Why is attitude important in the workplace in Hong Kong?

By Robert Half on 3 June 2024
Estimated Read Time: 6 minutes

Have you ever started your work day thinking, “I’d rather be anywhere else but here?”

Often the feeling is fleeting, other times it may linger, signalling a deeper issue about your job, your co-workers, or the wider workplace.

Whatever the situation, it’s important to recognise the impact of attitudes in the workplace, especially in Hong Kong, where fast-paced work environments and high expectations are the cultural norm. Your attitude is a form of self-expression, and it’s important to remember that it’s chosen entirely by you. As the adage goes, ‘We cannot always control everything that happens to us, but we can control how we respond.’ So, you can choose to be happy, upbeat, and optimistic, or you can choose to be cynical, critical, and pessimistic. Just be prepared for what may follow.

As we will explore, attitude plays a fundamental role in shaping professional success. A little positivity goes a long way in bolstering your psychological well-being and your capacity to cope with stress at work.

If you’re wondering ‘why is attitude important in the workplace?’, be sure to read on. It may just inspire you to change your attitude for the better!

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Why is attitude important in the workplace?

We’ve all experienced times in our lives when the moods or attitudes of others have impacted our own. For example, if a friend is critical of a restaurant meal, we might start to find faults in it too, and our overall experience is hampered.

When discussing attitudes in the workplace, it’s important to note that like the above example, an individual’s attitude impacts not only themselves, but others within their organisation.

Melissa Lau, Director at Robert Half Hong Kong, says that an employee’s attitude carries enormous weight in the workplace. She says, “People often ask me ‘Why is attitude important in the workplace?’ My response is simple – your attitude is a reflection of you and your approach to your work.”

She says a positive attitude is a key differentiator among employees. “Qualifications and skills are important, but a positive attitude is like gold to employers. Having a positive attitude and a proactive approach can certainly make you a more productive employee. It can impact how well you complete your projects; how other people perceive you, and how willing you are to make a positive contribution.”

It comes as no surprise that a negative attitude can have the inverse effect, creating a culture of inefficiency, distrust, resentment, and stress.

A recent study on occupational stress and its economic cost in Hong Kong demonstrated that there are also ‘enormous monetary costs associated with workplace stress, which further carry tremendous health-impairment burdens for individual employees.’ The findings of this study also showed that ‘positive emotions can be leveraged to guard against the negative outcomes of workplace stress.’

Make no mistake, maintaining a positive attitude is vital in cultivating a wider culture of positivity that boosts employee morale, productivity, and team connectedness.

The Hong Kong balancing act

Every workplace is nuanced, and so too, are most cultures.

While Hong Kong is known as a bustling business hub, it’s also characterised by its “saving face” culture.

As Melissa explains, “‘Saving face’ culture centres around proper behaviour and the avoidance of conflict. In Hong Kong, it is paramount to display harmony and dignity in social interactions. There is also great emphasis on diplomacy, tact, and respect, to foster strong relationships while preserving professional reputations.”

If you’re a job seeker in Hong Kong, wondering ‘Why is attitude important in the workplace?’, know that it is crucial. In the context of Hong Kong’s cultural landscape, maintaining a positive attitude is essential for achieving professional success.

Let’s explore why a positive attitude isn’t just beneficial for navigating Hong Kong's "saving face" culture, it’s essential!

1. Relationship preservation

Harmonious relationships are critical to Hong Kong business interactions. A positive attitude helps to foster goodwill, respect, and trust in business relationships, leading to meaningful connections with colleagues, clients, and stakeholders.

2. Mitigating conflict with diplomacy

“Saving face” culture does not encourage direct confrontation. While conflict avoidance is prevalent in Hong Kong, a positive attitude helps employees approach disagreements with diplomacy, respect, and empathy, to resolve conflict through constructive dialogue and mutually beneficial solutions.

3. Facilitating clear communication

A positive attitude encourages transparency, active listening, and empathy in a culture where indirect communication can be common. A positive attitude can help to facilitate effective, transparent communication to reach constructive and collaborative solutions.

4. Building trust and credibility

Trust is essential in business relationships, especially those in Hong Kong. Reputation and credibility are at the heart of “saving face” culture - a positive attitude helps to emphasise one’s sincerity, reliability, and integrity to build a strong reputation and earn professional respect.

5. Promoting team cohesion

In Hong Kong, collective success often takes precedence over individual achievements. A positive attitude is paramount in fostering constructive and collaborative team dynamics, helping team members to feel valued, motivated and empowered to contribute.

6. Navigating professional challenges

Business is dynamic and competitive in Hong Kong. A positive attitude is essential in the face of various challenges, equipping employees with the resilience, optimism, and results-focused mindset to thrive in demanding circumstances.

Related: How to set your career and work goals for 2024

Hong Kong ‘How To's’

There’s no mistaking that navigating Hong Kong’s “saving face” culture can be a delicate balancing act.

In a culture where harmony is paramount, can one express concerns or frustrations without “rocking the boat”? Melissa believes it all comes down to strategy.

“It can seem very intimidating to draw attention to things that may not be working. However, transparent and constructive communication is an integral part of collaboration and the effective resolution of issues. There are many steps you can take to express your concerns or frustrations, just make sure that you do so with grace and professionalism.”

If you’re looking to express your concerns or frustrations constructively, be strategic:

  1. Choose the right time and place – Prioritise an appropriate time and a private setting. Opt for open dialogue while ensuring confidentiality and avoiding embarrassment.
  2. Frame feedback positively – Open on a positive note before addressing concerns. Seek to soften the impact of feedback and honour the recipient's dignity and self-esteem.
  3. Use indirect language – Avoid direct criticism or blame to allow the recipient to save face, while still absorbing the underlying messages.
  4. Focus on solutions – Demonstrate a shared commitment to success by shifting the conversation from problems to collaborative solutions.
  5. Adopt empathy and active listening – Put yourself in the recipient’s shoes. Foster trust and understanding by validating their feelings and concerns.
  6. Follow up with respect – Check in after your discussions to acknowledge any progress or changes made. Demonstrate a commitment to constructive communication and positive professional relationships.

Melissa believes such strategies help to strike a balance between harmony and self-advocacy. She says, “While harmony is highly valued in ‘saving face’ culture, it does not trump an employee’s need for self-advocacy.

"I always stress to employees (particularly younger generations) that they can still honour cultural norms while respectfully advocating for their own needs. Mutual understanding, respect, and professional success stems from open communication, empathy, and a positive attitude.”

The power of positivity

If you’ve found yourself wondering ‘why is attitude important in the workplace?’, take the time to consider the last time you got a positive result with a negative attitude.

We’re guessing it’s never really happened for you.

While a positive attitude won’t solve all of your problems at work, it’s a powerful tool for navigating problems that may arise. By embracing positivity, you can enrich your own professional experience, while helping to perpetuate a thriving workplace culture.

The good news is, the 2024 market outlook is looking positive. According to the 2024 Robert Half Salary Guide, 68% of workers say there has been an increase in employee satisfaction in the last 12 months and 66% have seen a rise in morale as a result.

While this signals that the majority of employees are happy in their current role, it’s important to recognise that there is still more work to be done.

Let’s take a look at the top four things you can build with a positive attitude in Hong Kong:

  1. Trust and confidence – Clients and colleagues are drawn to optimism, sincerity, and integrity. These qualities stem from a positive attitude, so, use it to inspire confidence amongst your associates.
  2. Strong client relationships – Nothing strengthens a client relationship quite like positivity, enthusiasm, and empathy. Don’t overlook the power of positivity in driving results for your clients and delivering exceptional service.
  3. Professional success – If you want to navigate challenges, drive productivity, and harness collaboration, positivity is pivotal. These elements not only enhance your performance, they help to attract opportunities for professional advancement. If you radiate positivity, you’ll also radiate confidence, enthusiasm, and professionalism – all of which are essential in achieving your career goals.
  4. Innovation and creativity – Positivity won’t just boost your mindset, it’s sure to unlock your creative potential too. Optimistic, open-minded environments are a breeding ground for new ideas and innovation. With positivity comes inspiration, collaboration, and the fearless pursuit of fresh ideas that can drive business success.

Looking to stay competitive in Hong Kong through creativity? Use your positive attitude to encourage a positive work environment that welcomes new ideas. Be sure to:

  • Foster open communication with your associates.
  • Celebrate successes to boost morale.
  • Embrace diversity to draw on new ideas and perspectives.
  • Participate in training and development opportunities to maximise ongoing learning.
  • Enrich the employee experience for yourself and others by cultivating a supportive and optimistic atmosphere.

If you think that skills and qualifications are the sole drivers of workplace success, think again. It’s a positive attitude that has emerged as the bedrock of success in Hong Kong. In the context of the city’s “saving face” culture, a positive attitude is not just beneficial, it’s essential. If you’re wondering ‘why is attitude important in the workplace?’, know that it will enable you to navigate cultural complexities, build trust and confidence, foster strong relationships, and fuel innovation and creativity. In a culture where perception is pivotal, be sure to prioritise positivity!

Interested in current hiring and workplace trends in Hong Kong? Check out Robert Half’s 2024 Salary Guide

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