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.