This Year, I'm Thankful For...My Colleagues?

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, we spend, on average, 8.6 hours working, 7.6 hours sleeping, and 7.8 hours doing everything else. And chances are, that 8.6 looks awfully low to you. The bottom line: most of us spend more time with colleagues than all our family and friends combined.

And yet, as we go around the table at Thanksgiving, or share posts of thanks with friends on social media, we rarely hear anyone say “I’m grateful for my boss, Sarah” or “I’m thankful for Steve from Finance.”

This is a missed opportunity. Cultivating gratitude for our colleagues has a surprising number of business-relevant benefits. It has been proven to increase motivation, engagement, commitment, emotional well-being and social connection of those receiving gratitude. And, the simple practice of offering gratitude has been proven to make us happier. That’s a lot of goodness for relatively little effort.

In fact, most of us are in jobs we enjoy and work with colleagues we respect. But the pace of work is such that we achieve a goal, complete a project, meet a milestone – and then simply move on to the next thing. It’s rare that we take a moment to simply express real gratitude. So how about doing that now?

As we head into the Thanksgiving holiday, this is a perfect time for you as a leader to model and communicate messages of gratitude to the people with whom you work every day.

Think of the people around the conference room table as you would about the people around your dining room table. For each person, ask yourself: “What am I most grateful to that person for?” Consider:

  1. What is something that person did that made my work easier or better?
  2. In what ways does that person help me be a better leader?
  3. What unique gifts does that person bring to the team?

Expressing gratitude is most effective when it is specific and authentic.

  • Be specific: Instead of, “I’m grateful for Raj because he is always ready to lend a hand” try “I’m grateful for Raj because he stepped in on Project X when the team was behind schedule and put in some long days to get us back on track.” Instead of “I’m grateful to Suki for her great analytical skills” try “I’m grateful to Suki because our last four operational reviews were filled with deep and rich insight, rather than superficial metrics”
  • Be authentic: Try expressing gratitude not only for what someone has done, but for how they have made you feel. Who gave you hard feedback that made you a better leader? Who lifted your spirts after a rough meeting? Who inspired you through their actions?

Have you made your list? Now make your colleagues’ day. Start a tradition of saying “Thank You” this week at work, and share that expression of gratitude with your team.

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