Gratitude. It’s the week for it. Thanksgiving gives us all an opportunity to reflect and express gratitude. Often, we find this easy to do with our loved ones – family and friends. Perhaps there’s a co-worker who slips into that mix, but what about our companies?
It may be difficult to feel grateful, honestly. You may barely have enough time to read this. You’re doing three jobs under the umbrella of “trying to do more with less.” You may look back over the last four or five years without a pay raise and wonder if it’s all worth it. I mean, where are your flowers? Who’s celebrating you?
You’ve been told, “You should be thankful that you even have a job!” Unemployment is still incredibly high and it doesn’t look to be getting any better any time soon. So, just shut your yap and do your job, right? Is that based on gratitude? Doesn’t that sound a bit demoralizing?
I think of my grandmother, who was a saint on earth, and her complete commitment to work. She would often say how fortunate she was to even have a job. She took a SEPTA bus (the public transportation system in Philadelphia) to work each day until she was 81 years old. When she said the words, “I’m lucky to have a job,” they weren’t said because she drank the corporate Kool-Aid, but rather, the tone was convinced and soft. You heard her heart in the words.
You see, my grandmother was a teenager during the depression. She began as a seamstress when she was a child and never stopped working. The environments and the work changed, but she didn’t stop working. She had three children and went right back to work after delivery. She didn’t have FMLA or a temporary disability…she had a family and she needed to make ends meet.
I lived with my grandparents for seven years. When I would come home from work and begin whining about customers, bosses and co-workers, she would start singing “You Don’t Bring Me Flowers.” Now, she only knew the first line of the chorus (the same as the title), but she would make up the rest of the words. It was ridiculous. I tried to teach her the right words a hundred times. She didn’t care. That wasn’t the point.
Gratitude is a decision. My grandmother was a waitress for the last forty plus years of her life. It was not glamorous. She did not make a fortune. She didn’t make excuses, instead she made everyone who walked into the restaurant or cafeteria feel like he/she was the only customer in the place. She took pride in what she did, not because of the money or the status, but because she felt it was the right thing to do. And she was grateful for it.
As I sit back and think about our current employment situation and the corporate cultures that have been allowed to fester, I am saddened by our state of gratitude. Whether we flip burgers or cook up mergers, we should be thankful for what we do. It’s not because the work is to define us, but instead, we should be defining the work. My work should be an outlet for who I am. When I work, I am reflecting my unique ability to contribute and to help others succeed.
With this attitude, I have stopped looking for work to “bring me flowers.” Instead, I bring them to work. My gratitude should be palpable and infectious. I should be the catalyst for change. I don’t want to sing the same old song with Neil and Barbra. It’s time for a different melody.