It’s the season for giving thanks. Are you expecting a thank you from your boss?
A survey by the John Templeton Foundation found that expressing appreciation at work doesn’t happen nearly enough as it should. 60% of respondents said they never express gratitude at work or do so only once a year, even though nearly all respondents reported that appreciation made them feel happier and more fulfilled.
While we can agree that gratitude is good for us, sometimes we aren’t sure exactly how to express it at work. If you’re in the same boat, this week’s roundup is for you.
These articles offer practical advice on expressing appreciation — and even gift giving — at work, and explore the fascinating relationships between gratitude, creativity and performance. It’s our Thanksgiving gift to you – enjoy!
The Power of Gratitude
The Templeton study shows us how seldom gratitude is expressed in the workplace. That’s not only a shame, argues Jared Brox from Refresh Leadership, it’s bad business. In his article “The Power of Appreciation: Do Your Employees Know How Important They Are?” Brox explains that studies also show that appreciation is one of best motivators of work performance.
The majority of workers say that appreciation motivates them to do their best, according to a study by the American Psychology Association. It also boosts productivity and increases loyalty.
All that in a “Thank you!”
Maybe you’re convinced, but wondering how to really put appreciation into practice? Brox offers some ideas. You don’t have to go overboard on creativity. It can be as easy — and as charming — as a handwritten note expressing thanks. Written notes feel extra special these days, because the receiver recognizes not just the sentiment that’s expressed, but the effort it took to select and write the card.
But what we like best from Brox’s list is his idea of baking appreciation into your team’s culture. The idea is to create an environment where gratitude is expressed often, where team members can nominate others for awards, and where such rewards are regularly celebrated.
Make expressing appreciation a daily or weekly effort, Brox says, and watch satisfaction and productivity improve. Try implementing one or two ideas from his list. Once begun, it may start to take on a life of its own. And who wouldn’t appreciate that?
Giving Gifts at Work
Thanksgiving ushers in a season of giving appreciation — and gifts. In some workplaces, gift-giving comes with unspoken rules and is, as Client Success Manager Rachel Niebeling calls it, “a tricky business.”
If you’re stumped too, here’s some help. In her article “Appreciation in the Workplace: A Guide to Giving Gifts at Work” for E Group — experts on employee engagement — she offers a simple, practical primer. Call it a Miss Manners column for gift-giving at work.
Niebeling advises that non-monetary gifts are not only the easiest to give — and receive — but they also deliver the biggest appreciation payload. She cites the handwritten note idea (it certainly is a popular one) but also lists some very creative, and often tasty, alternatives.
Non-monetary gifts also sidestep some of the pitfalls that come with workplace gift-giving, such as the awkward — but wholly understandable — practice of the receiver looking to the amount to determine just how “appreciated” he or she is.
Most of all, Niebeling cautions, “[G]ifts don’t express appreciation, people do.” Good words of advice, no matter what the season. If gift-giving is on your to-do list this month, this is an article not to miss.
The Link Between Creativity and Gratitude
Gratitude is certainly the theme of the month, but what does it have — if anything — to do with creativity?
It’s all in the math. Gratitude math, that is. Entrepreneur and bestselling author James Altucher lays it out for us in “How Did Picasso Create 50,000 Works of Art?“ for Medium.
First, the problem: there is nothing new under the sun. Everything, in art or in business, has been done already. Despite that, Altucher himself — not to mention the artists he cites in his article — have been nothing if not prolific. Altucher’s bestsellers and successful businesses number in the dozens. How does he stay creative?
The answer’s in the details. Take what’s been done, Altucher says, and put your own spin — your own fingerprint — on things: “And through practice and vulnerability, you make that fingerprint something others want to see.”
To illustrate this, and to offer some concrete examples, Altucher takes 7 quotes by Picasso — one of the most prolific artists ever — and constructs a How To guide for wringing creativity out of, well…everything.
He ends with a meditation on the power of gratitude, and its role in the creative process.
And the math? If a career traveling at 1% improvement rate hits a wall, does it stop or does it just redirect? It’s a word problem they didn’t teach us how to solve in school, but Altucher’s lesson on gratitude math is there to fill the gap.
The Dark Side of Gratitude?
With gratitude linked to so many good feelings — like optimism and motivation — it seems like we’d only want more of it in our lives. Perhaps we do, says empowerment coach Seline Shenoy, but only if it comes paired with a healthy perspective.
In her article “Yes, You Can Be TOO Grateful” for MindBodyGreen, she cautions us about the misuses of gratitude.
Gratitude, she warns, isn’t about putting blinders on when things are less than stellar, or for papering over things changes we need to make in our lives. Rather, Shenoy says, it’s for balancing out ambition, and for reminding ourselves to be compassionate. It’s fine balance, she argues, but one that pays dividends if we can stay on that healthy edge.
To help us out, Shenoy rounds out her article with five ways to stay in that sweet spot and reap the benefits of gratitude, while avoiding the downsides. Our favorite was the “silver linings” practice she recommends.
Balanced gratitude. It’s the difference between smiling through gritted teeth and counting our blessings. It’s something we all need to get better at discerning the difference, and this article a good place to start.
Gratitude Is the Best Performance Plan
We round out our list with a practical way gratitude can play a part in our work performance. Leadership coach Peter Bregman tells us “How Gratitude Can Help Your Career,” in the Harvard Business Review.
After getting tired of listing self-improvement goals that never changed from year to year — and really never improved — Bregman was struck by the thought that he was focusing on the wrong list altogether. Concentrating on his shortcomings — and all the plans to counter them — did not seem to be netting him much progress.
He didn’t have to go far to find a solution: right above his list fledgling New Year’s resolutions was his annual list of things he was grateful for. That list contained the things that were most important to him and were going well. How about doubling down on those?
Bregman found that focusing on these strengths — good habits he was already doing well — changed everything. Letting gratitude dictate his performance plan helped him concentrate on high-priority behaviors. And choosing behaviors that he already had some mastery in set the stage for more significant progress. A win-win.
If you’re already goal-setting for next year, this article offers both good advice and reason for optimism. As Bregman says,”the path to improvement may not be effortless, but it should be familiar.” That’s something to be thankful for.