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Focusing on the "Intangibles" in the Workplace

Gratitude should not only be in response to work completed.

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Gratitude is an expression of appreciation towards someone who has either tangibly or intangibly helped you. In the workplace specifically, I feel there is a tilted focus towards the physical assistance that coworkers provide. In a traditional sense, when I think of actions worthy of praise in the workplace, I think of things like: completing an important assignment promptly and correctly, assisting a coworker with a project to lighten their workload, or crushing an important presentation. I believe most people, to some degree, share a similar view. However, with this perspective, we leave out the interpersonal experience of the workplace.

This summer, I worked for a company that manages digital health startups. Much of the company’s philosophy focuses on the importance of empowering the entrepreneurs leading these startups, thus, a similar culture of positivity and encouragement was prevalent at work. There were multiple avenues of gratitude in our office, the most notable being the “#positive-focus” channel within our Slack network, which was used solely for acknowledging team members’ successes and for recognizing someone’s hard work. This idea of #positive-focus was incredibly effective as a method of gratitude for physical work, and whenever I got a shout out I was happy, because I felt I had made a positive impact.

One day, near the end of the summer, the other fellows and I had an activity where we paired up with each other and shared what we viewed as our own personal strengths and weaknesses. Our partner then responded by sharing what they felt was our greatest asset. I was told that my enthusiasm and interest in every project offered to us was energizing. My friend explained that my open-mindedness and willingness to help with anything brightened her day. This meant so much to me, as I felt my inability to choose one specific area of focus for my projects was a huge weakness of mine. Hearing her perspective and being praised for aspects of myself, rather than just the work I had accomplished, made me feel so lucky to be part of such a great “family.”

To me, it seems that expressing gratitude for these intangible character traits must be included in the conversation when trying to instill gratitude in the workplace.

Tell us about yourself

I am a senior at the University of Michigan studying Biopsychology, Cognition and Neuroscience.


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Photo of Super Patadia

I too am currently working for a start up company and have realized this value of focusing on the intangibles. The start up I work for has very few people and we all live in different states so it is often very difficult for us to collaborate in person. All the work we do is over slack and because of this appreciation is hard to convey over text. Being the youngest of the 4 employee's it was even more difficult to get the other employees to reciprocate any of the appreciation back. All of this started to change a few weeks into my job. My boss, the CEO, started posting my work in our #general chat and the other employees started critiquing my work and giving me compliments. It was after this that I really felt welcome into the start up and was comfortable with all of my employees.

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