Gratitude in the workplace

Things to be thankful for during the season of thanks, from coffee and co-workers to the simple fact that you have a job

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 Office gratitude

Office gratitude (Stockcam, Getty Images / November 20, 2012)

As is tradition in my family, I sat back after a fine Thanksgiving meal, submerged my feet in a bucket of warm gravy and reflected on life.

It was a chance to exercise the muscles of gratitude that tend to grow weak throughout the year.

I started with the usual: family, health, the fact that my children don't like pecan pie so there's more for me. But given my occupation, thoughts drifted to the workplace.

And yes, there are things in the workplace to be grateful for, first among them: Having a place to work. I say this in all seriousness, because it's important for every working person to remember that there are, as of the most recent Bureau of Labor Statistics figures, 12.3 million people in this country who don't have jobs.

Jobs can be wildly imperfect and some downright unhealthy if the work is too dull or the co-workers or management too unkind. But I'd ask everyone employed to remember this: You have a job. You have a paycheck. And if the job isn't what you want, just having it gives you a leg up in trying to find something better.

Use that to gain perspective and take a moment to consider the folks fighting for work. And maybe send some thoughts their way.

Beyond the job, I felt thankful for people in the workplace who listen. It has almost become a lost art in an age of electronic communication. And despite unrelenting waves of books claiming to be sure-fire guides to good management practices, few seem to grasp the beautiful simplicity of opening an ear to a co-worker and hearing what that person has to say.

We all move too fast and can easily fail to connect on the most basic of levels. So I appreciate those who pay attention and have the humility to believe that every voice can be important.

My gratitude reached to coffee, which not only fuels our bodies but also acts as a mile marker of the day — a morning cup means a long stretch is ahead; an afternoon cup means the destination is in sight. Plus it's yummy and gives me an excellent reason to eat a pastry.

I thought, with thanks, of the co-workers who aren't jerks, because they invariably outnumber the ones who are and the best of them push us to become a better version of ourselves.

I gave a nod to the inventor of the "delete" button, for there are few more satisfying experiences throughout the workday than taking a frustrating email and, with one click, blasting it into a puff of digital debris.

And lastly, before the gravy got too chilly, I gave a sincere nod of thanks to those who read this column. To the people who take life in the workplace seriously enough that there's a market for the subjects I explore and to those lighthearted enough to recognize that the world of work is worthy of gentle mockery.

I hope everyone had a wonderful — and thankful — Thanksgiving. And I hope you all will buy me lovely Christmas presents in the weeks to come.

Or just send cash.

TALK TO REX: Ask workplace questions — anonymously or by name — and share stories with Rex Huppke at ijustworkhere@tribune.com, like Rex on Facebook at facebook.com/rexworkshere, and find more at chicagotribune.com/ijustworkhere.

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