Five tips to overcome “Gratitude Deficit Disorder”

Always: Be Thankful (and Say It)

If October is the month to recognize what’s scary about business, November is the month to recognize the blessings of business.

Let’s first consider the history and message of Thanksgiving: American families come together to feast and celebrate what they’ve worked hard for (historically, the harvest) and nowadays, there’s also a lot of football and some early holiday shopping.

However, considering we spend most waking hours with the people we work with or employ, they should also be considered family (work family) and part of what we recognize with gratitude – a paycheck, a job, a future, etc. Ideally, we are also thankful for a great team and product to rally behind with purpose and meaning.

Thanksgiving is rooted in rituals dating from harvest festivals and the Protestant Reformation. But just as good things were celebrated in the 17th century, those communities also marked disasters and threats as “Days of Fasting.” Just as they recognized the highs, they also honored the lows.

This is not unlike a business cycle: When productivity, sales or business is low, the answer is financial “fasting” in the form of downsizing. But when times are good and revenues are positive, most businesses celebrate and recognize volume milestones. (Raises, anyone?)

In between the highs and lows, a little recognition can go a long way in keeping a team together when the going gets tough. It’s easy to take a colleague, a boss or an employee for granted and assume they know you “see” the quality of their work, their drive, their productivity, and their dedication to the company. It’s a common oversight, but it can be hurtful to both the employee and the boss – even though such an oversight is often unintentional, and even surprising for the manager to realize. 

I read once about “Gratitude Deficit Disorder” and agree that it is a global epidemic, not for lack of thanks but for lack of communication. It takes time to communicate, to express thanks – and if the business world is short on anything, it’s time. However, there isn’t a person out there who doesn’t want a tiny bit of recognition for the work they do and how it makes the world a better place – even if it’s just your world or the existence of a single client or colleague.

In our company, we are dispersed among six sites in two states. However, despite the distance, we make it a priority to create and maintain a cohesive office culture across all locations – and also to be sure that that culture is fueled in part by an obvious feeling of gratitude for every member of our team.

Here are five tips we’ve compiled over the years that will help to kick-start a feeling of gratitude that you can share to the benefit of your team. Do it before the end of the year, and start 2015 fresh with Thankfulness as part of your strategic plan – maybe even a core value. It might just revolutionize your office culture and your bottom line. (And even if it doesn’t, at the very least it is sure to boost morale.)

1. Make your thankfulness list and check it twice. Who are you sincerely thankful for? Who makes your job (and your daily life) possible or even easier? Who makes your future possible, and one to look forward to? Make a plan to thank each of them, personally.
2. Note the amazing things you see among your colleagues and employees on a daily basis – and let them know you see those things, and keep them in a motivational journal to be used down the road.
3. Personalize your appreciation. Always.
4. Be open to feedback. This will make you a better person, and the people around you will be grateful.
5. Don’t delegate your appreciation. 

Delegation of thanks is a critical weakness. When a company grows quickly, and the staff that once had direct contact with the founders or owners lose touch, it’s easy to delegate relationships so that more time can be spent on growth. We’ve learned the hard way that this is a mistake. Maintain your front-line relationships. Notice the little things that people do – especially those who will run through the wall for you in good times and in bad.

Most of all, give praise often and loudly to those who don’t run when the going gets tough. These are the people who you can count on in your darkest days and the ones who will put you on their shoulders when the sun shines success. Without them, that revolving door of employees who come and go (common to every business) will leave you with no one to thank but yourself for letting the good ones get away.

Gratitude is the sign of noble souls  – Aesop

Categories: Management & Leadership