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Practicing Gratitude in the Workplace

| January 17, 2022
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We often associate November with thanks (for obvious turkey-related reasons), but January is the start of the year and a great time to begin a practice of gratitude. What does this mean, exactly, and how can it relate to you as business-owner and financial professional?

Kids get taught pretty young to say ‘thank you’ when they receive help or an item. It’s a good start! Even when a kid is jumping up and down in excitement and the ‘thank you’ is just a repetition of rote words, it’s an attitude lesson that teaches that when we get something good from someone, we thank them. We acknowledge those good things. As we grow, we have bigger feelings about gratitude—someone writing a recommendation letter that helped you get into grad school, your partner handling dinner when you just can’t seem to tackle cooking that evening, someone giving you advice, letting you borrow a jacket, or even someone just dropping off a cookie when they didn’t even know you were having a rough day. Sometimes it’s easy to lose our mindfulness to the little things. Like, sure, of course I’ll say thank you if someone gives me a cashmere sweater for my birthday, but it’s so easy to forget to say thank you to the person who held the door for you at a hotel, particularly if that person is the doorman.

We may no longer feel as grateful for the things we think we should be getting anyway, or for someone doing something that is part of their job. It’s a studied fact that Americans are less likely to say ‘thank you’ on the job than anywhere else, and this lack can hurt a work environment, having negative impacts on happiness, attitude, and even productivity.

It’s an unfortunate perception throughout the working world that gratitude is a sign of weakness. A Templeton survey found that 35 percent of their responders believed that expressing gratitude toward coworkers would make it more likely that those coworkers would take advantage of them. Yikes! This sort of thinking is dangerously circular, leading to a loss of trust and morale.

In good news, while there’s some work involved, cultivating a culture of gratitude in your workplace isn’t impossible and has benefits that far outweigh the work. First of all, gratitude is free! That’s right—this isn’t about gifts or monetary compensation. Gratitude is about speaking and performing expressions of thanks that don’t cost anything. Here are a few steps to get you started.

  1. Thank People for the Support: It’s easy to thank the guy at the arena who hands you your beer. But do you thank a member of the maintenance staff as he goes by with his mop and cart? Consider how many people are actually impacting your experiences and remember that those doing unseen work should be recognized as well. This is crucial because it’s a tone-setter for everything else. If you appreciate the support staff, you’ll improve everything from the ground up. This also means noticing the little things that go right.
  2. Start at the Top: If you’re the head of your office, it’s good to start with you! Employees who receive gratitude from a boss are more likely to feel safer in their environment, and to pass on that gratitude to their coworkers and those whom they in turn manage. The key is being authentic and consistent—not just an ‘atta boy’ at a once-a-year meeting. It can also be built into procedures, like making gratitude part of reviewed and monthly staff meetings.
  3. Lots of Options: Everyone likes to be thanked, but not everyone likes it the same way. Some people shy away from public recognition, which is fine! They still deserve to be shown gratitude. Maybe try something like a gratitude journal or other appreciation platform, a bulletin board on the wall. The most important part of a project like this is not just to give nebulous thanks, but to focus the gratitude on particular people. Giving non-monetary gifts is another way to show gratitude, whether by taking on a task for someone else or giving them an extra day off. These gifts become naturally reciprocal in a working environment that fosters sincere gratitude all around.
  4. Know When Gratitude Might Matter More: It’s easy to be grateful when someone lands a good deal or put together a great client event. A more difficult task is finding gratitude in the aftermath of a crisis. Looking beyond what seems like disaster can be beneficial to everyone, and gratitude may be a tool to transform the challenge into opportunity more easily, as the built-up practice of gratitude in your office will make you more resilient to troubles. Posing non-aggressive questions during a meeting can let employees find lessons from the experience, what abilities and solutions surprised them in a positive way throughout and looking for ways that the workplace may have improved because of the crisis.

By removing aversion to gratitude, a strong workplace will weather troubled water more easily and bounce back more quickly. Challenge yourself to compliment a colleague during the day. The trust that is built up between coworkers who earnestly feel and show gratitude to others with whom they work is invaluable in all areas of business. In fact, gratitude as a business skill is just as useful as negotiation and other communication skills. On that note, thank you for reading this article!

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