Gratitude Matters

During the holiday season a lot of good cheer is had. Food appears, office areas are decorated, cards and other tokens of appreciation are provided, employees are invited to lunch, and typically the mood is light and cheery. Those are nice but opportunities for gratitude happen all through the year and do not have to be tied to an occasion, event or a specific recognition.

I was visiting with an employee the other day and he talked a lot about the value of being in a good place to work. Adequate space, well-kept furnishings and decor, clean and functional kitchen and break area, comfortable temperature, etc. are physical examples of a good work environment. These are all reasonable expectations and his point was that a comfortable work environment, where employees enjoy coming to work and feel appreciated, is important to attracting and keeping good employees. I agree completely.

What also matters is an environment where employees feel that they matter, and that leadership is paying attention to them. Of course we want to recognize employees for service anniversaries, promotions, and completing a significant assignment or project. Those are important but how we act or behave on a regular basis, how we treat others and the environment that we create and support on a daily basis, often defines our culture and style of leadership. Let’s call it gratitude.

There are lots of examples of gratitude but here are a few that might not be so obvious.

• An old-fashioned, hand-written thank you note on nice paper still goes a long way. Not an email or a quick passing comment, but taking the time to write a note.
• Take the time to follow up with someone about a prior event or conversation. What’s happened since then? Circle back and close the loop. We get busy and forgot but employees tend to remember.
• Really ask how someone is doing. Not just the pleasantry but really ask. And listen.
• Public examples are not necessary, in fact, many employees prefer not to be trotted out in front of co-workers.
• Pay attention to events and milestones in your employee’s career and life.
• No two people are the same so pay attention to each employee’s personality and style of communication.
• Sometimes “thank you” is enough.

Gratitude is not giving every employee what that want. It is not realistic or possible. Employees are not looking for friendship they are look to their leaders for guidance, respect and support. There are many types of leadership including servant leadership, which puts the needs of others first and helps people develop and perform as highly as possible, and that includes providing constructive feedback, coaching and tough conversations when needed. Gratitude is an expression of appreciation as much as it is addressing the needs of the person.

There is no book on gratitude nor does there need to be. Gratitude comes from the heart as much as it comes by way of the pen or the word. “Gratitude is a currency that we can mint for ourselves, and spend without fear of bankruptcy.” — Fred De Witt Van Amburgh

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