“Gratitude is the healthiest of all human emotions. The more you express gratitude for what you have, the more likely you will have even more to express gratitude for.” — Zig Ziglar
This is the time of year when we prepare our homes to receive friends and family for the holidays, making it only natural that we turn our thoughts to giving thanks and counting our blessings. But, while it’s easy to be in a thankful mood sitting at the Thanksgiving table with a plateful of turkey and a day off, how often do we communicate that same gratitude when it doesn’t come so easily, like on a regular Wednesday morning at the office?
In fact, according to a survey conducted by the John Templeton Foundation, the workplace comes in last place among the places people express gratitude. The results revealed that only 10 percent of adults regularly receive thanks at work.
Nevertheless, experts are emphatic that gratitude is absolutely vital when it comes to driving engagement in the workplace. Some researchers, including UC Davis psychology professor and author of “The Little Book of Gratitude” Robert Emmons, are firm believers that recognition is a fundamental human need. “Most of our waking hours are spent on the job,” he says. “And because gratitude, in all its forms, is a basic human requirement, it is essential to both give and receive thanks at work.”
We each want to know that we matter. We need to know that we are making an impact. And by this time in November, I don’t care who you are, the waning daylight and colder temperatures leave everyone feeling worn out and in need of a little kindness. A handwritten note saying, “Hey, I want you to know that you are doing great work. I appreciate you,” has the power to salvage a bad day or even a rough couple of weeks.
And when simple, everyday appreciation is demonstrated through leadership, the results on company culture and productivity are infectious. A study by Glassdoor found that 80 percent of employees would be willing to work harder for an appreciative boss, and 70 percent said they would feel better about themselves and their efforts if their boss thanked them more regularly.
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That’s one of the reasons why it is my bi-annual tradition to set aside time to contemplate the past six months. I look back on the decisions I made and who influenced my ability to make those decisions. Then I write each person a note thanking them for the difference they made in my life. I use as much detail as possible about the decision I made and how they influenced that decision. Occasionally I will get a thank you note in response, but that is not why I do it.
To be an exceptional leader, you have to allow yourself to be open and authentic. It may feel uncomfortable at times if you are not accustomed to humbling yourself or expressing profound gratitude, but you will be respected for it. You may never know what lasting imprint you could make on another’s life.
Between now and the end of the year, how can you communicate your appreciation to the people you interact with every day? I challenge you to spend five minutes now making a list of people you are sincerely grateful towards whether they be friends, family members, mentors, employees, or your barista. Then take the time to write handwritten notes of appreciation—expect nothing in return, but watch and see how your relationships and state of mind naturally brighten.