The Power of Gratitude
The holiday season is a time to focus on gratitude. For many of us that usually means family and friends. But, as I wrote last year, you can also be grateful for your work.
This month I’d like to talk about the power of gratitude at work. Expressing gratitude to your supervisors, colleagues, and clients can be a powerful tool for advancing your career. And it works at work for the same reason it works at home — it makes you behave in ways those around you will respond positively to.
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The trick to a gratitude practice is that you don’t wait for the people around you to do something to be worthy of gratitude. Instead, you push yourself to look around and be grateful for what the people around you have done.
Here’s an exercise to try: At the end of the day, write down the name of everyone you encountered during the course of your day (yes, online encounters count, too). Next to their name write down at least one thing they did or said that you might be grateful for. Some will be easy — a colleague answered your question, a client renewed their contract. Other interactions might be harder. Can you feel gratitude for a boss who gives you constructive feedback? Taking your gratitude practice to the next level means finding ways to appreciate even very negative interactions — they are often the ones that make us smarter, stronger, wiser.
While feeling gratitude is the first step, which can have a positive impact by itself, to really benefit from gratitude at work we need to express that gratitude. After you do your list exercise, take a few minutes to express your gratitude. This can take very simple forms: a quick email to your boss thanking her for her feedback, a chat to a colleague who answered your question. “Hey, thanks again for answering my question this morning. You saved me hours of searching! I really like working with you.” Imagine, for a minute, how you would feel if you got that message.
I also suggest that you assume everyone you encounter deserves some gratitude. It’s easy to feel grateful for people we like or who we believe are working in our best interests. It can get murky at work, however, where it’s not always possible to know what might be happening behind the scenes and we see ourselves as competing for resources. Here’s what I would say to that: There is no harm in showing gratitude to someone who actually doesn’t deserve it. But there can be significant harm in not showing gratitude — or worse, being ungrateful — to someone who is trying to help us. Make gratitude your default posture and you may find that you have more to be grateful for. It’s a magical cycle.
As we prepare for the big feast, I am very grateful for the many amazing women and men that I get to work with. My staff and my Board support me, challenge me and have helped me grow in more ways that I could have imagined. I remain grateful for the work I do and it is the people I work with who make it possible for me to have a positive impact on the world.