Gratitude in the Office

With fall comes the changing of the leaves and with this ephemeral season one of the United State’s most beloved holidays: Thanksgiving. Along with overcooked turkey, a buffet of side dishes pulled from Pinterest, and uncomfortable silence with in-laws and extended family members, Thanksgiving is the national holiday that asks us to reflect on what we are grateful for. We are quick to express thanks, i.e. gratitude, with loved ones and friends, but this time of year is an ideal opportunity to promote the expression of gratitude in the workplace as well. In all my years in the workplace, gratitude is often in short supply but always deeply appreciated. Whether it is a well timed, sincerely spoken “thank you” or a handwritten note, there are many ways to transpose the spirit of Thanksgiving to the corporate world.

What precisely is it that makes gratitude such a powerful component of the human relationship? As humans we are innately social creatures. Biologically we yearn to be an essential member of the tribe, a valued friend to another, in short, a citizen of society that is valued by those around us. Here is where gratitude comes in: gratitude is reassurance that we are important, that we are needed, and that our role in society, whether personal or professional, great or small, is appreciated by others.

Just the other morning I read an article regarding the key component of long-lasting marriages. The answer? Gratitude expressed often between partners. Since we spend almost the same amount of time with coworkers as spouses, I’d say this can be applied to fostering mirth in the boardroom as well as the bedroom. So, like coming home with a dozen crimson roses or unloading the dishwasher for your spouse, let’s look at a list I compiled of ways to express gratitude in the workplace year round.

Long after the pumpkin pie has been digested, here are a few ways to give thanks in the business world:


Say “Thank you” (and mean it!)

Telling a coworker or boss “thank you” may seem trite, but the reason I have written “and mean it” is because often in the hullabaloo of the day-to-day we grumble out a “thank you” or paste it to the end of an email in a hurried insincere manner. Of course, this can’t be avoided but when possible, make sure your “thank you” is genuine and said in a way that reinforces this. Make eye-contact when expressing thanks, stand when they enter your office, and shake their hand. These small gestures create a quiet yet powerful statement that your gratitude expresses not only thanks but understanding and humility as well.


Acknowledge publicly

Leapfrogging from the first suggestion, aside from the sincerity of a “thank you” the magnitude also adds to the impact of gratitude, and what better way to thank a colleague than with public approbation? At the next group meeting kindly express your gratitude for the extra effort a colleague put into a project or the sacrifice of personal time in order to meet a tight deadline. Not only will this public proclamation give a since of accomplishment to the recipient, but will (hopefully) inspire others to similar efforts.


A handwritten note

Let not the traditions of old be forgotten: a crisply folded thank-you note is a tangible and timeless way to express appreciation.  Make no excuses about poor penmanship or lack of appropriate verbiage; it does not take a Shakespeare or a professional calligraphist to compose a few well thought-out, specific lines of gratitude. Remember to be specific: cite examples of conduct and character that inspired the note.

A token of appreciation

This suggestion may be tailored to fit the occasion and recipient. At the completion of a multi-million dollar deal or arduous year-long project offer to take the team out to lunch. If it is a holiday for a specific role in the professional world (Administrative Assistant’s Day, for example) an elegant white orchid or a box of flakey pastries from the boulangerie around the corner communicates gratitude beautifully (and deliciously).  Now, I’m not suggesting going out and getting a Rolex for the higher-ups on Boss’s Day, or am I? Follow that advice only if you work for me.