Gratitude At Work

4w_monPIN_400x600_072913Last week we talked about gratitude and faith, so this week I thought we’d address the role gratitude can and should (but probably doesn’t) play in your workplace.

When is the last time you heard (or offered) sincere gratitude at work?

Research suggests that people are less likely to express gratitude at work than anywhere else. This is true despite the fact that offering thanks to colleagues and employees has been shown to boost job satisfaction and performance, both of the person expressing gratitude and the one receiving it.

When I receive thanks from colleagues for the work I'm doing, I feel encouraged and inspired to keep working hard. And I can’t tell you what expressions of gratitude mean to me in keeping me energized for God’s work he has prepared me to do for 4word.

For a Christian, expressing gratitude to others is a natural extension of our gratitude to God, and as Bill Peel points out, it falls right in line with Paul’s exhortations to render “humble service in the workplace” (Ephesians 6:5-9, Colossians 3:22-4:1, 1 Thessalonians 4:11-12). Moreover, it’s a terrific way to share Christ’s love with your colleagues.

So why aren’t people doing it?

I tend to think that it comes down to emotions. Showing real gratitude to another person takes more than just the words, “thank you.” It requires you to really see another person, to connect with them and to acknowledge not just their accomplishments, but them as a person. That makes it an emotional act that requires a certain amount of vulnerability. And any time you start getting emotional and vulnerable at work, there’s potential for awkwardness. Some people are concerned that their gratitude might be perceived as insincere or might be otherwise misinterpreted. Others worry that showing gratitude will make them seem weak.

These concerns aren’t necessarily unfounded, but you shouldn’t let them stop you. Gratitude is a Christian imperative, and it’s a good business practice too.

Here are my top tips for keeping office gratitude appropriate and effective:

1. Keep it professional- There’s no rule that says that you have to like everyone you work with equally, and you couldn’t, even if you tried. You’re bound to like some people and feel more comfortable with them than with others, and that’s okay. But at work, you can’t let your gratitude be bound by personal affinities, especially if you’re in a managerial role. I’ve found that gratitude is toughest (and most powerful) when it is directed towards someone you don’t like all that much.

If you want to offer someone thanks, but you’re worried about your sentiment coming off as overly emotional or personal, I prescribe 24 hours wait time and a good old fashioned gut-check. Most things are clearer with the benefit of a night’s rest, and if something feels “off” to you, it probably is. But if you’re still uncertain, run it by a trusted friend or mentor.

2. Be consistent- As much as you can, offer thanks regularly. Some executives schedule specific time to thank their staff. I don’t think you necessarily have to be as regimented as that, but it can be helpful within a busy schedule to set aside some time to think about how to show appreciation to those around you. It’s great to offer thanks in the moment, but gratitude is still effective after-the-fact, as long as it is sincerely given.

3. Be sincere and specific- Even if you have scheduled a specific time to devote to your office thank you’s, try not to simply recite thanks by rote. It won’t do much good to march around the office at the same time every Friday afternoon offering generic thanks to everyone you work with. Even if your motivation is heartfelt, people aren’t likely to feel appreciated by such a routine. Instead, offer thanks that are specific and personal. Start by identifying what action you appreciate, then tie it to the greater value this represents, and if appropriate, mention why it was particularly meaningful to you. For example:

I noticed how hard you’ve been working on this presentation, thank you for being so conscientious. I so appreciate how you’re helping me and the rest of the team put our best foot forward.  

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How do you share gratitude at work?