Thanksgiving at Work: September is the right month, after all!
This year especially, September is a fine month to count your workplace blessings. As summer slips away, and the last of its long weekends, as well, many employees are asking "How long until the next long weekend?" In Canada, it's only five more weeks until our official Thanksgiving long weekend. Whether you observe a time of official thanks in October or November, you can have more time to efficiently and effectively express your appreciation and thanks to colleagues and clients if you prepare in advance. And so...September IS a good time, after all, to plan how you are going to count your workplace blessings and express appreciation in the weeks ahead.
Here are three suggestions for putting a little something extra into the spirit of Thanksgiving at Work this year:
1. Send Thanksgiving Cards: this is a great way to put your appreciation across to a specific collection of valued staff, colleagues, clients/customers and suppliers. Most people wait until year's end to send greeting cards. Although the intent at that time of year may be sincere, the timing sometimes seems predictable and even expected. Sending your expression of gratitude and thanks, eg. for a job well done throughout the year, or for loyal service, etc., at Thanksgiving, instead, may take the receiver by pleasant surprise, and have a longer lasting, positive effect.
2. If you would like to express your thanks and gratitude to even more people in your professional circle, consider this...make an extended list of those you'd like to thank. List as many people as there are days left until Thanksgiving. Buy, eg. 40 nice post cards and 40 fancy stamps (your local postal station will have the best selection of beautiful commemorative or seasonal stamps). Place the name and address of each person on each post card, and affix a stamp to each, as well, before you start writing any cards. Rather than writing a marathon of 40 post cards (which may cause you to lose your energy and spontaneity), select one person/card per day. Remember the old "KISS" / Keep it Simple Sweetheart" principle by completing these two structured sentences on each card:
- One thing I appreciate about you is...
- Another thing I appreciate about you is...
Follow-up these sentences with a closing comment such as, "For me, this is a good time to tell you this, as Thanksgiving approaches...Happy Thanksgiving!" Not too mushy, not too long. Just three little sentences per day which may touch a person you appreciate in your workplace. Perhaps you'll also decide to include a card for the person to whom you report! Who knows? You may get a nice buzz from dropping your Thanks! card in the mailbox each day!
3. Do an "internal team mailing" at the end of your last team meeting before Thanksgiving. Here's how: eg., If you are one of six people attending the team meeting, (including your Manager, Director, V. P., etc.)...
a. Ahead of the meeting time, collect six empty tissue boxes or other small boxes upon which you can create a mail slot--decorate them if you have the time, energy and inclination. Place the name of one of the team members on each of the boxes. Put them aside until the day of the meeting.
b. At an appropriate time during your team meeting, announce that there will be a team building exercise. Handout out five index style cards to each person on your team (not six each, because each person will not comment about themselves...only about their five colleagues).
c. Each team member will place the names of each of their five team mates atop one of their five, separate index cards.
d. Instruct each team member to anonymously print out their personal completions to the same two sentences from my second suggestion: "One thing I appreciate about you is...Another thing I appreciate about you is...". Complete these sentences for each of the five cards/team mates. You might say, in a light or jovial way..."Come on...there's got to be at least two nice things we can say about each other!" Make this declaration especially if there is a disagreeable or cynical person on your team, to give other team members an extra nudge to stay sincerely open to the intent of the exercise. Each team member quietly writes out their two sentences of appreciation on each card until all five are completed. Some quiet and unobtrusive background music at this point is often a nice touch, to take the stillness off a quiet room while six people are writing away.
e. While the team mates are writing out their cards, distribute and space out the "mail boxes" around the room, on a close by ledge or tables, if possible.
f. When all are completed, have all team members get up and, simultaneously "mail" their index cards to the appropriate team member's box and then return to their seats.
g. Once the mailing is complete, have each team mate collect their mail but not read its content. Choose who will go first. Have some fun with this by, eg. finding out whose birthday is closest to Thanksgiving Day and start with them! Go clockwise from there. As each person's turn comes up, that individual will fish into their mailbox and read each of their five pieces of anonymous "mail"...aloud. All team members, including the subject, hear the team member's two sentences of appreciation (times five) at the same time. If you suspect that such a gradient is too high for your team, allow each person to have a few moments to read their mail quietly and then commence the process of having a read aloud/go around the table.
h. Continue around the table until all team members have read their five cards.
i. Debrief with a couple of minutes of discussion along the lines of, "What I experienced about/from this exercise was...because...". The responses may be positive or negative, but a good dialogue will ensue, and all will realize that their team mates acknowledge at least two of the quality traits they bring to the workplace table. I have facilitated this process for many teams over the years. I know it works!
Always, always, always make time to build rapport with people, both inside and outside of your organization. Saying thanks and expressing your appreciation is a relationship builder and a relationship enhancer, so speak up to ensure the job gets done. Expressing your sincere thanks--not a mere shallow manipulative thanks to get something from an individual at a later date--will inspire the other to feel good about themselves and perhaps more loyal to you. Even if you know that they already know that you appreciate their workplace performance, manner, etc., these once-in-a-while actual words are always nice to receive.
Remember to "get out of your head" and into your heart as you express your thanks. Ask yourself, "How would I deliver my "thanks" if I was coming from my head? How would my expression differ if I was speaking from the heart, instead?" Go with the heart this year!
Why do so many of us get so "awh shucks" about expressing philios/brotherly love for those with whom we work and genuinely like? When you work with some colleagues for a long time, it's inevitable that bonds and sincere affection will develop. Let's face it...a lot of life happens along the way while you're working for 10, 15 or 20 years with one employer (or even less than that!). So often we wait until our best loved colleagues are retiring, quitting, being laid off, getting a promotion, or we wait until they get seriously sick, or even die, before we express our affections and emotions. Most do not want people gushing and blubbering all over the place on a regular basis, but the time leading into Thanksgiving can be used as a terrific excuse to express your fondness and thanks to those around you. Whether or not you are in a position of official authority at work, don't just sit around waiting for some other moment, often tragic, eg. 9/11, to say nice things about one another. Do it now. Start today. Perhaps especially because the anniversary of September 11, 2001 is now upon us!
This September, especially, is a fine month for putting your Thanksgiving thoughts into action!
"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.
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Nina Spencer is a business/motivational keynote speaker, and workshop facilitator, specializing in interpersonal communications and rebuilding workplace passion. Nina can be reached at 416-588-3334. To book Nina's keynote or workshop services for your organization's event, visit ninaspencer.com or email firstname.lastname@example.org
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