EDGE – Gratitude in the Workplace

EDGE, “Empowering Diversity Growth & Equality in Leadership.” Edge is a group focused on engaging staff in conversations around leadership, inclusive work practices and diverse perspectives. By meeting every month and consciously focusing attention on broader issues in the industry and the world, EDGE helps identify gaps in perspective and leadership to identify shortcomings and solves for them.

For the month of December, EDGE built off of October’s theme of “Leading with Empathy” and focused specifically on “Gratitude in the Workplace”. Since it was the holiday season, a time where expressing gratitude comes more naturally, we felt it was a good theme to discuss for the end of 2020.

We explored the importance of gratitude in the workplace, highlighting benefits such as the cultivation of a better working environment, the building of trust, a higher degree of job satisfaction, and an overall boost of good feelings.

We noted, however, that many managers actually avoid giving praise. The possible reasons for this reluctance may include that for many managers, giving feedback is hard, so they tend to avoid it altogether. Some may view it as a sign of weakness; some may consider positive feedback more optional than mandatory; and sometimes the moment simply passes.

We poised the question to the group, “Can’t I just say thanks?”. Many agreed that, while saying “thank you” is a great start, if you’re looking to make a meaningful impact, consider a personalized approach that is viewed as valuable to the recipient. We discussed a few ways that we can extend gratitude with our peers but then noted that not everyone is the same.

We dove deeper into the concept of gratitude by reviewing the contents of the book “The 5 Languages of Appreciation in the Workplace: Empowering Organization by Encouraging People” by Gary Chapman & Paul White (2018). The book applies the “love language” concept to the workplace, recognizing that at work, people express and receive appreciation in different ways. As a result, if individuals try to express gratitude in ways that aren’t meaningful to their coworkers, the coworkers may not feel valued at all.

As part of this session, we focused on four of the Languages of Appreciation in the Workplace: Tangible GiftsQuality TimeWords of Affirmation, and Acts of Service.  While some people may thrive by receiving praise in front of others, it may make others uncomfortable. Similarly, some people, whose language of appreciation is Acts of Service, would prefer the approach of “Don’t tell me you care; show me”. Upon diving into each of these Languages of Appreciation, we encouraged participants to take a minute and answer two questions:

1. How do you usually express appreciation in the workplace?

2. What is your language of appreciation?

To no surprise, participants had a wide variety of answers. Armed with this new perspective of gratitude, we concluded the session by discussing a few points on immediate, actionable items that each employee can do to actively share gratitude. These included things like starting at the top (hearing “thank you” from your boss goes a long way), thanking the unsung heroes, providing many opportunities for gratitude, and, in the wake of crisis (or a pandemic), taking the time for Thanksgiving.

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