Develop an Attitude of Gratitude

Corporate life has earned a well-deserved reputation as being cold, calculated and non-emotive. Bosses seem to have picked up that there is little room for emotions and connection behind their business suits and spreadsheets. This approach, an outgrowth of the “boys don’t cry” school of thought, maintains that work is work. It should be a place of logical, rational thought, where you don’t give into emotional thinking. And you certainly don’t display any emotions you do feel to those around you because it’s both not professional and leaves you too vulnerable.

A new school of thought, getting increasingly more traction, argues that emotions and vulnerability are part of who we are. If we want true authenticity and power at work, we need to be willing to feel and acknowledge our emotions in our everyday activities.

Of course, this does not mean that we can or should allow our emotions to seize control of situations and dominate our thinking. It simply offers us permission to acknowledge how we feel and use those feelings as a way of taking our emotional temperature and take proper action when we feel sad, anxious, stressed and the like.

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But it would be a mistake to think of workplace emotions only from a negative standpoint, as in how to handle our emotions when we’re feeling out of whack. Positive emotions deserve more attention as drivers of workplace connection, collaboration, motivation and engagement. Leaders who learn how to channel positivity and infuse it into their teams will see significant results in such areas as creativity, productivity, and retention.

Such positive emotion often starts with gratitude. It can be easy for leaders to think that the sky is falling every time they emerge from their office. This team member is late. Another one is out chatting. This team is behind schedule. And customer complaints are mounting.

Perhaps all of these are true.

But a focus on gratitude will also uncover many of the things that are going well. The workers who are putting in overtime to complete a project. The sensitive employee who makes sure to lift others’ spirits. The fact that there are customers to complain and projects to complete. And when leaders become more grateful, they see things differently, and typically inspire others to also look at their glasses as half full and achieve more.

Gratitude, in its essence, is recognizing that much of our success has to do with things that are outside of our control, in particular the work of other people, other departments, other teams.

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Building a culture of gratitude takes time, mindfulness, and strategy. It’s been called an “attitude of gratitude” because it starts with a way of thinking and seeing the world. And it also demands a mental discipline that shifts us from a default negative view (“you should just be happy to have a job”) to a positive one (“wow, look at how Jimmy handled himself under tough circumstances.”)

There are so many ways that one can be more grateful at work. In addition to saying “thank you” every day, consider making a daily “I am grateful for…” list. It need not be overly profound. Just things in your regular day that you can be grateful for, such as your health, your family, your job and your coworkers. Smaller bits of gratitude work as well, like appreciating a sweet apple or a pleasant breeze. Even “hedging gratitude,” such as when you miss a bus that you just ran after, expressing how at least you had the ability to run, or being thankful for a less-than-perfect employee that at least shows up each day and puts in an honest effort.

As you start to record more reasons to be grateful on your list, you will naturally come to express it more. This will begin a “cycle of gratitude” within your circles, as others also get in on the action and start to look at their challenges as well as their gifts in a more positive light.  

If you enjoyed this post, I invite you to like, comment and share. Also, please check out my leadership book, Becoming the New Boss, download my free eBooks, How to Boost Your Leadership Impact, An E.P.I.C. Solution to Understaffing, and Core Essentials of Leadership. Thank you!