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Gratitude-Free Environment

I worked in a gratitude-free environment for three years and it nearly killed me.

Photo of Cheyvonne Y.
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It was one of the first design jobs out of college and I was ready to take on anything and everything thrown my way. Like most new employees, I was full of enthusiasm and fresh ideas. I learned everything about my role, asked questions and even adopted previously abandoned projects. It was a small company with less than ten employees. I felt really good about it. I even wrote it in my gratitude journal.

Within the first month however, I could see that people were uninspired and complacent and I wanted to change that.

 My dad advised that I stay focused but I was determined to change the culture. I got to know people individually to learn about their likes and dislikes. I started cupcake Thursdays and even hosted a Christmas brunch the first year because honestly, who doesn’t like brunch? Those things worked for a while but eventually my kindness was seen as a weakness.  I was met with responses like, “ Why did you get that?” or “Where’s the other kind?”. I hated the feeling of being taken for granted, so I stopped. 

I continued to do my job well. While customers thanked me often for my efforts, the managers almost never acknowledged it. Never a verbal thank you or an email thanking me specifically just a general , ‘Thanks guys for all you do.’ I realized that without the support from management, my attempts to show appreciation to my coworkers were pointless. Management had already established a traditional culture and the team was used to it. 

As the years went by, I ended up taking my dad’s advice. I kept my head down, mouth shut, and stayed focused. I completed a master’s program, worked on my portfolio, and contributed to several freelance design jobs. Having other things to look forward to provided me with hope of better things to come. I also brought my gratitude journal to work on the days that I felt like I couldn’t make it through. I set midday alarms that reminded me of my awesomeness and took frequent breaks to stand outside in the sun.   

The job didn’t kill me but I did allow it to break my spirit. 

There were days that I cried in the bathroom and on the ride home and countless times I questioned my life decisions. The love and support I received from my family along with the moments captured in my gratitude journal helped me restore my inner smile. 

I didn’t know it then but I definitely know it now that showing gratitude is not a recommendation or an added bonus for the workplace, it is a necessity. It is necessary to establish a culture where showing gratitude daily is a part of everyone's job description. 

What is a provocation or insight that might inspire others during this challenge?

Exploring gratitude requires vulnerability and that can be scary. Vulnerability is the birthplace of innovation, creativity and change. ~ Brené Brown

Tell us about yourself

I am a visual designer, information professional and an advocate for creating and enhancing people-centered services, products, and processes.


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Photo of Connor Rivera

Thank you for sharing this very personal story. You have great self discipline to continue working at that job for 3 years. There are some people who don't get out of that type of situation which causes very harsh and sad events to transpire. Your experience shows how a closed environment will shut down any innovation and take out all human added value to a company.

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