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Leading with Gratitude

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Although the first Thanksgiving took place in October 1621, it wasn’t declared a federal holiday until more than 200 years later. In 1863, President Abraham Lincoln proclaimed it the official day of thanks in an effort to raise spirits and camaraderie during the tough days of the American Civil War.

It turns out he was on to something. Research has proven that showing gratitude actually makes us happier.

Gratitude means acknowledging the good things in our lives, which helps us focus on the positive. This in turn can trigger a domino effect that leads to a myriad of health and emotional benefits.

  • Reduced risk of depression
  • Twenty-three percent lower levels of cortisol (the stress hormone)
  • Healthier diet (lower dietary fat intake)
  • Lower blood pressure

(Source: UC Davis Medical Center)

Expressing gratitude to our family and friends is the first step. However, considering many of us spend around eight hours a day at work, expressing gratitude in the workplace can be an integral part of a positive mindset.

Many people have a complicated relationship with workplace gratitude. In a Templeton survey, 35% of respondents said they believed expressing any gratitude at work could lead to coworkers taking advantage of them. Despite this fear, however, research suggests that workplace gratitude actually has the opposite effect—it can motivate people to work harder.

Researchers at the Wharton School found fund-raisers made 50% more calls during the week after getting a pep talk where they were thanked for their efforts.

So how do you show gratitude at work?

Thanking the Boss…

Managers, supervisors, and team leaders often take on many tasks and responsibilities that go unacknowledged. Taking the time to say you appreciate their support and efforts goes a long way in creating a positive workplace atmosphere—for both you and your boss.

  • Rally your team mates and have everyone write a brief thank you message on a greeting card. This isn’t just a great way to express gratitude during Thanksgiving, it’s also a great practice for when the team wraps up a big project or achieves a major milestone.
  • Arrange a potluck in their honor. Have the whole team sit and eat together family style and take a moment either at the beginning or end of the celebration to go over why you are thankful for your boss.
  • Bring in their favorite coffee order or snack. A sincere thank you with a small token of appreciation is sometimes all you need.

Thanking your teammates…

Thanking your teammates plays a big role in fostering healthy relationships that facilitate collaboration.

  • Bring in a special treat! Coffee and donuts are a classic, and they’re a great way to thank the whole team after you’ve completed a project.
  • Acknowledge their efforts during team meetings. Just imagine how great it would feel if a coworker thanked you in front of everyone for covering while they were on vacation or helping them out with a tedious task.
  • If a coworker went out of their way to help you complete a project, take them out on a one-on-one lunch to thank them. It doesn’t have to be a fancy lunch for it to feel meaningful.

However you show gratitude, deliver it with sincerity and authenticity. A timely thank-you helps us feel acknowledged and appreciated. And your efforts can help start a gratefulness revolution! Giving thanks creates a chain reaction that inspires us all to appreciate the positive in our lives.