Creating a Culture of Thankfulness

Aug 07, 2023

“It’s a one-year membership in the Jelly of the Month Club.”

These, of course, were the words uttered by Clark Griswold right after opening his Christmas “bonus” and just before he completely lost it, unleashing the most memorable holiday rant in cinematic history.

Overworked and Underappreciated 

If you’ve ever watched Christmas Vacation in its entirety (if you haven’t, what are you waiting for?) you know that the entire movie builds to this moment. At every turn, Clark’s well-intentioned plans for a classic family Christmas are frustrated. Food is ruined, trees are destroyed, and squirrels run wild. You pile all that on top of a, shall we say “difficult,” family and anyone would start to lose their grip a bit. It’s interesting, though, that up to this point, up until Clark receives a Jelly membership instead of a bonus check, he was actually holding it together pretty well. Something about this particular slight, however, was too much to handle, and it is something we can all sympathize with—the feeling of being under-appreciated.

Regardless of the nature of our jobs or our position within our organization, we all have a deeply rooted desire for our work to be valued. We want our contributions to be acknowledged and our special efforts to be noticed. We want whatever role we play in organizational success to be appreciated. When this doesn’t happen, when we feel overlooked or taken for granted, we grow frustrated and bitter. We can grow apathetic, telling ourselves, “Nobody notices how hard I work, so why bother?”

Creating a Culture of Thankfulness and Value 

As leaders, then, shouldn’t we be concerned to meet these desires in those around us? After all, if we hunger for our work to be appreciated, surely those we lead do as well.

How do we go about this? How do we create and sustain a culture of thankfulness?

For some of you, expressing gratitude is second nature. You wake up applauding your alarm clock for its punctuality and your pillow for a good night’s work. You are hard-wired to sense when people need a pat on the back or a handwritten note. For the rest of us, recognizing and appreciating the work of others may take conscious effort.

  1. Take an actionable step to say “Thanks.” Who is your supporting cast? What role have they played in your success? Where have they gone the extra mile and done more than was asked? Don’t just make the list. Personally thank them and be specific. Do it in person, by email, in a handwritten note, or with a text. Just be sure to do it.
  2. Use the calendar as Thankful triggers. Obviously Thanksgiving is a great time to say thanks. But year-end, Christmas, birthdays, after hitting a sales target or completing a project are also prime days for a Thank You to show up. At any major milestone or intersection, thank those that helped get you there.
  3. Bring gratitude into the center of the culture. Gratitude has a compound effect. In fact, in a recent article for HBR, Christine Riordan noted that “when employees feel valued, they have high job satisfaction, are willing to work longer hours…are motivated to do their best, and work toward achieving the company’s goals.” But here is the surprise element. When I am thankful, my own soul is re-energized and it is re-anchored to the good, the true, and the beautiful.

When a person doesn’t have gratitude, something is missing in his or her humanity.
-Elie Wiesel

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