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Gratitude - How To Cultivate It In Business and Professional Life

Updated: Jan 13, 2023

Photo credit @SimonMaage

The holidays are coming and it is a time of celebration, reflection and thankfulness. How many of you know the history of our Thanksgiving holiday? Americans have kept the tradition of Thanksgiving going from the year 1621 to present. Gratitude is a popular word for the holidays and there are several ways to show it with strangers, friends and even your associates. We hope you enjoy this article and you find it prompts you to consider your own definition of gratitude and how you show it in your life.

Photo credit @PriscillaDuPreez

History of Thanksgiving.

In 1621 the Plymouth England colonists and the Wampanog Indians shared what is known as the first Thanksgiving. The story to this union goes back to the year prior; 1620, when 102 colonists arrived on the Mayflower. Due to scurvy and other diseases, many of those that traveled on the Mayflower died and those that survived continued to become ill through the bitter winter until March in the new land. They were greeted by an Abenaki Indian who spoke English accompanied by one named “Squanto” from the Pawtuxet tribe. These bilingual native Americans taught the colonists how to grow a multitude of crops such as corn in their new homeland. In November 1621, Governor William Bradford invited some of the Wampanog members to a three-day feast to celebrate their first successful harvest. That day, an alliance was formed to last a minimum of fifty years between the two groups. ( Editors, 2019).

Although we cannot know for certain what food was prepared that first Thanksgiving day, we can assume corn, deer and possibly lobster was on the menu since that was plentiful. Let’s fast forward to 1789 when George Washington held the first proclamation by the national government and acknowledged gratitude when the war ended and the U.S. Constitution was ratified. After this, Thanksgiving was held on different days throughout the year until Abraham Lincoln granted Sarah Josepha Hale request (persistence paid off after 36 years requesting the holiday to be formally recognized) to make it an annual holiday in 1863. While the religious significance of Thanksgiving has diminished since its birth, the holiday tradition of sharing a feast, giving thanks and a time of reflection still reigns as a significant historical snapshot of our country’s rich heritage. ( Editors, 2019)

Photo credit: @HannyNaibaho

Gratitude, How Does It Show Up In Your Life?

So let’s start with the basics. What is gratitude? According to Merriam-Webster’s Dictionary, it is the quality of being thankful; readiness to show appreciation for and to return kindness.

Harvard University the definition is for one “to be thankful or feeling positive emotions from past memories, not taking things for granted in the present and keeping optimistic for the future”. (In Praise of Gratitude, 2019).

Benedictine monk, Br. David Steindl-Rast, suggests that two qualities belong in our basic definition of gratitude. The first is appreciation: You recognize that something is valuable to you, which has nothing to do with its monetary worth. The second quality Br. David mentions is that gratitude is gratis: freely given to you.

In our own backyard here in central Florida we went to the streets and asked people what comes to mind when they hear the word gratitude.

Angeley Wenner, founder of One Hope International says that when thinking of gratitude, “I think of all my family and friends that have supported, loved and pushed me to be better”. One Hope International serves a meal every third Tuesday at Rescue Outreach. For November they will be offering turkey dinners.

Erin Luckeydoo, retiree from Seminole County Sheriff’s Office explains that gratitude is also an action. For example, giving up your seat to another even if that means there’s no other chair or holding your hand across your heart to recite the Pledge of Allegiance. She goes on saying that it is also shaking the hand of those who served in the military and thanking them for their service. Growing up, Erin’s parents would show gratitude by inviting service members from the Naval Academy or Coast Guard stations to Thanksgiving dinner.

Maha .K. is an International student from Saudi Arabia, majoring in Tourism and Hospitality Management at Valencia State College. When asked about gratitude, Maha says “gratitude is a great feeling you have towards a blessing...For me it is necessary to have gratitude to function in life...With gratitude the blessing continues”. Since Saudi Arabia doesn’t celebrate Thanksgiving there are not plans to take part but mentioned there is an option for International Students to celebrate with Bridges Valencia. The university connects students to U.S. families who extend an invitation to their household so they can experience the holiday.

Sandra .T. is a Breast Cancer survivor, twice from the year 2000 and 2019. Gratitude is recognizing what you’re grateful for. “I’m Grateful for being alive and what God has given to me in the way of family, friends and my love for God. Without that love for Him I don’t know whether I could’ve made it alone. Knowing He loves me, I’m grateful for Him. When looking at the world, I’m grateful for living in a country that allows me the freedom to be who I am”. Each year Sandra prepares a traditional Thanksgiving meal for family. This includes dishes such as turkey, stuffing with cranberries, homemade mashed potatoes, green beans, pumpkin and pecan pie.

Thank you poster

How to Integrate to the Workplace.

Showing gratitude is important in the workplace because it can build employee morale and in turn, create positive teams. There are clever ways to encourage gratitude in the workplace and 6Q Blog shared some pretty awesome tips on gratitude in the workplace.

1. Start at the top.

When dispensing gratitude, it always helps to start from the top. As previously stated, if a higher up appreciates those beneath them, a higher quality of work is produced. Even giving a quick “thank you” can go a long way when you’re speaking with employees. It reinforces the company mission and can encourage the team to feel better and also to be more gracious and appreciative of one another. Creating somewhat of a pleasant cycle, reinforcing the positive working culture throughout the office.

If you’re a manager, you want to climb up the corporate ladder. By showing gratitude, you can manage your team in such a way that helps them climb the ladder with you. If nothing else, that will reflect positively for you. As a manager, not showing gratitude in the workplace is an easy mistake to make, but just as easy an action to engage in.

2. Quality not quantity.

Authenticity is something that must be taken into consideration whilst showing gratitude. Because without being authentic, the gesture is undermined. Since gratitude can’t be forced, it has to be felt and be fully authentic in nature. For this reason, the quality of the gesture is more important than the quantity in which you disperse.

3. Thank the unsung heroes.

In a way, this rule can undermine the last. Regardless, it’s still important. Because often within an organization there are specific groups and classes of people who regularly get thanked. This happens while others do on an irregular basis. All we’re saying is to thank those people too, because they may not be the rock star of the office, but they’re still an important person in the team.

4. Acknowledge the small wins as well as the bigger ones.

Wins are wins and wins are good. You don’t have to specifically catch someone doing something great to thank them. However if a win comes across your desk or you do happen to see someone doing something well, don’t be afraid to give some positive reinforcement.

5. Recognize team success as well as personal success.

You’re the leader of your team. So it’s likely you’re going to be the one being directly reported to about any success within the company. Therefore it’s your responsibility to then relay the good praises down the line. Engage your team and let them know they’re doing great. Because without them, you would have a lot more work to do all by yourself!

Next time you’re at work, think about the associates you interacted with. Consider what small steps they had taken to make your experience working with them a positive one. It could be how the doorman always tells you to have a great night, or when another associate took on a task you asked them to do with a smile on their face and without hesitation. Acknowledge those things and let them know next time how much you appreciate them for it.

The time of Thanksgiving serves as a reminder to be thankful for all of the small and big things that happened this year. If you like, go the extra mile and help someone in your community. One can be grateful for being in a position to help someone as well as receiving that gratitude from the person in need.

How do you show gratitude in your workplace? Drop us a note and share a suggestion or story. Happy Thanksgiving!

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