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Thanksgiving at Work

A monthly event where employees and leaders join for a shared lunch break on changing topics around the personal understanding of gratitude.

Photo of Monika Jiang

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Thanksgiving at Work is an initiative where both employees and leaders are given the chance to engage and interact in a casual atmosphere, enjoying great food and contributing to a monthly topic of the different aspects of gratitude. While the definition of gratitude varies between individuals, the tradition of Thanksgiving and food culture, in general, could work as a common ground. 

Every monthly Thanksgiving could start by giving thanks for the great food that could be cooked together, delivered or else, depending on the company size and budget. Then, in smaller groups or with the whole team, employees and leaders could volunteer on sharing their thoughts and anecdotes on the monthly topic around gratitude - e.g.: "What I am thankful for in my career so far/What I have learned about appreciation as a leader / I am thankful for the failure XYZ /" 

The list of topics could be crowdsourced by the people. Also, Thanksgiving at Work could be implemented into a corporate social platform, where people could vote for the next monthly topic, decide for their preferred meal or recipe and share thoughts and pictures of the monthly gathering. 

To add an educational aspect to the concept, a zero-waste meal could be offered, e.g. cooked out of legally 'rescued' food/in cooperation with initiatives like Resq or Foodsharing. That's how discussions at the table could support conviviality and an increased consciousness for sharing gratitude. 

The purpose of this idea is to bring people together in a surrounding where gratitude comes almost naturally into play whereas feedback tools and other might be helpful on peer-to-peer and serve a benefit for performance management, though I do believe that these more community-like events could help smaller and bigger corporations to start shifting their culture as a whole, while letting the people decide and contribute to a shared experience.   

Idea Title

Thanksgiving at Work

How the Idea will inspire the experience and expression of gratitude within an organization.

By combining food and gratitude, you'll create a natural common ground for employees and leaders to connect and open up about their understandings of gratitude. It's important for leaders to get highly involved from the start, as they still serve as role models. By planning each monthly lunch under a certain topic, the organization will get the chance to embrace the cultural differences and social backgrounds of their workforce, getting a broader understanding of people's needs and wants at work. Also, adding Thanksgiving at Work to the social platform will simplify the process of facilitation and keeping the conversation around gratitude going online and remote.

Who are you innovating for?

Leaders - For future leadership, it will become more and more important to show personality, vulnerabilities, and stories that connect to individuals. Also, once you open up as a leader, gratitude towards yourself won't be far away. Employees - Empowerment of contribution in a company-wide event, build new connections across teams, grow personally.

What type of workplaces are you innovating for?

Could be applied to any organizational size from 5-10 to larger corporations around the US and Europe. However, food plays an important role in Asia (China, Korea, India etc.), I could imagine experimenting with Thanksgiving at Work there as well.

How you envision the Idea being introduced to your selected organization?

1. Develop initial idea to prototype with an interdisciplinary team of volunteering employees and at least 2 dedicated leaders (>> Sprint process over 1 month) 2. Implement in selected department, try & error, iterate and improve idea (1 month), gain feedback from team and whole organization 3. Start communication plan inside the organization 4. With final approvement of workforce and leadership team, roll-out to whole organization 5. Possible partnerships: Food delivery, Lunch provider, Restaurants from the area, Food-Waste sharing/rescue initiatives

What obstacles, if any, do you foresee in implementing this Idea, and how would they be overcome?

Convincing workforce to actually participate, share and be open to thank openly. To overcome this known resistance against the new or change in general, we could start with more intimate formats of this initiative. E.g. 'closed' lunch circles, where team members already know each other. Also, transparent communication is key and keeping a focus on volunteering employees who are interested in the first place. These then may activate others as 'change activists' and spread the benefits.

How will you test and prototype your solution?

1. Beforehand analysis: Employee survey on readiness for 'Thanksgiving at Work' 2. Trial 2 -3 (depending on organization size) Thanksgiving lunches, combining employees and leaders who apply voluntarily 3. Gather feedback from trial teams, iterate, improve. 4. Design and develop plug-in/feature for social platform 5. Gather feedback in two-week interval, analyze user data, traffic and feedback from workforce 6. Constant feedback flows into a dedicated team.

What immediate next steps will you take if you receive an implementation grant.

Would love to work with mentoring organizations who are experienced in implementing cultural change formats into organizations. My next key steps would be the following: 1. Deepen research on lunch culture in designated target group and geographical context 2. Build core team of 4-5 people to form a business and financial plan 3. Start open surveys on ideas to check readiness / prototype social platform integration 4. Start designing and developing idea, contact possible clients.

At what stage of development is your Idea?

  • Research & Early Testing: You are exploring an idea, gathering inspiration and information needed to test it with real users.

Please describe from where your Idea emerged

It solves something I'm personally tired of: The antisocial lunch break in most of the bigger corporations nowadays. Instead of taking some time to interact face-to-face with each other, some prefer to eat in front of their desktop or face the dilemma of 'where should we go today?'. I find the best place to show gratitude is when you are consciously spending time with each other and learn a way to know each other better, trust and thus, giving thanks by itself.

Tell us about yourself

I’m Monika Jiang, a German-born Chinese Millennial Activist. Through concept, text and communication strategies, I'm co-creating impact and change in the world of work as part of the society as a whole. As a freshly-baked freelancer, I'm seeking opportunities to shape solutions with individuals, brands, and organizations that are making the leap towards a sustainable, human-centered future of work

Where are you / your team located?

Berlin, Germany.

Please describe your legal and organizational structure

Monika Jiang is an individual company.

Company / Organization Name

Monika Jiang - I'm a self-employed strategist & writer focusing on cultural shifts and the future of work.


Tell us about your experience

I have a background in media and communication and gained first work experiences in Marketing and PR in small companies, an automotive corporation, and a digital agency. In April 2016, I joined the Hamburg-based consulting agency SOULWORX where we help shift organizations' cultures in becoming more people and purpose-driven. Also, I've been responsible for the roll-out of an initiative for changing the world of work through personal stories.


Join the conversation:

Photo of Scott Colby

Hi Monika Jiang 

It's Scott from the Unplugged Gratitude Parties. We traded a couple of messages. I still love your idea. :)

I've put together Gratitude Dinners before (for friends, not work) and other thing we did was give everyone a blank thank you card. Each person wrote a handwritten note of appreciation to someone else. They were then given the option of reading the card out loud. Reading the card out loud adds another powerful dimension. We've done this at retreats, too, and there are usually some tears shed. This could be another idea for your Thanksgiving at Work idea. Looking forward to seeing how this evolves.

Oh, another idea could be that each employee/leader brings a can of food that you collect and deliver to your local food bank. That would be another way to add a social good component to your idea. You could even turn this into a challenge with a prize. For each can of food someone brings in, they get their name in the hat for the prize. So for example, if someone brings in 10 cans of food, they will get 10 entries in the drawing for a prize. This would encourage bringing in more than one can.

Just some thoughts for you!

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