November 25, 2013
Gratitude may be the most underused feeling in the American workplace.
We spend ample time feeling stressed and angry and frustrated. We spend some time feeling happy, usually when there are doughnuts in the break room. But grateful? Not so much.
Given the proximity to Thanksgiving, I say it's time to examine the things we're thankful for, to consider the good that comes from a pro-gratitude attitude. ("Pro-Gratitude Attitude" mugs will soon be on sale in the I Just Work Here gift shop.)
With that, America's most-beloved workplace advice columnist will transform into America's workplace thanker-in-chief. These are a few of the things for which I'm thankful:
Doughnuts — I realize I mentioned these already, but the doughy wheels of sweetened bliss that roll through our work lives can never be over-thanked. Please take a moment next time you see one and express your gratitude by devouring it — it's the only language they understand.
My job — I'm grateful, beyond words, for this column, which for more than two years now has introduced me to fascinating people and helped me better understand the world inside and outside work.
But beyond that, I'm thankful just to have a job. If you have one, you should be too.
There are still millions of unemployed people across the country, people who fight day in and day out, hoping for even a nibble of interest. I hear from many in that situation, and it can be grim and maddening. Usually the best advice I can give is: Do not give up.
The unemployed deserve all the support and encouragement we can give them. They deserve respect and fair treatment. Please keep them in your thoughts, and hope for better days ahead.
Good workplace books — I receive approximately 754,000 workplace-related books a week and, as I've said in previous columns, most of them are dreadful. But there are some wonderfully intelligent authors writing books that are pragmatic and inspirational, and when one of those comes along, I feel most thankful indeed.
A few of the books I'm grateful for this year are: "Promote Yourself: The New Rules for Career Success" by Dan Schawbel; "What You're Really Meant to Do: A Road Map for Reaching Your Unique Potential" by Robert Steven Kaplan; "The Truth About Lies in the Workplace" by Carol Kinsey Goman; and "Pope Francis: Why He Leads the Way He Leads" by Chris Lowney.
Bad workplace books — I'm thankful for all the bad workplace books because I've used them to build a really neat — and remarkably sturdy — fort outside my cubicle. It's a perfect place to hide and eat doughnuts.
People who say thanks — Would it be too meta if I said I'm thankful for people who say thanks?
We're all busy, and we're all wired up and receiving near-constant input via phone, text, tweet and email. And the rush, rush, rush of all this makes it easy to forget one of the first things we were ever taught: Say thank you.
The good will that can come from small gestures is staggering. People remember those things, even if they seem incidental at the time.
Remember to thank the co-worker who gets a file for you or answers a quick question. If you didn't say thanks in an email, send another quick note saying, "Oops. I forgot to thank you for this. Thanks!"
If you're a boss, take a minute and say thanks to someone you know has been working hard. Bonuses are hard to come by these days, but expressions of gratitude still go a long way.
My editors — I have the good fortune of working with editors who not only tolerate my silly jokes and catch my dumb mistakes, but also help me sort out column ideas, then take what I write and, with the precision of surgeons, make it considerably better.
They're also very funny, and they share my obsession with ice cream. And probably doughnuts too. I'm thankful for them, week in and week out. (I'm also hopeful they won't edit this out!)
You guys — Get over here, ya big lugs, gimme a hug!
Seriously, the last bit of gratitude I'll share here is for the people who read this column. I receive more email than I can keep up with, and I'm constantly amazed by the thoughtfulness and insight those notes contain.
When the column started, I wanted it to feel like a conversation over a cubicle wall. The back and forth via email and social media delights me, provides fodder for columns and, in many cases, makes me rethink what I've written.
Despite my boasts of being the most-beloved workplace columnist, I've never claimed I'm always right. I'm not, and many of you have raised points that educate me and have an impact on the way I approach future columns.
I thank you all for paying attention, for putting up with me and for making this a two-way conversation.
Maybe someday I'll invite you over to my bad-workplace-book fort. It's surprisingly roomy.
TALK TO REX: Ask workplace questions — anonymously or by name — and share stories with Rex Huppke at email@example.com, like Rex on Facebook at facebook.com/rexworkshere and find more at chicagotribune.com/ijustworkhere.
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