Pass it on

I was with my son at his doctor’s office. The receptionist was busy juggling calls. The calls kept coming in. And she was doing her best answering every one of them like it was the only call that mattered. In the twenty minutes we had to wait, she must have taken at least twelve calls. In spite of that call volume, her voice was cheery, friendly and helpful.

On my way in to be seen by the doctor, I stopped by her desk and said ‘You have one of the most amazing voices I have heard. If I were on the other end of the call I can easily tell that you are happy the way you are and would like to help me achieve the reason why I was calling. Thank you for doing what you do’.

I could tell she was happy to be recognized and the joy showed on her face. The genuinely big thank you smile said it all.

It didn’t take much to make her happy. In the process, I felt happy for making a difference in someone’s day.

Made me realize that there is as much joy in giving as it is in receiving. Even if it is just a compliment.

Gratitude in the workplace

Reading and re-reading the thank you note from my boss, simply lightens up my day. Even after the twentieth time. That is how powerful it can get.

Seeming simple human need. But one so powerful it can brighten up your day, cheer-up your colleague and above all makes for a happier workplace.

Reality though, most workplaces are beehives of activity. Fewer people doing more work. Which means, robotic and efficiency driven work life leaving very little room for ‘please’ and ‘thank you’. It easily becomes acceptable to presuppose that a colleague will do what he/she has to do and it is ok to not thank him/her. In time this translates to ‘Hey! You are getting paid to do the work right? So why do I have to thank you?’

With very little effort we can reverse this situation and create a happy situation for our teams and ourselves. Here I examine two specific ways to do that.

Gratitude starts with me. Before I can start thanking others, I have to be thankful myself. There is any amount of research to prove that grateful people are happier people, better colleagues and more productive overall.

  • Gratitude starts with being thankful for all the things I have been blessed with. All the things I have taken for granted in my life. It’s easy to forget my blessings in the midst of work, life, commute and all the technology I have to manage. Taking a moment, each day, to recall the good meal, cozy bed, being alive is an effective way to kick off my grateful day. Consistency is key. Make it a habit to be grateful for the life you have been blessed with.
  • This is an interesting one. Most often I catch myself saying ‘I have to go to work today’. The motivated few might say ‘I will go to work today’. How about we say ‘I GET to go to work today’. A whole new perspective. Getting to go to work makes it a privilege. Something not everyone gets to do. And when they do, it is not in the place and position I have been blessed with. Simple shift. Huge difference. Extend this to, ‘I GET to eat out today’, ‘I GET to go home to my family today’, ‘I GET to take a vacation’ etc

Share your gratitude. Gratitude is like planting a seed. The rewards keep coming back ten fold. Here are a few simple ways to do that.

  • Thank a colleague every day. Every single day. If, in the beginning, it takes a reminder on your calendar, so be it. It could be a simple email appreciating them for completing a job on time, or taking care of matters while you were out, or the thoughtful stack of papers they left on your table – you get the drift!! It could also be walking up to the person’s desk and thanking in person. Or a handwritten note delivered via interoffice mail. Or a box of chocolates delivered in person or through a third party service. Start with one note a day and ramp it up over time.
  • Do not restrict thanking to a select few people in your little circle. It is common tendency to thank people of power, or those that might come in handy in the future. Gratitude has to be done without any expectation. This means stepping outside the top ten list and expanding your circle of gratitude.
  • Thank the people who do not get thanked very often. It could be people who work behind the scenes or those who do seemingly mundane and repetitive tasks. As a database administrator, I had the least sexy background job ever. But when my boss stopped by to thank for saving the day, it truly motivated me to go above and beyond my call of duty.
  • Be specific with your expressions of gratitude. While writing a generic note like ‘Great job!!’ is certainly better than not writing anything at all, taking the time to write a few lines to recall the exact thing you are praising them for along with how that action helped you will go a long way in showing your appreciation for that person. Plus it also shows you are being authentic about what you are saying. Here is a quick example of a note one manager sent his teammate on her completing five years at the company:

“Congratulations on completing five years @ XYZ Company!!! Braving five years is truly a big deal and especially so in Operations. Kudos to you and to your family who supported you through all this.

While millions of people will never know your name, you are the reason why and how they were able to transact at their favorite stores. That is what it all comes do – enhancing the customer experience. You made that possible by being part of the core operations team. Hats off to you!!!

Here is wishing you the very best for another five and many more after that.”

  • Be authentic. Gratitude has to come from the heart. The kind that comes from the head, does not last very long and when it does, is easy to see through. If gratitude comes naturally to you, you are blessed. If not, you simply have to go to step 1. Practice it. Start by being grateful for your life. And in time, you will be overflowing with gratefulness. Try it. It works.
  • Practice gratitude without expectation. Do not say thank you, because you expect something in return. While that is the most natural tendency, with practice you can get over it. The good side is, gratitude is reciprocal. It almost always comes back. While I insist that I say thank you without expectation, I am always surprised at how it comes back a day or a week or a month later. Magic. Yes.
  • Thank your boss. Yes, he/she needs it too. The higher you get, the lonelier you are. Taking the time to say thank you or appreciating him/her for something they did, makes their day too. Unless your boss is a Martian, it is very likely he/she will appreciate it every single time.
    Enough said. Gratitude works. And spreads good cheer all around. Both for the giver and the taker.

I am grateful that I could share this message with you today. What are you grateful for?