When we think or talk about business, we tend to overlook the “touchy feely” stuff. Most of the time, we’re focused on facts and figures: budgets, processes, bottom lines, metrics. Things that live in a different area of our brain than our emotional state of being.
But, of course, emotions are also important in business. Even though I might not show a lot of outward emotional connectivity, I’ve spent a large part of my professional career trying to connect to the hearts and minds of other people; consumers, customers, website visitors, and users. I’m always trying to understand why they took a certain action or clicked a specific button. I’m conditioned to think beyond the outward action and look for the thought processes and emotions that drive it.
This line of thinking has led me to observe what I call the Gratitude Index. On one side of the Gratitude Index, you have people who construct and tightly hold onto expectations about the way they believe a situation will turn out. When these expectations are not met, the instinctive reaction is to focus on the miss. At the opposite end are people who are less focused on specific expectations. When they face a situation, they focus on acceptance, look for the positive, and are thankful.
While most of us probably aren’t at one extreme or the other, we tend to lean towards one or the other side of the spectrum. Where do you fall? If you’re more likely to hold on to your expectations rather than to focus on acceptance, consider what you’re losing. If you don’t take the time to appreciate what you have, you’re robbing yourself of the opportunity to recognize and enjoy the positive.
The place that I have seen people struggle with this the most is around compensation. Over time, people tend to naturally gravitate to a feeling that they deserve a promotion or a raise. They justify it in many ways, but most typically they focus on the personal sacrifices they have made in the name of their job.
Gratitude in Business: 3 Ways to Tell if You Are Thankful at Work
Ask yourself these 3 simple questions to see if you practice gratitude at work and where you fall on the Gratitude Index.
1. Do I focus on the negative and complain frequently?
Nobody likes a complainer! A recent Gallup poll found that 18% of American employees are “actively disengaged,” negative, and likely to complain about their employers. These types of people can be toxic and infectious; work groups with higher rates of negativity tend to have lower productivity, produce lower quality work, and suffer from higher rates of absenteeism. On the flip side, a positive attitude can brighten everyone’s day and lead to a better work environment for all.
Reflect on why you are complaining. Do you have a legitimate complaint that can be addressed? If so, are you taking steps to change it? For example, complaining about your pay to a co-worker isn’t really going to make a difference; bringing it up with your boss (in the right way) might.
But let’s be honest: most complaints are simply venting. If that’s the case, move on and focus on the positive.
2. How do I feel deep down when others are recognized for their hard work and I am not?
When a co-worker is recognized for their efforts, what’s your immediate split-second reaction? Do you think “that should have been me,” “I deserve that because I landed the Henderson account,” or any other thought that places you at the center of the response? Recognize that not everyone is going to be recognized all the time. This is someone else’s turn to shine, and it doesn’t take away from what you have accomplished.
However, if you work in a place where the same people are constantly rewarded over and over, something’s not quite right. When you’re working hard and never get recognized, anyone would feel bad; that’s a normal, healthy emotion.
But if you work in a fair workplace and the recognition is spread around, ask yourself where the negativity is coming from.
3. Do you perform specific acts of thankfulness to others?
As the old adage goes, “Actions speak louder than words!” Do you take the time to be a thanker in your workplace? Practice specific acts of gratitude at work. Send an email, pick up the phone, or walk over and tell someone just how thankful you are for their hard work and contribution to the team.