as just to get a their position or promotion. A manager that favors others for unethical reasons, carry behavior and cliques that exclude or single out people. A good manager and employees will squash this behavior a they see it happen.

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