Thank you handwritten on a white cardAs we all get excited to head off to our respective homes for an extended respite and some good gravy, I want to share a couple thoughts on gratitude in the workplace.

A tradition at many Thanksgiving tables is to one by one, share things we are grateful for.  It’s a lovely tradition and usually leaves us filled with much more than mom’s stuffing at the end.  Expressing gratitude shifts not only our perspective, but our spirits.  Over and over, from spiritual texts to positive psychology research, gratitude is cited as a life-shifting force for those expressing it.  Certainly, if you have never tried it, I recommend saying or writing three things you are grateful for each night before you sleep.  See how you feel three months later – it’s remarkable!

Expressing gratitude is wonderful for the speaker – and we all like to be the recipient of gratitude, or thanks, as well.  Being acknowledged for making a difference feels good – it means we have impacted someone in a positive way, they saw it, and are appreciative.

We thank people for things all the time – so how come it doesn’t create an even more positive environment?  Well, we usually don’t do it enough, or thoroughly.  In deciding to leave a job, most people (different studies say between 70-85%) don’t leave their companies, they leave their bosses.  A commonly cited reason is feeling unappreciated.  So let’s get better at it!

Here are some office tips for how to make your “thanks” really matter:

  1. Mean it.  Obvious as it seems, this is a biggie.  Be sincere.  Look people in the eye.  Don’t gloss over it.  Really thank them for something.
  2. Acknowledge more than the task.  Sure, it’s nice to hear “great report” – but it means even more to hear “Thank you for the thorough report.  I can tell you spent a lot of time on the data section.  I’m sure there were other things you’d rather have been ding last week, but that will be really valuable to the team.  We appreciate it.”  If you acknowledge not only WHAT they did, but WHAT IT TOOK FOR THEM TO DO IT, it will go a looong way.
  3. Be generous.  Expressing gratitude costs you nothing (in fact, it gains YOU feeling good – win/win!)  So don’t be stingy with your acknowledgement – share it liberally!
  4. Share publicly.  Telling someone in private that they did a good job is nice.  Telling them in front of others, especially their boss, is great!
  5. Be creative.  Rather than always a verbal “thanks”, find some ways to spice it up.  Leave a note on their desk.  Leave a note with a cookie or their favorite coffee drink.  Have the team hold up “Thank you, Kathy” signs when she walks in the room.  Have fun with it!  The effort you make to acknowledge their contribution will stick with them and be appreciated in return.
  6. Look in all directions.  You can express your gratitude for your directs, your peers, your boss, the mail guy, everyone you pass in a day.  How have they made your experience better?
  7. Repeat.  It’s nice to hear you once, but if you can say it in a couple ways, all the better, especially for large tasks that need more than a simple “nice job”.

Remember, expressing gratitude is not a sign of weakness, but of strength.  Leaders  like to give credit where it’s due.

So before you rush out the door for the holiday…  isn’t there someone you’d like to thank?  Go do it now!  It’ll just take a minute….