Due to some miraculous time warp, the holidays are suddenly here. Wasn’t it just Labor Day? This week, the US will be celebrating Thanksgiving, and (when we’re not rushing around shopping and cooking or looking for a place to lie down after the meal) many of us will be reflecting on what we’re most thankful for. Maybe your family has the sometimes-nerve-wracking tradition of going around the table and announcing it to all assembled. If you’re like me, you want to think of something meaningful but not too heavy. Or maybe you’re the one jokingly announcing your gratitude for all the pies. Admittedly, most of us are probably not going to be talking about work. We’re grateful for our paychecks, of course, but those of us who are fortunate to have time off may be most thankful for this little break. But if you are not already doing so, now is the perfect time to reflect on the contributions your employees make to the success of the team (before the turkey coma hits), and to practice gratitude for them as fellow humans.

The Benefits of Gratitude

According to gratitude expert Robert Emmons of UC, Davis, “…gratitude encourages us to identify some amount of goodness in our life… We can appreciate positive traits in ourselves, but …true gratitude involves a humble dependence on others: We acknowledge that other people—or even higher powers, if you’re of a spiritual mindset—gave us many gifts, big and small, to help us achieve the goodness in our lives.” Research shows practicing gratitude has many physical, emotional, and social benefits. It can lower stress hormones, reduce inflammation, lower depression, improve sleep, and lead to healthier habits. Despite the science, we may feel uneasy talking about touchy-feely concepts like “goodness” and “gifts” and “humbleness” in the context of work. We usually try to avoid emotions when discussing business. We all know that objectivity is essential, and it’s important not to take things too personally. This is all true, but as beneficial as it would be to switch off our emotions, we humans do not yet have that feature. Whether we like it or not, we can even benefit from practicing gratitude on the job. In the Gratitude at Work Playbook, Steve Foran notes:

If you currently have a motivational strategy or incentive program in place, you may feel that you are already fostering a culture of gratitude. That is a great first step, but gratitude goes a little deeper than just appreciation. Instead of thanking people for what they have done, you are thanking them for who they are. The result is a greater level of connection.

Here are 5 steps you can take to cultivate gratitude as a manager:

1. Make yourself known as someone who looks for good. When you’re mentoring and managing employees, make a habit of noticing everything good you see in each employee. You don’t always need to comment on it but make a habit of looking for it, and do comment when appropriate. People can tell if they are being judged harshly or positively.

2. Avoid negativity. The news right now is loaded with negative stories about labor: the great resignation, the great reshuffling, plunging productivity, quiet quitting. It seems there is a new buzzword every week to rile up fear and frustration in employers. This is not to suggest that you shouldn’t stay informed but do stay mindful of the intent behind the headlines – to get you to click. Though they seem eager to pit employer against employee, the reason there is any story to report at all is the same: Employees Matter! Don’t vilify them because you read article number fifty on the evils of quiet quitting. Your employees are critical to the success of your business – be grateful for them, and actively work on engagement.

3. Acknowledging what it is about the person that makes them a valued member of the team. You can and should always reward goal achievement, but also take advantage of opportunities to acknowledge personality traits and soft skills that make someone a valued member of your team. For example:

4. Make work meaningful. Once you have identified and appreciated what makes an employee special, one way of showing gratitude is by giving them work that is in alignment with those qualities. If the person excels at showing compassion, consider assigning them to work with clients who need more attention. If someone is extremely organized, have them help build efficiency into processes. Obviously, this isn’t always possible, but doing so when you can lets the person know you understand and appreciate them as a person. The flipside to this is to avoid assigning work that contributes in no way to the organization other than to keep the employee in motion. Remember, activity doesn’t automatically equal productivity.

5. Going to bat for your employees. Supporting, advocating for, and backing up your employees is key to showing gratitude. They will understand they matter to you if you can take a firm stance for them, and if they know you are actively trying to make their jobs better.

Gratitude is like a perpetual motion machine. If you foster it, feel it, and show it, it’s going to come back to you. Your team will be grateful for you and the company, and it will show in reduced turnover, reduced absenteeism, and increased performance. Speaking of gratitude, The Omnia Group is so grateful to you, our clients, partners, and readers. Thank you for your commitment to your employees and for working with us. We wish you and your families the happiest Thanksgiving.

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