This article kicks off a short series on expressing gratitude and appreciation at work. The ideas shared are relevant for leaders, aspiring leaders, and anyone interested in generosity and humanity at work. See links to other articles in the series at the end of this post (and at the blog).
When was the last time someone said thank you at work? When have you last expressed thanks to someone else? How did it land? Was it meaningful? Or did it feel awkward?
Expressing meaningful appreciation and acknowledgement can drive engagement, build relationships, foster learning, team mojo – and more. This is a crucial tool for the leader’s toolbox — and really for anyone at work (and in life). Noticing, and expressing authentic feelings of gratitude is a core ingredient for flourishing and has the potential to boost resilience, trust, confidence, and connection — for the giver and the receiver. No wonder this is often referred to as the ‘gift of gratitude’!
Gratitude is one of the most scientifically studied character strengths and has been found to powerfully benefit both the giver and the receiver. It has the potential to significantly boost wellbeing as well as efficacy in work and life.
Despite its positive potency, many leaders (existing and aspiring) have under-valued the ‘gratitude habit’ and fall short in this powerful lever of human potential and engagement. Expressing appreciation may comes easily for some people, but for others if it’s not one of their natural strengths they may need to be more deliberate and intentional in expressing (and developing) gratitude and the respective skills.
What’s gratitude? In essence, gratitude is a strength of noticing, appreciating, and expressing gratefulness (and appreciation) for good things that occur. It could be situational or more general. For a great job done. For a full-hearted effort. For an opportunity received. And more. You could read a little more about this character trait here.
The good news is that anyone can develop more gratitude fluency.
Start by recognizing that there are different facets of gratitude. For instance, in the context of giving thanks at work:
- One has to first notice (something good);
- Then appreciate it (perspective);
- Then express it (communicate it)*.
(* Gratitude can also be an inward experience. And expressing it inward or giving it shape in words can amplify the benefits to one’s self. E.g. a gratitude journal, or a prayer of thanks, can be a way to express gratitude. This article is focusing on giving thanks to others. )
Sounds simple and it can be. At the same time it can also be quite expansive and laden with more opportunity than might meet the eye in a given moment.
Having a strength like gratitude is good. But remembering to use it — is even better. Often when we are having a bad day, we may fall into a negative perspective and not notice the good (even in the bad). Or we may be hurried in our mindset and forget to take the time to appreciate others when they need it most.
Depending on your ‘gratitude fluency’ you might have strengths in all parts of the spectrum described above. And at the same time, there will likely be times and contexts when you can up your game in any of the three facets.
Reflect: Are you paying attention to what’s showing up in your work and life experiences that you can deem ‘good’? Are you ‘all or none’ing’ tough situations and losing sight of the good even within the bad? Do you notice the good in others (i.e. your direct reports, your colleagues, others) but not express this overtly to them, instead just keeping it to yourself till you get to it — one day, someday?
Expressing appreciation to others feels difficult for some people. How about you?
It’s not uncommon for some leaders to hold back on expressing appreciation because they feel awkward doing so. They may not know what to say, or how to say it. Or they simply feel an un-named deep discomfort.
Thinking appreciatively of others (i.e. notice and appreciate) is not enough if you stop short of actually expressing it. More than the opportunity cost of boosting someone’s confidence and morale, staying silent can actually have a negative impact.
Silence is Not Always Golden.
Consider Carla (not real name, but a real client). She was losing sleep worrying about her upcoming performance review scheduled with her boss. Her anxiety was unfounded in that she hadn’t received any clues (overt or subtle) of any issues and she was doing great work. She worried because she said it was hard to ‘read’ her boss. He was the silent type and she never really knew where she stood. Did he think she was doing good work or were there issues that he’d bring to the performance review? I spoke to Carla after the review and it turns out her boss thought she was stellar and was very pleased with her performance. He thanked her for a great year and encouraged her to keep it up.
Phew!! While that was a relief to Carla, it was a costly experience. She got caught into a spiral of self-doubt, unfounded worry which distracted her from her work – and was exhausting. Despite her boss’s good intentions, he failed (through his silence throughout the year) to build trust between himself and Carla; and for Carla to feel more secure in your work and the efforts she made.
Morale of the Story:
Don’t save up your observations and words of appreciation. Don’t wait for the ‘official’ times (like performance reviews). People need it now, and in the continuum of their work. Be generous and more timely — especially these days, in times of a pandemic.
Pandemic – An Amplifier of Good, Better, Worse. Make it Better!
Let’s face it, people are working hard. While this has been true for decades in our society of ‘crazy busy‘, the pandemic has amplified this exponentially. Times are tricky. People are navigating complexity at work, at home, everywhere. A lot of people are running on near-empty. Expressing appreciation for their effort, for their impact, and for their being — can go a long way in sparking some good.
Even if it doesn’t come naturally to you, do your best anyways. Don’t worry about doing it perfectly. Try instead, to simply be authentic, and make it meaningful and timely.
And if you aren’t a leader — giving and receiving thanks in a work context doesn’t have to come from the top-down. Give a shout of thanks to your tireless leaders who have been working hard for you; and to your peers; and others in your network. And beyond work, who in your family and social circles do you want/need to share some appreciation to?
More Articles With Helpful Tips ….
I’ve got some helpful tips to support you. For instance, you may be wondering:
- Is in-person the best way? Or text/emails?
- Is there a right or better way to express appreciation to people at work (yes, see 3 tips in this article)?
- How do you develop your gratitude habit so it feels authentic? (coming soon)
Here’s to creating a more thankful, human, and generous work culture!
Eileen Chadnick, PCC
P.S. if you are a leader who feels you can use some support to help you explore how you might connect better with your people, help boost individual and team morale, and/or any other leadership-related matter, then get in touch. Perhaps we can work together in some way (coaching, team coaching, workshops, etc.).
Eileen Chadnick, PCC, ACPC of Big Cheese Coaching, is an ICF credentialed executive coach, team coach, workshop facilitator, and writer specializing in career navigation, executive and leadership development, culture-building, and communications. Principal of Big Cheese Coaching and Chadnick Communications in Toronto, Eileen draws from the disciplines of positivity, emotional intelligence – and Conversational Intelligence®(C‐IQ®) in her work. She is author of the book, Ease: Manage Overwhelm in Times of Crazy Busy. See more at www.bigcheesecoaching.com