The Rewards of Being Thankful

American traditions abound this week: traveling to visit family, overflowing dinner tables, football games on television, Black Friday sales and, for many workers, a long weekend. But there can also be cultural pressures to meet an elusive holiday ideal and, for many, it’s stressful when family relations go awry or dinner falls short of Martha Stewart perfection.

Add multiple doses of commercial tactics to ramp up holiday spending and another frenzied set of expectations emerges. Layer this atop an economic climate of insecurity and you’ve got the perfect recipe for stressed out employees.  No wonder we sometimes neglect both the thanks and the giving in Thanksgiving!

But employers can help put both back into the holiday season while assisting their employees in the process. Consider these five ideas:

Model Gratitude. Thank your employees for what they do for your department and the organization. Catch them doing things well and let them know you notice and appreciate it. Give positive feedback whenever possible to help them feel motivated, encouraged and engaged in their work.

Appreciate the Whole Person. Employees don’t bring compartmentalized pieces of themselves to work. For better or worse, they bring their whole being, their enthusiasm, talents, concerns and problems alike. Get to know your employees as unique individuals; learn about what’s important to them and let them know that you care.

Create a Culture of Wellness. Everyone is better off when staff members are healthy, physically and mentally. Absenteeism and turnover go down; teamwork and productivity go up. Employees feel cared about when you pay attention to their well-being. Create wellness events, such as yoga, mindfulness training and nutrition classes, and provide an Employee Assistance Program to help staff manage personal issues and hardships.

Support Volunteering. The opportunity to serve others is gratifying. It can even be therapeutic when experiencing difficulties in one’s own life. Consider a policy that allows employees to spend some work time volunteering for a worthy cause. Your generosity in allowing employees to themselves be generous will be appreciated and will encourage loyalty and greater commitment among your staff.

Nurture a Sense of Community. Trying to get more done with less these days, stressed out employees can narrow their focus, hunker down, view other departments as thwarting and lose sight of the greater picture. To counter these tendencies, create opportunities for staff, across departments and functions, to get to know one another better. Interdepartmental projects, committees and social events can foster cooperation, collaboration and even friendship. The U.S. Congress of twenty years ago engaged in socializing and friendship across party lines that resulted in compromise and cooperation which, today, is almost non-existent. It’s all too easy to demonize others when you don’t know them.

It can take mindful effort to pause and be thankful. But the more you do it, the easier and more habitual it becomes. So take some time out this week and in the coming weeks to encourage your employees to likewise pause, breathe, pay attention to others, engage in helping those less fortunate and appreciate one another. Model, cultivate and provide opportunities for healthy, cooperative and generous behaviors and your organization will enjoy a culture of more committed, collaborative and appreciative staff.