• Renea Skelton, PhD

Got Gratitude? It’s Not Just for Thanksgiving!

‘Tis the season when we focus on giving thanks with many of us sharing our gratitude to those that we care about and love. Why is it that most of us seem to wait for a holiday or special observance to express our thanks? When is the last time you thanked your employees, coworkers, or boss? If you have not recognized the members of your team lately, you need to repair the oversight before your Thanksgiving Day leftovers expire.

Gratitude is one of the most powerful emotions that we can express. When I work with leaders, I often highlight the critical importance of how their employees feel as a key indicator of the outcome they will receive. For many years (and unfortunately still today) employees were instructed to not bring their feelings into work because everything should be “left at the door.” Today, we realize that this request is now a primary reason why we have issues within organizations. Many employees feel unhappy, stuck, and not valued. Gratitude isn’t an emotion that we can just turn on and off. It is an approach to life that requires intentional internal change. One must first work on changing how they feel about a situation to change the results and gratitude is an amazing first step!

A recent Glassdoor study found that 80% of employees would be willing to work harder for an appreciative boss and 70% remarked that they would feel better about themselves and their efforts if their boss thanked them more regularly. Basically, a simple thank you can go a long way. Emotionally intelligent leaders use gratitude to inspire others and to even help themselves. So how can you express gratitude within your organization?

1. Keep it authentic. If you are an organizational leader that finds it painful when expressing gratitude, you are going about it the wrong way. Authenticity requires vulnerability. It is about putting aside your ego and expressing your appreciation in a manner that the receiver can digest. Many leaders fall into the trap of creating blanket-type “thanks” to cover many people at once. Yes, company picnics are great but how about taking it an extra step by providing specific kudos to each individual (or a team of individuals) on a project they completed, a metric they attained, or just the hard work they put into the organization. This is a time where leaders need to focus on the human aspect of their employees versus just the employee façade. Humans have the desire to be valued, needed, and appreciated.

2. Express it in person. You have heard the expression: “praise in public” – do it! If your employee deserves recognition, praise them in front of everyone! First, it shows that you care about the individual (one of the most crucial elements of trust), second, it allows for others to witness the praise and possibly motivate them to strive for recognition as well. Regardless, do not wait for the most opportune moment to praise – just praise in the moment – it’s more authentic and individuals appreciate immediate feedback.

3. Honor them with your time. We get it. Your employees get it. You are busy. Take the time to recognize their efforts. Your employees put in countless hours within your organization; respect their time as well. If you express gratitude in meetings, make it short but memorable. One example is to begin your meeting with a “round robin” approach. Have attendees express gratitude for each other around the table with you, as the leader, starting it off to set the stage and safe space. This provides an open forum of communication and the opportunity to showcase how the meeting is not as important as the gratitude you provide and they receive.

4. Keep it frequent. This is not a one-and-done methodology. Be consistent and do not wait until it is the holiday season to show your appreciation. Your employees are doing amazing things every day and they need to be recognized for it. Various levels of stress reside in all organizations and consistency can prevent undesirable emotions because the standard has been set – individuals are valued.

Expressing gratitude requires effort. Consider doing it more intentionally, contemplating more, and creating a safe space of “thanks” to inspire. Appreciating on a personal level directly impacts the workplace and creates a culture in which your employees can thrive in…feeling appreciated!

How has your organization expressed gratitude? Please share below.

- Renea Skelton, PhD

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