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  • Dr. Julie Olsen

Are you Giving Your Team Leftovers This Thanksgiving?



After surveying over 2,000 people, the John Templeton Foundation discovered that Americans were less likely to express gratitude at work than anywhere else. Yet, according to a survey conducted by Glassdoor, 53% of employees admitted they would stay longer at a company if they felt appreciated. Stephanie Vozza, in her Fast Company article, stated 70% of employees said they would feel better about themselves and their efforts if their boss thanked them more regularly. From an organizational perspective, the lack of gratitude can impact turnover, productivity, and corporate culture creating lower job satisfaction and burnout. However, when an organization has a culture of gratitude, it can improve teamwork and be a greater motivator than money. In your organization, are expressions of gratitude offered frequently, or are they “leftovers”, only provided after all the other management tasks are done?

While a culture of gratitude can have a positive impact on an organization, there are many other reasons to make expressions of gratitude part of a healthy workplace diet. Some of the personal advantages of expressing gratitude include building relationships, enhancing empathy for others, improving physical and psychological health, and building resilience. During times of change, including changing business needs due to a pandemic, a resilient employee may be more productive and have a greater contribution to a positive work environment. Expressed gratitude can help direct an employee's focus towards the good in a challenging situation. Also, sincere gratitude builds trust, enhances relationships, and improves overall wellbeing. While money may be one of the motivators for us to get up and go to work, most people look for roles that also provide a sense of purpose and a feeling of accomplishment. Gratitude extended by others on the team contributes to their feeling of value. And, grateful employees are more likely to help other team members when needed. Unfortunately, with all of these benefits, at times we don’t prioritize expressions of sincere gratitude to our employees. Too often, instead of a healthy diet of gratitude, we give our team “leftovers”.

What is Gratitude?

Dictionary.com defines gratitude as the quality or feeling of being grateful or thankful. Naz Beheshti, in her article on gratitude that appeared in Forbes, states that “gratitude is a recognition of our interdependence, of the fact that success is the result of team effort”. It is acknowledging that we need someone, it requires that we show our vulnerability, and it is different from recognition. Most recognition programs focus on performance and recognize goal achievement. Gratitude should help someone feel the value they personally bring to the team. It is focused on the person, not just the output.

How Do We Demonstrate Gratitude?

While expressing gratitude can energize and inspire employees and coworkers to excel, if it is not done correctly, it can have the opposite effect. First and foremost, the expression of gratitude has to be genuine. At one organization, it was well-known that each manager was expected to write a thank-you note to at least 10 employees each month. While the intention was good, if the manager saw it as a task and simply wrote the notes without an element of sincerity, it might not be appreciated. Whether you are a team leader or a coworker, expressing sincere gratitude is important and it does not have to be grandiose. Here are a few tips to consider:

Make it personal. Our workforce is quite diverse and people want to be appreciated in different ways. Some like to receive praise in front of the team, while others would prefer to receive it privately. Look for the best way to make it personal and tailor it to the person’s preferred style.

Provide details. It may sound basic however when expressing gratitude if there are no details as to what the person did or why it was important, it may be perceived as insincere. Gratitude is an opportunity to celebrate differences, and it can recognize the value of someone who may think or work differently, brings to the team.

Track the small things each day. Take note of at least three things that someone did that enhanced productivity or the work environment and thank them for it. Noticing the small things indicates that you don’t take them for granted and that you care about them.

Write a note. It can be something simple or even a few words on a post-it note, the purpose is to let them know you appreciate them. Take the time to appreciate them as a person, not the task they completed.

Designate a location for peers to share gratitude. It can be a webpage, a whiteboard in a visible location, a digital folder on the department or organizational website, or a department gratitude jar. Be creative!

Don’t forget those employees who work behind the scenes. Remember to express your gratitude to the employees who contribute to the organization but aren’t often recognized. Think about the people who clean the office, those who serve the “back office” work such as processing invoices or human resources, or the information technology service desk employees.

Respect others. Expressing respect for and recognizing someone’s unique skills can enhance their motivation while boosting loyalty and improving communication.

As we enter this period of Thanksgiving, don’t give your employees leftovers, instead, make expressing gratitude a priority. With gratitude as a focus, you can improve your employees, your team, and the organization. Blair Singer in Entrepreneur stated, “the more you can train your brain to seek out the good in your business and in life, the more fulfilled you’ll become and the more positivity starts to build around you”. Don’t wait, express gratitude to someone today!

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©2020 by Workplace Advancement Strategies.