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How our background informs our thinking on what is gratitude in the workplace

Random musings on how our previous experiences (familial upbringing, schooling, work, etc.) informs our thinking on gratitude.

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As I’ve been working with some of my colleagues on the OpenIdeo Gratitude challenge I’ve been reflecting on how our previous experiences (familial upbringing, schooling, past work experience, etc.) inform how each of us practice/express gratitude at work.

 While I wholeheartedly support the design challenge – how might we inspire experiences and expression of gratitude in the workplace – there is a part of me that still feels a bit uncomfortable with the “affective” or “heartfelt feeling” aspects of gratitude.

 Early in my working career I used to think that “feelings and emotions” were not something to be shared, revealed or discussed in the workplace (attribute this to my upbringing and previous employment/work cultures, many years ago I did a stint as a civilian for National Defence). Recognition was for extraordinary efforts. Many years ago I was putting together an internal survey and suggested to a manager that we incentivize employees by entering their name in a prize draw if they completed an optional survey. The manager said “Why should we recognize them for what they are being paid to do?” It felt harsh back then and even more so now. 

 As I’ve matured I’ve been cultivating mindfulness and gratitude in my personal life and have also started applying some of the behaviours/thinking at work. I’m heartened to see, via the postings from other challenge participants, that many of us are moving away from the mindset that the workplace is about “recognition” (rewards for good/exemplar behavior) to the position that the workplace can also be about “gratitude” and “appreciation”.

Moving Forward/Key Takeaways

  • Gratitude is something that we need to express but also cultivate within ourselves (a cognitive aspect and a mindset).
  • For the next phase of the design challenge we plan on running an internal co- creation workshop to generate ideas as to how to improve our ability to give and receive gratitude.  At this workshop I would like to have the participants spend a bit of time thinking about, and sharing, what the word “gratitude” means to them. I’d also like the participants to reflect on and consider how our previous experiences and histories may inform how we perceive, give, and acknowledge gratitude.

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

How can we get out of our heads/hang-ups and recognize when someone is expressing gratitude towards us (vs downplaying our efforts, focusing on the negative etc.)? Being a receiver of gratitude is an equally important step in being a giver of gratitude. How does stress, lack of time, and workplace demands impact our reflections on, and expression of, gratitude?

Tell us about yourself

I am a service and UX designer with OpenRoad Communications. I'm also a mother of two cultivating a practice of gratitude in myself and my children.


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