How does your work attitude influence your family?

How does your work attitude influence your family?

Every parent has a desire to raise his or her child to be responsible, kind, tolerant of others, and eventually self-sufficient. Working mothers and fathers invest both time and money in day care, education, and extra-curricular activities including sports, the arts, and scouting to build their child’s sense of discipline and strength of character. Yet one of the greatest influences on a child’s future and ability to earn a living is often overlooked – how parents conduct themselves at home with regard to their work.

I have a neighbor who has had four jobs in ten years. In each situation, the story is the same; bad job, bad boss, bad coworkers. Not so coincidentally, in the same period of time, her child has changed schools three times. Why? Bad school, bad teachers, bad students.

A job hopper who consistently blames others for unsatisfactory work situations is providing a role model to his or her children that when something is amiss, it’s someone else’s fault. Granted, some work situations are destructive and an employee needs to get out and move on. But children and adults need to learn how to navigate and work through routine life challenges including not-so-perfect environments, authority, and peers.

What message do you send to your family about work ethic and responsibilities? How do you talk about your boss and coworkers? What do you say about your work challenges? Here are some things to think about regarding your influence on your family’s view of work.

Does your work attire convey professionalism? It’s not surprising that the professional standards of work attire have deteriorated. Sports and leisure wear have become the norm in schools, churches, and restaurants. I firmly believe that a person’s choice of clothing in the office affects job performance. Businesses who have returned to traditional business attire agree with me. Do your children see a difference between weekend wear and work clothing? What’s appropriate office attire? Important client meeting attire? Dress-down day attire? Children are well served to witness and participate in the thought process of how parents choose to outfit themselves.

What work ethic do you convey? A long-time, very successful business friend of mine has two teenage daughters. In her household, Sundays are about getting ready for the week ahead. They plan and prepare their clothes, meals, activities and ride sharing, do homework, and check e-mails. Sunday evenings are low-key and they go to bed early. Both girls do well in school. My friend’s sixteen year-old daughter is working part-time at Target and her youngest works the lunch hour cafeteria shift at school. Why? Like most young teens they want their own money. But an even greater factor is that their parents have instilled a positive work ethic and have role modeled and equipped them with the skill set they need � planning, organizing, keeping agreements; to be productive and responsible workers. Do your household routines support a good work ethic?

Do you have a job or a career? What do your words and actions convey to your children about your long-term career plan? “They don’t pay me enough for this.” or “I’m going to take advantage of the learning and career advancement opportunities my employer offers.” Having taught for the National Alliance Society of CIC and James K. Ruble Graduate programs for over ten years, I’m continually impressed with the individual commitment and family support of program participants. Some families travel along, some show support by holding the fort at home allowing the student quiet time to stay and study at the hotel, and some pay their own tuition and travel costs because their employer does not financially endorse the program. Demonstrating a time commitment and mental resolve to further education and career advancement doesn’t just benefit the employee. It shows the family that getting what you want in life takes sacrifice and dedication.

What words do you use about work? Words, thoughts, and actions are all connected. If you find yourself continually talking about “problems” or “hate” certain things about what you do or people you work with, that negative energy is sent to those around you. My husband John continually reminds me of this. If I say “I hate cold weather,” John quietly says, “Hate is a very strong word.” He’s right. I don’t mean hate. Cold weather isn’t my favorite, it’s uncomfortable and inconvenient to me. But I don’t hate it. If I refer to something as a problem, John patiently asks what my challenge is. A problem is a burden, a challenge is an opportunity. Big difference. Changing language changes thoughts, attitudes, and actions. Pay attention to be sure what you say is what you mean. Avoid sending your family signals that don’t reflect your intention.

Do you set boundaries between work and home? In today’s highly connected cell phone, text messaging, and e-mail world, families are able to stay in touch as often as they want. That can pose a problem if left unchecked. We do have personal lives while working, but employees and families must recognize and control appropriate boundaries. A child should call his parent at work to check in, ask permission, or share a significant moment. Conversations should be brief. Other family members may have a need to confirm plans or be in contact on an ongoing situation. Other than that, extensive interruptions by family members that disrupt the employee’s workday is not fair to the employer, coworkers, or customers.

In defense of their position, employees who take personal calls at work complain, “What can I do?” Here’s what to do. Say, “Don’t call me to chat at work. It’s not fair to my employer, my coworkers, or my customers.” Send a clear message to your family that supports your work ethic and responsibilities on the job.

As Jean Nidetch, founder of Weight Watchers said, “It’s choice – not chance – that determines your destiny.” Leave a lasting legacy to your family by demonstrating positive attitudes and actions about your work life.

Emily Huling, CIC, CMC helps the insurance industry create top-performing sales and customer service organizations. She is the author of Selling from the Inside and Kick Your “But.” For information on her programs and products call 888-309-8802 or visit

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