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The Business Case for Giving Thanks

by Deborah Rinner, Vice President, Tero International


It is not difficult to appreciate the benefit of taking the time to intentionally show gratitude to people in our family and social circles. We readily engage in reciprocity, giving thanks and acknowledgement to effectively support and maintain the people and personal relationships we hold most important to us.

But what about in the workplace? Where business is the bottom line, do we need to take the time to intentionally thank the co-workers we interact with? Does gratitude create a workplace benefit? And if it does, how do we make sure we are taking the opportunities to demonstrate it enough and appropriately?

Dr. P.M. Forni of Johns Hopkins University has alluded that showing thanks in the workplace is not only important, it is imperative to the health of an organization. Dr. Forni is head of the Johns Hopkins Civility Initiative and he has conducted numerous studies to assess the effect of civility in the workplace. Not only have the findings concluded that treating coworkers politely lowers stress (which can activate positive rather than negative effects in the nervous and immune system), but civility also positively influences tenure, absenteeism, and workplace morale.

Unfortunately, civility is often valued in organizational missions, but is not evident in day to day interactions. A solution to demonstrating civility in the workplace however, can be as simple as remembering to intentionally acknowledge others and give written thanks.

William James said the "deepest principle in human nature is the craving to be appreciated". It may be challenging to remain aware of the many tasks and responsibilities we engage in during the course of a work day, but it is easy to remember the activities that coworkers intentionally thank us for. Receiving acknowledgement and thanks influences not only our sense contribution to our organization, but fuels our desire to further contribute.

Although our responsibilities in our job may solely be our own, on any given day there are numerous "behind the scenes" people that make what we do possible. This list can begin with the person who cleaned the workroom sink or makes the coffee all the way to the CEO who is ever pitching and visioning so we maintain our livelihood. If we really stopped to count the number of people that positively affect what we are able to accomplish in a single day, we would likely be surprised at how many there are, and how rarely we intentionally show appreciation.

The metaphoric words of Peggy Tabor Millan describe the benefit and results of being intentional with our thanks.

"I was on a train on a rainy day. The train was slowing down to pull into a station. For some reason I became intent on watching the raindrops on the window. Two separate drops, pushed by the wind, merged into one for a moment and divided again-each carrying a part of the other. Simply by that momentary touching, neither was what it had been before. And as each went on to touch other raindrops; it shared not only itself, but what it had gleaned from the other. I realized that we never touch people so lightly that we do not leave a trace. We need to become conscious of what we unintentionally share, so we learn to share with intention."

Is there a person you are thinking of right now that you have shared time or task with unintentionally? Maybe a person you realize assists your efforts to do what you do in the workplace? Or perhaps someone that is influencing who you are becoming as a professional? If so, take a minute to write this person a brief personal note, intentionally telling them the things they do that matter to you, and appreciating them for it through your words. In doing this you are reciprocating for something you have already received and benefited from. Letting people in the workplace know they have left a positive trace of themselves with us leaves a positive trace of us intentionally with them. Providing written thanks is a simple yet powerful way to give, or give back, and demonstrate workplace civility intentionally!

Millan quote from Choosing Civility, P.M.Forni, St. Martins press, 2002


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