I can think of no greater way to enhance any workplace culture than with gratitude! Here’s why.
We’ve all read the stats on employee engagement. A dismal 30% of the workforce is fully engaged at any point in time. You probably have also heard about management’s view on why people leave. Eighty-five percent of managers surveyed believe employees leave for more pay. Surveys from reputable organizations have pinpointed the number at 12%! The workplace culture is under serious attack these days but could be enhanced tremendously with a sincere, consistent dose of gratitude!
What’s behind the concept of gratitude?
At the top of the list of influential human emotions is the feeling of being appreciated. We all crave it in our relationships, our charitable actions and our jobs. Gratitude can take on many forms that speak to people who believe their efforts matter. From formal recognition of achievements to simple acknowledgements that our efforts are appreciated and have not gone unnoticed, we tend to see the world in a much more positive light when we give and receive gratitude.
So, why do so many organizations struggle with gratitude? First, I believe that management some where along the way, adopted the idea that thanking someone for good work or acknowledging someone for going above and beyond is somehow viewed as unnecessary. After all, that is what they are paid for, right? On the contrary, acknowledging someone for working hard, being more effective or achieving above expected results demonstrates that these outcomes are important to you and worthy of praise. It let’s others know that you recognize value and are not afraid to comment when you see it.
I also believe that many employees are conditioned to always hear about what they need to do better so when a sincere complement comes their way, they are suspicious of the motive. When criticisms out way compliments, it’s easy to assume you are never providing enough value to earn your pay. Once this attitude establishing your mindset, you will not only discount the kind words of another but repeat the same behavior to those around you.
Gratitude needs a catalyst
For companies who have struggled with low morale, high turnover and an overwhelmed HR department, introducing gratitude into their work environment can seem like a self-defeating endeavor. But, like most cultural turnarounds, there needs to be a catalyst that gets things started. That catalyst is the person responsible for the results of the organization. That person maybe you!
Several years ago, I coached a general manager of a biomedical manufacturing company. He was energetic, driven and viewed by upper management as a promising future executive. His only drawback; his people skills. Despite the performance metrics he initiated, morale and work productivity improved little. When we identified a few areas where he seemed to at odds with his team, I asked him what the common thread was in each of the behaviors. He thought for a moment and said he was so focused on his work and meeting his goals, he neglected to make any effort to engage his people throughout the day. While most of his team saw him as intelligent and committed, they did not believe he cared about their efforts, ideas or feedback. He was interested in all of these but did little to show he cared enough to take the time to interact with them.
This is not an unusual problem. Most people working in large organizations feel a sense of isolation and lack of access to people above them. They also believe that their accomplishments will seldom be acknowledged while their shortcomings will be scrutinized endlessly. Surprisingly, this phenomenon can be turned around and the effects can be seen quickly. If you are in a position to influence other people’s behavior, here’s how:
Gratitude requires a change in your orientation
As the great American management guru, Tom Peters, famously coined, learn to manage by walking around. That’s right; take the time to mingle with your team where they work and observe what they do. Ask questions that convey learning on your part and deliver a well deserved ‘Thank You’ when the opportunity arises. The more your people get use to you conversing and catching them doing things right, the more trust you build with your team.
Balance criticism with congratulations
For many workers, feedback is code for receiving admonishments about something they need to do better. Feedback is much more valuable and will be received much more enthusiastically if it’s balanced with observations of great approaches to getting the job done. Like most intangible things, complements are highly valued when given honestly, genuinely and appropriately.
Gratitude means looking for situations when people are at their best
In my earlier career as a director for a household chemical manufacturer, I had the opportunity to visit many regional sales offices. Must visits included the usual performance related meetings and customer visits. On one occasion when visiting an office in North Carolina, I was curious to meet the person who was responsible for our accounts receivables. It seemed this office had miraculously reduced their AR to levels we had not seen in years. I was introduced to a woman who sat in a small cubical. Her name was Emma and in all the years their office represented our line, she had never met anyone from my company. After the introduction, she said, “I hope everything I’m doing is alright”, with a note of insecurity in her voice. I was dumbfounded! All I could do was thank her for her efforts; let her know how much better our financials were because of her and ask her what she was doing to lower the AR that much.
After leaving that city, I received a note in the mail 3 months later. It was from Emma and she proceeded to let me know how thankful she was to receive my gracious comments. So much so that she worked even harder on our line and earned a mid-year raise for her efforts. In her 14 years with this company, no one had ever expressed appreciation for the work she had done.
Gratitude can be learned
There are so many genuine ways to bestow gratitude on those around you. If the idea of showing appreciation to your team, your co-workers or even your boss is foreign to you, read this article on 7 Tips for Promoting Positivity in Your Workplace. With time and consistency, you will be surprised at how different people behave and how much better your team treats each other.
We are in an era of highly educated, highly skilled worked who, for the most part, want to know that the jobs they have are purposeful and they are valued for the work they produce. Give them a reason, beyond the money, to stay with your company and be fully engaged with their jobs and everyone in the workplace. Gratitude is the catalyst that will get them there!
About the Author
Steve provides leadership, management and marketing coaching to business owners, executives and entrepreneurs worldwide. Considered the Catalyst for Change by the California Business Journal, Steve has coached over 400 business professionals to date.