Playing Twenty Questions with Yourself for Thanksgiving at Work
"Reflect on your present blessings, of which every man has many;
not on your past misfortunes, of which all men have some."
"When I started counting my blessings, my whole life turned around."
Willie Nelson, Musician and Singer
Whether you celebrate Thanksgiving on the second Monday of October (Canadian-style), the last Thursday in November (American-style) or not officially at all, there is something in the air come autumn--as we welcome or fear the fourth quarter and start to wind down the year--that makes for a perfect time to reflect. As leaves start to fall, and days shorten and cool (at least in these northern latitudes) take time to give thanks and count your blessings about all that's come before you at work this past nine months.
Give thanks, you may query? For what...the stress, the pressure, the harried colleagues and clients, the having to do too much with too little??? Absolutely! On a good day, or a good stretch of time at work giving thanks and counting your blessings for your terrific job, fabulous workplace environment and wonderful corporate culture may be an easy thing to do; on a bad day or bad stretch...forget it! Or so you would think.
Sometimes it's just a matter of looking harder for what's good about your daily work experience in the plethora of day-to-day activities; often times those "blessings" are right under your nose.
List three things about your work for which you are grateful. If this is easy--terrific. If this contemplation brings you up empty...try harder.
To make it easier to see the who, what, where, when, why and how of giving thanks at your work, list at least one name beside each of these questions (if names do not easily spring to mind for certain questions, think harder--force yourself to come up with a name--you know there must be at least one person to acknowledge for each question; find that one...even if you have to come back to a question):
1. Which of my colleagues has done something for me (either consciously or unconsciously) that has helped elevate my professional reputation, advance my career or otherwise move me forward this year?
2. Which frontline/support staff member(s), colleague(s) or person to whom I report makes my work easier to complete?
3. Who is the person that pushes up his/her sleeves and chips in (rescues me), without being asked, when I am so crazy busy and overwhelmed that I think I'm going to "lose it" for sure?
4. Who at work can I always count on to lighten a tense or worrisome moment and give me a much needed, good laugh?
5. Who at work has covered for me in a pinch?
6. Who at work has protected me from circling vultures or a sticky, politically "hot" situation?
7. Who came to my defense, or helped champion my cause, when I was out there on the "skinny branches" and felt all alone with my idea, perspective on a project or suggested course of action?
8. Who effectively and authentically represented me when I wasn't there to speak for myself, eg. away sick, out-of-town on business, vacation?
9. Which colleague, boss and/or client/customer trusted me to do the right thing or to do what I said I'd do?
10. Who spurred me on? Who gave me encouragement exactly when I needed it most?
11. Who expected more of me than I expected of
12. Who gave me moral support when I was going through a bit of a professional "dark moment of the soul"?
13. Who sought out and honoured me by valuing my opinion?
14. When I actually took a semblance of a break on any given day, eg. to pick up a coffee, grab a sandwich at the local "squat and gobble", etc., who served me in an over-the-top efficient, and friendly manner, with a big cheerful smile and disposition, too?
15. Who was thoughtful enough to include me in their work plans or suggestions?
16. Who let me know that they value my workplace contributions?
17. Who is the one that gets out of my way the best, to make it maximally possible for me to do what I need to do for the good of my team/branch/organization/company/clients or customers?
18. Who is the person that always respects my time?
19. Who at work have I taken for granted this past year; who at work really deserves some praise and thanks from me, right now?
Now that you've identified the "who", consider the "what". What are you going to do about all these people you've listed? Answer: Recognize these individuals as "blessings" in your stressed and demanding workdays, and take the time to say "thanks" to at least some of these terrific individuals with whom you interact each day. Corny and mushy as it may sound, Thanksgiving is the perfect time to give it up because you can hide behind the season if you are an "awh shucks" kind of person!
You may be wondering, "Where's the twentieth question? I thought I was playing Twenty Questions with Myself About Thanksgiving at Work?" Indeed, you are!
Who is my biggest workplace pain in the butt--inside the organization? outside?
Although the people who come to mind may be the ones who make it most difficult for you to do the good work you do, they, too, can be viewed as blessings. Why? They give you the opportunity to rise above and take the "high road" in your choice of interaction and help you professionally to grow with grace and class. These individuals, particularly, are the ones that give you the opportunity to try out those fabulous skills you learn in professional development workshops or read in management development texts. These individuals help you count to ten a bit slower and try a bit harder at what author, Stephen Covey (Seven Habits of Highly Effective People) identifies as Habit Number 5: "Seek first to understand, then to be understood". Workplace "pains in the butt" are good yeast for your bread--they help you rise.
During the balance of this week, when you say "Happy Thanksgiving" to colleagues and cherished clients, be specific. Tell them exactly why you are so grateful that you get a chance to interact with them at work (especially the ones you have listed in your twenty questions--and yes, even the people you identified in the twentieth question!).
My wishes to you, dear reader, for a Happy Thanksgiving, wherever you are, and whenever you celebrate, no matter how formally or informally. May you have many workplace blessings to count in the balance of this year and beyond!
"Give us thankful hearts...in this the season of Thy Thanksgiving.
May we be thankful for health and strength, for sun and rain and peace. Let us seize the day and the opportunity and strive for that greatness of spirit that measures life not by its disappointments but by its possibilities, and let us ever remember that true gratitude and appreciation shows itself neither in independence nor satisfaction but passes the gift joyfully on in a larger and better form."
W. E. B. Du Bois, from the book "A Grateful Heart: Daily Blessings for the Evening Meal from Buddha to the Beatles", Conari Press, Berkeley, CA, 1994, page 51.
P. S. I invite you to refer to my September, 2002 edition of "Working Wisdom", entitled, "Thanksgiving at Work: September is the right month, after all!" for specific suggestions as to how you can put across, with words and/or actions, your expressions of thanks.