Imagine you are looking for a new assistant.
You have two options; one assistant is sullen, confrontational, moody, and reactionary. They are prone to pessimism, complaining, passive-aggressiveness, and have a general lack of respect and production etiquette. This assistant is skilled enough to use all of your gear and has great insights on photography, but is generally unpleasant to work with. Your second choice is an assistant who is equally experienced and skilled from a technical standpoint. But rather than being a glowering cloud of negativity and constant despair, this assistant’s outlook is upbeat. They show up excited and enthusiastic about the project, and even when things go wrong they don’t wallow in self-pity or panic, they recover gracefully and help turn the day around. They are quick to learn, pay attention, and attend to you and your clients needs with the utmost of courtesy and professionalism, without being uncomfortably formal. In summation, they are a pleasure to be around, someone you could consider a friend as well as an employee, the type of person who makes your productions run smoother and easier because their mere presence does not create an air of defeatism.
Who do you hire?
If these people are equals in regards to technical expertise and experience, then their attitudes and outlooks suddenly become very important values to consider. When the choice is between an individual you genuinely like, and someone whose mere presence inspires a sudden desire to start taking strong antidepressants, then the choice is easy. Naturally, the above descriptions illustrate extremes, but the point is still valid — attitude plays a big part in how we perceive others. It is a value we consider in our interactions and relationships with people from the first time we meet them. Of course we take other factors into consideration, but as illustrated above, one’s inclination towards positive or negative can in some cases be an absolute deal breaker. We are compelled to surround ourselves with individuals that we like; people who do not drag others into their despair. No one wants to work with an asshole (This is true in most cases, you will however find that those with misanthropic outlooks will oftentimes surround themselves with others prone to negativity. This is because of their shared outlook and because one’s negative behavior will often be used as an excuse to justify similar behavior by the other. Synergy isn’t always a good thing)
Now put yourself in your client’s shoes.
A buyer is considering two photographers to work with. Both of these photographers are delivering estimates the are approximately the same, they both have excellent work that could be good for the campaign, and they are coming from about the same area. One of the photographers is a positive and creative mind. They see problems as challenges to be overcome, get along well with the art director on set, and are able to both see creative opportunities and take fearless risks because they are not preoccupied with complaining and constantly seeing the bad side of things.
The second photographer is kind of a diva, and does not work well under pressure. The buyer knows that as good as their work is, if they get frustrated on set because of small setbacks it could send them into a funk that spoils the production. They complain to clients and art directors on set about how the industry has changed and how they do not think photographers are respected anymore. In many cases, they talk trash about other people in the industry. The buyer has seen them making similar complaints online through various forums and social media channels. Their talent is eclipsed by how the buyer perceives their shitty behavior and negativity.
Who do you hire?
We are more than a price on an estimate — I reiterate it all the time on this blog. In many cases your personality can be as big a determining factor in getting the job as your talent and creativity. Outlooks are contagious too, have you ever had your day ruined because someones else’s shitty attitude spread to you? Why would you want someone spreading that sort of negative attitude onto one of your productions? We judge people by their attitudes all the time, it could be as simple as deciding to buy from one vendor over another because their customer service rep was indifferent or rude. Or it could be as vital as putting together your staff and support team from people whose outlooks push you to achieve and stay positive. You have customers and buyers who are always weighing your merits against the merits of others, and attitude is a value that is considered whether you like it or not.