Early in my career, I worked in several call centers, starting with customer service, then moving to technical support, and eventually customer advocacy (which is a topic for another post, I think). In each case, my dedication to the job came directly from how valued I felt. In my first CS job, I was treated as a replaceable mouth. I was there to tell customers a specific thing, absorb abuse, and deflect issues. If I didn’t like it, there was a line of people behind me willing to take my job. Needless to say, I didn’t stay long. It wasn’t until I worked for eBay that I felt like my contributions were respected and valued. I was an advocate for my customers, often looking out for them when they had issues or fears, and working as hard as I could to make sure they were successful. The difference wasn’t the tasks, because they were very similar. The real difference came from the gratitude my peers, leaders, directs, and customers gave because I was dedicated to their success.
Too often it’s taken for granted that employees are “replaceable” because anyone can do the tasks they are tasked to do. And, on a very utilitarian level, anyone can do any job. I’ve often advocated an internal need to outline and define every job task specifically to make this possible, as it’s the core of excellent training. With the right training and preparation, anyone can do any job. The true differentiator to success is how they do the job. The soft skills, attitude, and enthusiasm someone brings to their role can make all the difference in the success of their efforts. While just about everyone coming into a new position brings a level of enthusiasm to the position, if that is not recognized and they are taken for granted, that enthusiasm will quickly die and will lead to a very toxic workplace.
Gratitude for the individual is a key value to develop within the workplace. Developing gratitude can lead to increased positive attitudes, generate less stress, have a greater desire and belief that goals can be met, have fewer sick days, and have a high level of job satisfaction. Relationships with co-workers are more positive, and the workplace becomes a safe place to bring your authentic self. Showing gratitude is a gateway value to compassion and forgiveness, which are key values that create a healthy, positive culture in the workplace. It is also a very easy value to develop if it’s approached sincerely.
- Lead by Example: the first step of fostering gratitude is to be the example. As a leader, you should be grateful to your leaders, your peers, and your employees.
- Focus on the Person, not Performance: Gratitude is a personal recognition of the contributions only that person can make. Recognize, not the work done, but rather the way the work has been done. You are recognizing the contribution of personality that someone is bringing to work. In short, you are encouraging their authentic self to shine out in their efforts. Recognize their uniqueness in execution, their passion for the role, and their willingness to stretch themselves to meet the challenge.
- Be Sincere: People know when you are not sincere in your praise. To be earnest in your gratitude, you need to take a good look at the contribution others bring.
- Reciprocate: It’s easy to accept expressions of gratitude because they bolster your self-worth and encourage self-compassion. But to truly develop a culture of gratitude, you need to reciprocate. Express your gratitude for others, and let them know you are grateful for their gratitude.
Building a culture of gratitude is not without difficulties. There’s a worry that awards and recognition go to those who just “do their job” instead of doing something extraordinary. It takes time to change that culture perception from recognizing task completion to acknowledging the attitudes that complete the tasks with high success. This requires phrasing your recognition correctly. For example:
- “Completing your paperwork on time and turning it in correctly” focuses on the task
- “You complete your paperwork with a smile on your face, an excitement that is infectious, and with a desire to streamline your efforts so your customers have an excellent experience” focuses on the attitudes and motivation behind the task
Focusing on that aspect of the work, the contribution that only that person can make, and the impact that their attitude makes on the task will make all the difference in the role. While working for eBay, as long as I was appreciated for what I did and how I did it, I was motivated and happy. When my efforts were no longer valued, I began to look elsewhere. I also think of those on my team who, if shown gratitude for their work, could have been retained instead of looking elsewhere. Gratitude can make a huge difference and for that, I am exceedingly grateful.