I watched people get on and off the elevator at work. It was crowded with working professionals. Being a young employee, I and the janitor were strategically located in the back of the elevator. I greeted the janitor since I routinely would speak to all employees, regardless of their pecking order in the organization. Other professionals ignored this janitor in the elevator as if his existence didn’t matter. When the janitor or other service folks would do something for me, I would say ‘thank you.’ Well, I’ve done this act of gratitude as part of my learning from my parents who were hardworking class people. My mother would tell us (children): “You can’t go wrong doing good for others.” I believed her.
Yet, we live in a selfish world where the needs for themselves supersede the needs of others, with gratitude and thanks being a rare commodity in today’s working culture. When I talk with my college students, I attempt to show them how the little things like ‘thank you’ cards to guest speakers in class is more than a cute idea. For me, gratitude is a connection with humanity. Gratitude shows that you care. In fact, those individuals that master this act of kindness will have a competitor advantage over those who do not practice this virtue. Let’s examine the concept of gratitude for today’s working professionals in society.
Professionals must overcome a world of selfishness in order to appreciate gratitude. Employees face a gloomy landscape before them with global competition reducing their standard of life and wages stagnant. People aren’t feeling thankful and grateful to be moving backward to the standard of living that their own parents had. Statistics support this ingratitude emerging before us. According to a 2014 Conference Board Job Satisfaction survey, the majority (52%) of US workers are not satisfied with their jobs. In 2010, worker dissatisfaction was at an all-time low of 43%.
Columnist Susan Adams has been tracking this unhappiness trend: “What worries workers most: layoffs. Even though hiring has picked up, only 46.6% of employees say they feel satisfied with their job security, compared to 48.5% before the recession.” Working professionals have many stressors to consider including layoffs, family issues, health care cost, career advancements, and wage compensation. How in the world can gratitude be at the top of their list for developing?
Gratitude is an invaluable trait in a world built of self-promotion and personal gratification. President John F. Kennedy said, “As we express our gratitude, we must never forget that the highest appreciation is not to utter words, but to live by them.” Management expert Brian Tracy further expounded on this concept of gratitude: “Develop an attitude of gratitude, and give thanks for everything that happens to you, knowing that every step forward is a step towards achieving something bigger and better than your current situation.”
Gratitude can be defined as ‘the quality of being thankful; readiness to show appreciation for and to return kindness.” Some people will argue that gratitude is rooted in biblical truths and communal relationships in society. From a faith perspective, gratitude is not taking. It is about giving to others despite how others have treated you.
II Corinthians 9:11 reads “You will be enriched in every way so that you can be generous on every occasion, and through us your generosity will result in thanksgiving to God.” Even if you don’t possess a religious bone in your body, showing individuals appreciation who do good for you can’t be foreign. Yet, the concept of gratitude is difficult to implement in the face of trials and tribulations in life. If people are able to look at others who are in a worse situation and appreciate the fact that they are better off, it is possible for gratitude to grow in people. Given the fact that gratitude is connected to relationships, words like gratitude, giving, and thanks are themes of helping and appreciating others in life.
Unfortunately, developing gratitude in working professionals is a difficult task. Many organizations are built on power structures that reward takers and those individuals who are great at putting situations at their own advantage. Most of who are only vaguely interested in recognizing or thanking others if doing these actions will benefit them professionally.
Some business-oriented individuals may argue that this gratitude characteristic is a weakness in a corporate rat race and that takers are at the advantage. In contrast, Dr. Adam Grant, author of Give and Take: Why Helping Others Drive Our Success, explains the different mentality of givers and takers in the workforce: “Takers have distinctive signature: they like to get more than they give. They tilt reciprocity in their own favor, putting their own interest ahead of other’s needs…If you are a giver, you might use a different cost-benefit analysis; you help whenever the benefits to others exceed personal cost.”
Dr. Grant’s research further demonstrated that givers are more successful in the long-run. Helping others provide leverage and influence in life. Givers are better at giving than takers because of their genuineness in striving to be generous in their time, energy, skills, knowledge, and connections to benefit others. How do I grow my gratitude in my life? That’s a great question to consider.
Unless it’s Thanksgiving or a special occasion, most professionals will not consider the merits of gratitude in helping them in life. This article demonstrated that employees are unhappy in the workplace and face many hardships in life that causes them to look inside themselves instead of helping others. Gratitude is a soft skill that has a positive effect on others.
Even celebrities like Marilyn Monroe realized the importance of gratitude: “When you have a good friend that really cares for you and tries to stick in there with you, you treat them like nothing. Learn to be a good friend because one day you’re gonna look up and say I lost a good friend…Always remember to smile and look up at what you got in life.” Life is a like a blade of grass that passes with time. Gratitude is something that you can use for a lifetime. Don’t wait until it’s too late.
© 2016 by Daryl D. Green