Does Thanksgiving Belong at Work?

A job is a business arrangement, after all. You give work, you get money.

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Karen Burns
A job is a business arrangement. You give employers your work and, in exchange, they give you money. Simple.

So, in this season of giving thanks, do you think there's any room for gratitude in the labor-for-cash equation? Especially nowadays, when employers and employees alike are worrying about the next layoff or cutback, and everyone generally feels a little less than optimistic?

[See 9 insider secrets to getting hired.]

You know the answer—and not just because tomorrow is Thanksgiving.

Gratitude is more than just a nice sentiment your mother taught you (or tried to teach you). It can be an almost magical way to transform a negative environment into a positive one. In the workplace, gratitude creates an atmosphere of civility, which reduces stress, and that, in turn, cranks up your immune system and increases your job satisfaction. Focusing on gratitude can improve your overall feeling of well-being, even in the face of daily negativity. Gratitude can be practiced by everyone, no matter his or her level in the organization.

Gratitude is a powerful tool on the job, and as an added bonus, a recent longitudinal study found that grateful people actually live longer. What’s not to like?

Fortunately, gratitude is an attitude you can cultivate, so here are six tips for giving thanks even after the Thanksgiving leftovers have been polished off:

[See how to face adversity at work.]

1. Try the “three good things” strategy. As you lie in bed each night, waiting to fall asleep, identify three good things that happened at work that you’re grateful for. Gratitude is like a muscle that can be strengthened with use. What’s more, you may sleep better.

2. While you are setting up your personal gratitude workout schedule, set up a timetable for paying (sincere) compliments to your coworkers and subordinates. Yup, put it right on your computer calendar, so it pops up every day or every week. The effects of gratitude shine brightly on both the receiver and giver.

3. Compliments take a bit of work. Saying "thank you" is practically effortless. So, please remember to regularly thank your coworkers, your subordinates, your boss, your barista, and your bus driver. You’d think you wouldn’t have to thank people for doing their jobs, but it makes that person feel good, it makes you feel good, and it doesn’t cost a cent. And here's the key: Say it like you mean it.

[See tips for being happier at work.]

4. Some people benefit from keeping a gratitude journal. On a regular basis—every Sunday night, say—write down what you’re grateful for (this doesn’t have to be confined to work-related things). Recent studies suggest that people who do this have better health, make more progress toward goals, and are just plain happier.

5. Put effort into noticing the good things around you. For some reason, we humans tend to focus on the negatives, and we forget about—or take for granted—the positives. So, the next time you find yourself groaning about your commute, make some room for better thoughts: Be glad that your car is still running, or that your bus ride is perfect contemplation time, or that at least it’s not snowing.

6. Which brings us to the last, and smallest, tip: Remind yourself that things could be worse. Sure, this is taking a negative path to get to a positive outcome. But it works for some people and it may work for you. So, for example, while you may not like the recent company reorganization, reflect that at least it means you still have a job.

What are you grateful for? Write it down!

Karen Burns is the author of the illustrated career advice book The Amazing Adventures of Working Girl: Real-Life Career Advice You Can Actually Use, recently released by Running Press. She blogs at