The Center for Leadership Research & Development, located within the School of Psychology Family and Community, is closely affiliated with the Department of Industrial/Organizational Psychology at Seattle Pacific University, and affixed with the community of people and organizations committed to developing the leadership potential in a generation.www.spu.edu/orgpsych
A friend and I eat at the same restaurant every week. We’ve noticed that the staff at this particular place are really down. They don’t speak to customers, and they barely speak to each other. A few weeks back we decided to play a game. It wasn’t a game where we were trying to manipulate anyone, but where we wanted to see if we could bring a little joy to a heavy workplace. There is one particular employee who works behind the counter, rarely smiles, and has a job where she serves hundreds of people each day. We felt for her because we noticed that when she does receive a “thank you”, it’s typically more obligatory than sincere. So, we decided to learn her name, and make sure we said thank you loud enough that she wouldn’t be able to miss it. After 3 or 4 times doing that on different days, she finely cracked. We got her to smile, and it made our day to see it.
Why is the idea of gratitude and giving thanks to others even interesting? We are surrounded by people who do things for us every day, so you would think that saying thanks to them would be as common as saying hello, but you and I both know that it’s not. At work, the idea of giving thanks to others is even more challenging. Why is that so? Is it because we just expect people to do things for us? Is it because we aren’t really that good at receiving a “thank you” from another person, and we want to avoid making people anxious? You know the feeling. You say thank you, and someone says, “Oh it’s no big deal. I was in the neighborhood anyway.” In many ways, responding to a “thanks for doing that” by saying it was nothing is actually dismissing the effort the person put in to thank you in the first place. Whatever the difficulty with giving and receiving thanks, we need to get over it.
Who needs you to thank them? Who are the unlikely recipients of a good, “Hey, I really want to thank you for doing that for me.” Giving and receiving gratitude well requires an intentional decision to be or do something different. What if you could start a great experiment in the place where you work…a revolution of gratitude? The worst thing that could happen is that you will make people a little uncomfortable. It will actually feel reckless because it freaks people out to have someone say thanks when they’ve never heard it before.
Here are a couple of challenges.
- Pull someone aside who has done something for you that you appreciate and say, “Thank you for what you did. It meant a lot to me and made my day just a little bit better.” If they say, “It was nothing”, repeat it.
- In response to someone who thanks you for something, avoid the temptation to minimize their thanks and simply say, “You are welcome.”