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Underground Goodness

A group of 10 colleagues designed an email based system and unfolding network for expressing appreciation throughout the U of Michigan.

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What's Underground Goodness?

UG is an initiative started in 2016 by staff at the UM Ross School of Business. I invited 13 staff colleagues to join me in creating a new positive initiative. Ten people came to the meeting and we developed Underground Goodness as described below. We each contributed different skill to the development which followed our one hour meeting.

Once developed we started sending weekly emails of appreciation and below included the UG logo and link.If recipients clicked the link it opened the below description. If they chose to join their name was added to a google doc. The UG manager checks the google doc, adds new underground goodies to the UM Community email group and sends a welcoming email with logo and link to the new one. This email is sent to the whole group as it acts as a glad you joined UG and also offers the occasional reminder to the group. 

Link opens to this description

Underground Goodness is a group of University of Michigan staff, students and faculty who are inspired and motivated by the goodness that Positive Organizational Psychology (POP) unleashes. We are eager to contribute to the happiness and health of our colleagues (and to our own!) through proven positive practices. POP tells us that expressing gratitude and appreciation has a particularly powerful impact. For both the giver and the receiver, for both individuals and organizations.

We have learned from Professor Kim Cameron that a "one degree change of course" can make a huge impact so our intention as Underground Goodness is to be a collaborative force for good in the UM Community, one small act at a time. 

Once a week each member sends an e-mail or gives a note/ a card to express gratitude for something we have appreciated in one of our colleagues. On each note we add the Underground Goodness logo and Click Here to Learn More link so people can learn about the group. 

Details: the logo and link isn't to put on your general signature line, just on your gratitude notes 

If you would like to be part of this action for goodness just fill in the form.
That’s it, you’re in the group and we will be in touch!

Members also receive a weekly-ish email to inspire and remind.

If you find that your interest wanes and you discover that you aren’t sending the notes, we ask that you simply request to opt out.  The reason is that membership reflects participation which is based on the assumption that members of UG are sending the notes – not perfectly but usually. 

This initiative is a "within" the UM community action a decision intended to keep the administration manageable. While we know there are people outside of the system to whom to express thanks, UG, is for the time being, an inside job. 

We are happy to have you!

Example of an email to a newly joined member:

Hi Jeff,
We are very glad you have decided to join us in bringing underground goodness to the Ross community.You are now in the mcommunity group and will receive weekly-ish reminders.
Attached is a document with labels that you can print if you choose to give printed cards.Below is the logo and link to past at the bottom of email notes of appreciation.
Just a reminder that it works best to copy and past this logo and link from an email. If you save it to your computer it stops being alive.
Thanks and please contact me at my email or us through email if you want to ask, share or say anything.
Again, Welcome!
May the goodness be with you!

                                                     Click here to learn more!

I've tried a few interventions to support the growth and the activity of the UG community - one damper I heard as to why people may not do it is that is on small teams people ran out of people to thank! So recently we broadened it beyond the Ross School to the greater UM community, a decision that did spark some growth. 

People are initially very enthused and pleased to be in the group yet however it is interesting to me that while they are people are enthusiastic to join and while the activity is very simple to do appears to have low participation. I base this assumption on the rate of new "joiners." I've tried a few other motivators such as a note to suggest that appreciation can be very simple and take just a moment. But it appears to be the pause and shift in consciousness you might say that leads to lack of participation. And there is no built in reward or feedback system - maybe some kind of "good for you" and why it matters type of email that bounces back...

As to overall participation we started with 10, lost 3 who realized that sending a weekly email was more than they wanted to commit to and now have 40 in the group.  

Tell us about yourself

Jennifer Evans, M.Ed. is an educator and positive deviant who runs experiments and teaches staffs workshops based in Positive Organizational Scholarship. She intends to support and and engage positive individual contribution and to create engaging organizational cultures.


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Hi Jennifer,

Great to see you sharing your provocations around this topic and bringing your voice to the Gratitude Challenge Community!

From the insights shared in your post, we think it may be particularly interesting to for you to attend our Gratitude in the Workplace Webinar with University of Washington positive organizational leadership expert, Ryan Fehr tomorrow, Oct 13 @ 9:00 a.m. Pacific Time. He’ll be discussing recommendations for designing Ideas for this topic.

You can register for the webinar here

We hope to see you there!

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