Did Gratitude show up for work today?
We talk about it a lot this time of year, but it's hard to have a good grip on gratitude when you're fighting mall traffic (and all you want is dinner), or when it's the week before Christmas and suddenly everyone you've ever talked to at work needs something asap (and all you want is to get home before that crazy mall traffic gets even crazier). In every line of work, from storage tanks and industrial construction to accounting, teaching, medicine or retail, gratitude seems to be MIA.
In his post "5 Ways to Cultivate Gratitude at Work", Jeremy Adam Smith cites a current survey about attitudes on the job. According to the John Templeton Foundation's survey of 2,000 Americans, people just don't feel or express gratitude at work like they do elsewhere. Smith says "almost all respondents reported that saying “thank you” to colleagues “makes me feel happier and more fulfilled”—but on a given day, only 10 percent acted on that impulse. A stunning 60 percent said they “either never express gratitude at work or do so perhaps once a year.”
Bringing gratitude to the job can have a major impact on the attitudes of employees and the prevailing atmosphere of the workplace. In his post, Smith cites the work of Berkely's Greater Good Science Center's research on gratitude and results of a study using an interactive online gratitude journal. The Center's Science Director, Emiliana-Simon Thomas, found that "the greater the number of gratitude experiences people had on a given day, the better they felt. People who kept at it for at least two weeks showed significantly increased happiness, greater satisfaction with life, and higher resilience to stress; this group even reported fewer headaches and illnesses."
From Oprah to Rick Warren to any number of current culture blogs, magazine articles, books and interviews, there's consensus that expressing gratitude leads to improved overall happiness and even physical health. Not bad for something that is 100% free. Unlike adding an organics-only vending machine, installing a 2-mile walking track, or bringing in self-help gurus, adding a bit of gratitude into your workplace costs absolutely nothing and can bring immediate results.
So, how do you inject gratitude at work? Here are four practical tips for making gratitude part of your workplace:
1. Say Thank You
It seems so simple, but when you really focus on it, you'll find many missed opportunities to express gratitude to and for the people around you. Thank yous must be genuine and heartfelt; nobody wants a fake thank you! Look for chances to tell people you appreciate them and their work. It's important that you keep this professional and meaningful. Diane Addison of 4WordWomen.org offers this advice for workplace thank yous:
Keep it professional - You're probably not going to really love everyone you work with. Expressing gratitude is a practice, which means you have to work at it. It shouldn't be about emotion, or even about your personal relationship with the other person. It's about expressing appreciation. If you struggle to offer a sincere thank you, practice some more. Run it by a colleague. Following the next two tips might help you, too.
Be consistent - Offer thanks regulary. If it helps, schedule a regular time when you assess opportunities to give thanks, and then do it. Addison points out that in-the-moment thank yous are great, but after-the-fact thank yous can do wonders, too. (see next bullet for more on how to make those effective)
Be sincere and specific - Make sure when you offer thanks it is personal and specifically identifies what you are appreciating. Rote thanks don't mean much, but telling someone in person what it is that you appreciate about something they've done is very, very effective and meaningful.
2. Find Things To Be Grateful For
Atlanta Workplace Examiner's Judith Haughton discusses being grateful at work in her blog post Being Grateful At Work. She suggests identifying little things in your day-to-day that you appreciate, and that making a practice of this will engender feelings of gratitude. Do you have a window? Do you get to work outside? Do you have people who help you regularly? Do you have a paycheck? Like any new thing, it takes practice to make feeling gratitude a habit.
Sindy Warren, of Respectful Workplace, offer this advice: "today, or sometime soon, acknowledge something at work you are grateful for. Express it to yourself, and even to others. Love how dedicated your employees are? Thank them. Appreciate how your manager always has your back? Acknowledge him or her." Like Haughton, Warren emphasizes that gratitude is a mindset, and only by practicing can we make it an integral part of our daily lives.
3. Be The Beginning Of A Culture of Gratitude
For gratitude to become a matter of culture in the workplace, it's got to start with someone. Become a Gratitude Instigator. NewLifeOffice.com offers some suggestions from speaker and trainer Anita Fontana (Attitude of Gratitude Seminars) for starting some gratitude among your coworkers, or even your clients, vendors, and others you deal with every day:
Send a virtual box of chocolates or bouquet of flowers - cost & calorie free!
Take someone out for coffee or lunch “just because.”
Leave a sticky note (a thank you) on a monitor, desk or light switch.
Send a hand-written card or note - yes, notecards are still available and people treasure them.
Leave a thank you voicemail message - can you imagine what it would feel like to have a voicemail that just said "thank you for xyz"?
4. Develop Your Own Gratitude Practice(s) Outside Of Work
We arrive a work as products of our experiences before work. For most of us, that's in the morning, after getting up (possibly late), getting dressed (possibly in the dark, maybe ineffectively), grabbing something to eat (if we're lucky!) and meeting the needs of kids/pets/parents or in-laws/spouses/the entire rest of the world. So by the time we get to work, there's whole host of things that can wreak havoc on an attitude of gratitude. Research suggests that people who engage in some sort of morning ritual that focuses on gratitude are much more likely to share gratitude throughout the day. There are as many suggestions for what that morning routine might include as there are people in the world, but here are some ideas:
Try excercising first thing in the morning; it helps EVERYTHING. People who exercise first thing report feeling better about themselves all day, and studies have long shown the positive relationship physical activity and brain function. It's easier to feel, share and promote gratitude when you've had a good walk/run/workout with your favorite DVD.
Develop a personal gratitude ritual - whether it's a journal you write in or a list in a drawer, taking time each morning to specifically and intentionally think about what you're grateful for helps put you in the right frame of mind to find more opportunities for gratitude all day long.
Challenge your friends and family to keep a gratitude journal, share daily "I'm grateful for" notes, keep a list that's handy for everyone, or send daily gratitude texts. Be creative in encouraging everyone around you to jump on the gratitude bus, because in this game, one+one is way more than two!
As 2013 comes to a close, I'm hoping to make gratitude more than a buzzword. I'd like to be a Gratitude Instigator in 2014. Maybe you will give it a try, too!