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Gratitude at Work Spurs Empathy and Compassion

Gratitude at Work Spurs Empathy and Compassion

As 2021 draws to a close, the stresses of the pandemic journey continue. Ambiguity lingers and many are navigating hybrid work scenarios, or lamenting having to commute again after a year+ of working from home. The Great Resignation is happening before our eyes and the urgent demand for labor is impacting all industries, causing palpable stress on current employees working more to cover responsibilities of vacant positions.

While the challenges are clear, there is also much for which to be thankful. Gina Hamadey authored I Want To Thank You and shared:

Gratitude is strong medicine. It helps us see what’s there instead of pining for what’s missing. It spurs empathy and compassion and is an antidote to self-centered whining.

In this season of Thanksgiving, focus on gratitude and how it impacts others and yourself at work.

Gratitude at work.

Kira Newman writes about how gratitude can transform a workplace.

Researchers define appreciation as the act of acknowledging the goodness in life — in other words, seeing the positives in events, experiences, or other people (like our colleagues). Gratitude goes a step further: It recognizes how the positive things in our lives — like a success at work — are often due to forces outside of ourselves, particularly the efforts of other people.

Building cultures of gratitude and appreciation can transform our work lives, leading to deeper connections to each other and to the work we’re doing.

Newman refers to gratitude as a “gateway drug” that can also build emotionally intelligent and empathic workplaces, where employees practice compassion and forgiveness.

[Related: Embracing Gratitude]

“Culture eats strategy for breakfast."

The iconic Peter Drucker quote refers to the importance of the human factor in any company. No matter how detailed and solid your strategy is, if the people executing it don't nurture the appropriate culture, your projects will fail.

Culture isn't about comfy chairs and happy hours at the office. Rather, it's more about the ways your employees act in critical situations, how they manage pressure and respond to various challenges, and how they treat partners, customers, and each other. Gratitude can be a pillar of culture in a healthy and productive organization.

Creating a gratitude practice at work.

While there are no rules to developing your gratitude practice at work, if this is new to you, it may seem daunting. Keep it simple and consider these techniques from Gina Hamadey for inspiration.

1) Make a dedicated thank you note folder.

Stash note cards or stationery and a list of the people you want to thank and keep it handy for when you have 10-15 minutes to write.

2) Start Thankful Thursdays.

Write a few thank you notes on Thursdays to build a routine.

3) Write notes as a weekend project.

If you have kids, writing thank you notes is a great project to do together, and it gives you an opportunity to teach kids how to live a grateful life.

4) Express gratitude any way you like.

When you experience a fleeting moment of happiness, hold onto it and tell the person or people responsible. That could be verbally, by text, or in a card.

[Related: Clarity Through Visualization]

Benefits of gratitude.

Besides the feel-good vibes of sincere gratitude, there are tangible outcomes that are beneficial to a workplace. BenefitExpress shared these gratitude values:

  • It acknowledges people, not talents.
  • It creates better leaders.
  • It has something for everyone.
  • It builds relationships.
  • It has a positive impact on company culture.

Specificity rules.

While phrases like “good job” or “keep doing what you are doing” do no harm, they also fall short of the benefit of appreciation that is more specific. When gratitude is specific, the receiver knows you are truly paying attention to them and their performance. It gives the receiver clarity about what is working well.

Take a pause before you give the proverbial fist bump or “well done” kudos and consider how you can make it more specific and meaningful. As Hamadey wrote in her book:

Gratitude is optimism. It’s choosing to see the contours of what’s there instead of the shadows of what’s missing.

The beauty of a gratitude practice is that in inspires others to participate. In this season of gratitude, I hope you can focus on what makes you grateful and share it with others. And may the gratitude come back to you to honor your great work as well.

[Related: Intention: It Will Make You Think AND Act!]


Caroline Dowd-Higgins authored the book "This Is Not the Career I Ordered" and maintains the career reinvention blog of the same name. She is Vice President of Career Coaching and Employer Connections for the Ivy Tech Community College system and contributes to Thrive Global, Ellevate Network, Medium, and The Chronicle newspaper in Indiana. Her online video series about career and life empowerment for women is on YouTube. She hosts the three-time award winning podcast, Your Working Life, on iTunes, Spotify, and SoundCloud. Follow her on Facebook, LinkedIn, Google+, and Twitter. Her TEDxWOMEN talk about reframing failure and defining success on your own terms is available on YouTube.

Have more questions? Follow up with the expert herself.


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