A few thoughts on workplace gratitude


Paul Butler

Signal Contributing Writer

For the last four years, my wife and I have served as volunteers at a summer camp for children in the foster-care system. Last year, due to a change in leadership, the organization — Royal Family Kids — was unable to offer the four-day camp and instead, put on a one-day fun festival in Ventura.

I learned two important lessons while serving at the camp with my wife and our son Henry.  

First — always wear sunscreen. Just because it’s 30 degrees cooler up there and overcast doesn’t mean the same fiery sun that burns in Santa Clarita isn’t putting down some pretty hefty rays just off the Ventura highway. Second, and a little more profound — gratitude is a glue that bonds people together.

The children who visit the summer camp every year are always so grateful for all of the effort we put in to make it a wonderful experience for each of them. These are children between the ages of 7 and 11 who’ve been let down by adults who should have loved them the most. We’re all volunteers who serve as camp counselors. I can see the gratitude in the shining eyes of the children and foster parents.

Likewise, I’ve noticed how the volunteers are grateful for each other — it’s the common cause that draws us to be of service — primarily to the children and secondarily, to each other. If gratitude was a food group, we were most certainly well nourished this past Saturday.

Relating this concept to the real world of work, I’ve noticed there appear to be three types of people when we peer through the workplace window. Let’s take a look inside.

1. The Great Ungrateful

Have you ever worked alongside the Great Ungrateful in the workplace? Have you ever had to supervise them? Ever been served by them as a customer? What did that look like, feel like and sound like? I’ve noticed the Great Ungrateful always seem to have a chip on their shoulder — they always seem to think someone has it in for them or that they’re being hard done by. You always get the sense they think someone is taking advantage of them. 

The Great Ungrateful are the folks who believe their labor is worth much more than what they’re being paid for and, often, just do what needs doing to get by at work. The Great Ungrateful put in minimum effort and, yet, expect maximum rewards from their employer. The Great Ungrateful always suspect they’re being taken advantage of and stew in a state of constant suspicion that someone, somewhere has it better.

2. The Fickle Responders:

These are the employees who respond well if they’re treated well by others. The problem with the Fickle Responders is their response can change if they’re not treated well by others.  They’re very reactionary. One day, they’re all fired up because of the external stimuli and then on another day they’re caustic, cynical and callous because the wind changed direction.

You can tell a Fickle Responder by the language they use. They’ll talk favorably about one leader and how they’re better than their old leader. They’ll bad-mouth a colleague because they’re not as effective as someone they worked with previously. The Fickle Responders have favorites and exhibit many micro-inequities. One day you might be on their “nice list,” and, now, you’re on their “naughty list” and you wonder what changed.

3. The Eternally Grateful:

Sadly, The Eternally Grateful are a very small part of the working population. Interestingly, in the Gallup poll of 2018, the word “grateful” was an adjective selected by less than 8% of the surveyed population, when asked to describe their response to their employer and the organization kind enough to put money into their bank account every two weeks, in the form of a paycheck.

The Eternally Grateful are such great people to be served by as a customer — they exhibit genuine zest and verve for the work they do each and every day. The Eternally Grateful make excellent colleagues as they always want to go the extra mile — they know how their partnership with their internal customer directly impacts their external customer.

So, let’s all recommit to two important and timeless principles this summer: first, always be grateful; and second, always wear sunscreen.

Paul Butler is a Santa Clarita resident and a client partner with Newleaf Training and Development of Valencia (newleaf-ca.com). The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily represent those of The Signal newspaper. For questions or comments, email Butler at [email protected].

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