A Process for Thanks

The holiday season always brings to mind a focus on gratitude, from homespun images of saying grace around the dinner table to awkward expressions of gratitude pulled from employees around the conference table. Despite the rote recitation of grace and the awkwardness of forcing employees to express their appreciation for their colleagues and their jobs, experts tout a daily process of gratitude for numerous psychological and health benefits.

Being that expressing gratitude is a deeply personal exercise, corporations are advised to give guidance, but not impose the process of gratitude upon their employees. Jia Ni Teo describes her gratitude process: “Every year I carve out some time at Thanksgiving to sit down and write down a list of 101 things I am grateful for.” Natalia Drum cautions that “not all things feel worthy of being thankful for. When I’m gut honest, there are things in my life that are just hard, and at times I don’t feel like giving thanks for them.” She refers to biblical passages, Dueteronomy 31:6, Romans 8:28, and Genesis 50:20, in reminding herself that God does not ask her to be thankful for pain, but for truth.

Manifested in the workplace, gratitude and appreciation helps to develop deep, interpersonal, and organizational good will that yields outstanding employee effort and business success. The consistent practice of genuine appreciation and sincere gratitude combats the loss of self-confidence and the growth of cynicism, contribute to a loss of trust and a toxic workplace. Writing for the Harvard Business Review, Ron Ashkenas acknowledges that the failure of managers to express gratitude and appreciation for a job well done usually results from being busy and overwhelmed. “The challenge,” he says, “is how to make the process of giving thanks more routine so that it occurs without a reminder.”

Organizational gratitude stems from shifting focus from everything that goes wrong to what goes right. As Ashkenas explains, “much of the power and potential in organizations is revealed by its success stories. By identifying these vignettes and shining a spotlight on them, managers can help to tease out important lessons, reinforce innovation, and unlock tremendous value.” So, rather than seat your staff around a conference table and then order them to share with everyone what they’re thankful for, take the lead in showing how much you appreciate them. Stacey Alcorn, writing for Entrepreneur, offers some suggestions:

  1. Circulate a “we give thanks” email message throughout the company (or department in a large corporation), listing everyone in the organization and explaining why each person is special and appreciated.
  2. Host parties throughout the year to celebrate company successes and as a way to thank employees for their contributions to those successes. Making the parties family affairs by inviting your employees’ spouses and children really raises the bar and shows how much you care and appreciate the people working for you.
  3. Plan an excursion to get people doing something other than work, whether it’s a holiday shopping trip or a jaunt to the zoo or amusement park. The gesture shows employees that you care about
  4. Handwritten thank-you notes add a low-cost, personal touch that employees treasure. This enables executives to single out specific people who really deserve and extra pat on the back without embarrassing anyone.
  5. Offer clients expressions of gratitude through gifts unaccompanied by sales pitches. Expressions of appreciation can range from the distribution of baked goods to handwritten greeting cards.


Gratitude comes in many forms and does not require extravagant gestures. Customers and staff all appreciate heartfelt expressions of gratitude and knowing that they matter.