Thanksgiving At Work

Although Americans have celebrated some sort of Thanksgiving since 1661, Abraham Lincoln established Thanksgiving as a national holiday by proclamation on November 28, 1861.  The Thanksgiving holiday takes on more meaning when one considers that an American people so exhausted by war, nonetheless gathered together to offer thanks.

We seldom consider the concepts of “gratitude” and “Thanksgiving” as part of our management strategy.  I wrote earlier this week about reframing corporate goals so that employees can have a decent shot of being “happy at work.”  So let’s talk a bit about cultivating “gratitude.”

I found a UC Berkeley article, “Five Ways To Cultivate Gratitude At Work.”  The author sums up our possible reasons for not displaying  gratitude at work:

Why should anyone thank you for just doing your job?  And why should you ever thank your coworkers for doing what they’re paid to do?

These are common questions in American workplaces, often posed rhetorically – and sometimes with hostility.

Elsewhere in American life, we say “thank you” to acknowledge the good things we get from other people, especially when they give out of the goodness of their hearts.  We say “thanks” at home and in school, in stores and at church.

But not at work.  According to a survey of 2000 Americans released earlier this year by the John Templeton Foundation, people are less likely to feel or express gratitude at work than any place else.  And they are not thankful for their current jobs, ranking them dead last in a list of things that they’re grateful for.

The article posed several surprising conclusions.  First, although most employees said that they crave gratitude at work and that grateful bosses are more likely to succeed, few thanked people at work.  Even more interesting, the Templeton survey reported that saying “thank you” to colleagues “makes me feel happier and more fulfilled,” but on a given day, only 10% acted on that impulse.  The article reports that 60% of respondents said that they “either never expressed gratitude at work or do so perhaps once a year.”  These comments explain many of the grievances, discrimination and other workplace claims hitting my desk.

I commend this article and the Templeton survey to you for more detailed mining.  The article closes with five simple suggestions to build a culture of gratitude at work:

1.         Start at the top;

2.         Thank the people who never get thanked;

3.         Aim for quality, not quantity;

4.         Provide many opportunities for gratitude; and

5.         In the wake of crisis, take time for      Thanksgiving.

With suggestion No. 5 in mind, and in light of the challenges our nation has faced in recent years, I will conclude with the text of Lincoln’s Thanksgiving proclamation:

The year that is drawing towards its close, has been filled with the blessings of fruitful fields and healthful skies. To these bounties, which are so constantly enjoyed that we are prone to forget the source from which they come, others have been added, which are of so extraordinary a nature, that they cannot fail to penetrate and soften even the heart which is habitually insensible to the ever watchful providence of Almighty God.

In the midst of a civil war of unequaled magnitude and severity, which has sometimes seemed to foreign States to invite and to provoke their aggression, peace has been preserved with all nations, order has been maintained, the laws have been respected and obeyed, and harmony has prevailed everywhere except in the theatre of military conflict; while that theatre has been greatly contracted by the advancing armies and navies of the Union.

Needful diversions of wealth and of strength from the fields of peaceful industry to the national defense, have not arrested the plough, the shuttle or the ship; the axe has enlarged the borders of our settlements, and the mines, as well of iron and coal as of the precious metals, have yielded even more abundantly than heretofore. Population has steadily increased, notwithstanding the waste that has been made in the camp, the siege and the battle-field; and the country, rejoicing in the consciousness of augmented strength and vigor, is permitted to expect continuance of years with large increase of freedom. No human counsel hath devised nor hath any mortal hand worked out these great things. They are the gracious gifts of the Most High God, who, while dealing with us in anger for our sins, hath nevertheless remembered mercy. It has seemed to me fit and proper that they should be solemnly, reverently and gratefully acknowledged as with one heart and one voice by the whole American People.

I do therefore invite my fellow citizens in every part of the United States, and also those who are at sea and those who are sojourning in foreign lands, to set apart and observe the last Thursday of November next, as a day of Thanksgiving and Praise to our beneficent Father who dwelleth in the Heavens. And I recommend to them that while offering up the ascriptions justly due to Him for such singular deliverances and blessings, they do also, with humble penitence for our national perverseness and disobedience, commend to His tender care all those who have become widows, orphans, mourners or sufferers in the lamentable civil strife in which we are unavoidably engaged, and fervently implore the interposition of the Almighty Hand to heal the wounds of the nation and to restore it as soon as may be consistent with the Divine purposes to the full enjoyment of peace, harmony, tranquillity and Union.

 

About mavity2012

I am a Senior Partner operating out of the Atlanta office of Fisher & Phillips LLP, one of the Nation’s oldest and largest management employment and labor firms. My practice is national and keeps me on the road or in one of our 28 offices about 50 percent of the time. I created and co-chair the Firm's Workplace Safety and Catastrophe Management Practice Group. I have almost 29 years of experience as a labor lawyer, but rely even more heavily on the experience I gained in working in my family's various businesses, and through dealing with practical client issues. Employers tell me that they seldom meet an attorney who delivers on his promise to provide practical guidance and to be a business partner. As a result, some executives probably use different terms than “practical” to describe my fellow travelers in the profession. I don't enjoy the luxury of being impractical because I spend much of my time on shop floors and construction sites dealing with safety, union and related issues which are driven by real world processes and the need to protect and get the most out of one's most important business assets ... its employees. That's one of the reasons that I view safety compliance as a way to also manage problem employees, reduce litigation and develop the type of work environment that makes unions unnecessary. Starting out dealing with union-management challenges and a stint in the NLRB have better equipped me to see the interrelationship of legal and workplace factors. I am proud also of my experience at Fisher & Phillips, where providing “practical advice” is second only to legal excellence among the Firm’s values. Our website lists me as having provided counsel for over 225 occasions of union activity, guided unionized companies, and as having managed approximately 450 OSHA fatality cases in construction and general industry, ranging from dust explosions to building collapses, in virtually every state. I have coordinated complex inspections involving multi-employer sites, corporate-wide compliance, and issues involving criminal referral. As a full labor lawyer, I oversee audits of corporate labor, HR, and safety compliance. I have responded to virtually every type of day-to-day workplace inquiry, and have handled cases before the EEOC, OFCCP, NLRB, and numerous other state and federal agencies. At F & P, all of us seek to spot issues and then rely upon attorneys in the Firm who concentrate on those areas. No tunnel vision. I teach or speak around 50 times per year to business associations, bar and professional groups, and to individual businesses. I serve on safety committees at three states’ AGC Chapters, teach at the AGC ASMTC
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