Gratitude is a subject that is ingrained in our cultures, beaten into us through experiences that warranted it, and even embedded in our spiritual and religious practices. The explicit utterance of "thank you" and more subtle forms of expressing gratitude are so commonplace in everyday interpersonal interactions that it is often noticed more so when it is missing or when it fails to happen to one's expectations. However, through personal observations and through delving into the experiences of my previous and current coworkers, expressions of gratitude are disproportionally lacking in the workplace compared to its prevalence in everyday interactions.
After all, why should anyone thank you for doing your job?
Moreover, why should you thank anyone for doing exactly what they are paid to do?
I took it upon myself to make a conscious effort to observe the interactions expressing gratitude and its impact on worker retention and employee satisfaction.
My current occupation as a student worker is a shining example of the impact of actively recognizing and expressing gratitude. My manager prioritizes employee satisfaction to the extent that she not only expresses her gratitude, but continually goes out of her way to create, cultivate, and encourage the active expression of gratitude. This idea manifests itself in the form of a "gratitude board". Laden with colorful paper slips, the gratitude board sits in the back wall of the break room and is the first thing anyone notices when they enter the room. On it are words of encouragement, "thank you" notes expressing gratitude for a broad range of reasons. When the board was first introduced, the words of gratitude would mostly be geared towards acknowledging actions or completion of tasks that were outside the scope of an employee's immediate job duties. However, over time, I began to notice that there were notes that began sprinkling in of every variety, including recognizing a fellow coworker's character. People would be recognized for being compassionate, for being great listeners, supportive friends, and great people.
Although initially, expressing gratitude in a way that was manual and took more active effort than a simple personal "thank you" felt forced and unnatural, I soon learned the impact of active, public expressions of gratitude, especially when I was surprised to find notes that were directed towards me, and when I took it upon myself to write my first acknowledgement to one of my co-workers for taking over my shift on a short notice.
As the old saying goes, "give and you shall receive". As a tried and true observation, I've come to conclude little bit of active, expressed gratitude goes a long way in creating a positive work environment. I now perceive gratitude as another career skill that should be cultivated and emphasized for a successful workplace.