How Gratitude Transforms an Organization
Social media is abuzz with people, in anticipation of Thanksgiving, expressing their gratitude, their thankfulness, for everything from family to sleep to running water. Gratitude changes how a person views their world. It makes people feel happier and more fulfilled in the moment. Thankfulness for what we already have leaves us open for even greater blessings from the universe. Gratitude, so easy to express for friends and family can feel a little crunchy when we try to express it at work, but gratitude in the workplace may provide as much, if not more, benefit than it does in our personal lives.
Personal praise and appreciation connect an employee to the company; it engages them. Engaged workers are more productive, but engaged workers are scarce as hen’s teeth. A 2012 Gallup poll found that “70% of American workers are not showing up to work committed to delivering their best performance,” and “Of the 70% of American workers who are not reaching their full potential, 52% are not engaged, and another 18% are actively disengaged.” Employees that are emotionally attached, on the other hand, are more productive, less likely to steal from the company, and encourage their coworkers to work harder for the organization.
Expressions of gratitude foster a unified environment similar to what we feel for family members. We have little trouble saying thank you to family and friends who do those “extra” things that make our lives run more smoothly; however, we often forget or do not know how to show our appreciation to coworkers or employees. If the neighbor waters the plants during vacation for us, we normally say, “thank you” or offer a small gift for doing so to show gratitude. At work, though, if a coworker managers our phone calls or emails or attends the boring chamber luncheon while we are away on vacation, that kindness, that is not part of his or her job description, often gets chalked up as part of the job or, worse, as something one has to do to keep that job. Such situations can make an employee feel as if someone is taking advantage of their good nature, which can contribute to uncomfortable and unnecessary tension in the office. An attitude of gratitude can transform the workplace, and it usually begins at the top.
From the Top Down
Bosses that remember to say thank you foster an atmosphere where it is not only acceptable to show appreciation for a job well done, but it is also expected. Bosses can say “thank you” during staff meetings or one-on-one. Other ways to express gratitude to employees is through small, non-monetary gifts. Giving a day off after the completion of a big office move says the boss appreciates all the hours invested in packing and moving files, personal effects and accumulated office junk. A round of double-shot lattes the morning after everyone stayed at the office until midnight to complete a proposal on time says, “Even though it’s part of your job, I still appreciate your dedication.”
Distasters + Gratitude = Growth
Things go wrong. Clients are lost. Orders are botched. Injuries happen. Companies that fail forward share a culture of gratitude that makes stressors such as lost clients a learning experience, not a disaster. When things go wrong, help employees discover the positive take-aways. What did we learn from this incident? What will we do in the future to make us a better team or to make this a better workplace? Companies that re-frame disasters into learning opportunities grow through any adversity.
Spread it around
Saying “Thank you” to your boss does not have to make you, or her, feel like you are sucking up. Your boss is certain to welcome your gratitude when she has done something wonderful and completely unexpected. Your boss probably doesn’t receive a “thank you” very often. Be specific when you thank them, and include the reason why what they did was so helpful to you. “Thanks for being the best boss I ever had,” might sound too gushy or insincere; however, “Thank you for including me at the planning meetings for the mid-year conference. I learned ___________.” In so doing, you specifically name the opportunity for which you are thankful, and gave your boss insight into other ways in which they can enrich your experience. When you win, your boss wins.
Appreciation should extend to your coworkers as well. Even in the most competitive work environment, an expression of thanks says, “I value your personal contribution.” Something as simple and sincere as, “I appreciated that you spoke up for our team’s contributions at the meeting last week,” forges a stronger bond within your team. Those bonds become the root structure on which an organization will flourish.
A climate of gratitude reinforces the fabric of an organization. Thanksgiving time is a nice reminder of the all the things for which we are grateful, but the opportunities to show gratitude to bosses or peers and, yes, to show gratitude for the big mistakes that sometimes happen are available year-round.16