Post Thanksgiving: Is GRATITUDE a trap?

Thanksgiving is all about being grateful for what you have. Count your blessings; make a gratitude list; be thankful forGRATITUDE this meal with family and friends. Nothing wrong with that. Evaluating and appreciating your life- what has meaning for you- is certainly a worthwhile activity.
HOWEVER, gratitude can also be a trap – an effective way to shut down conversation and eliminate complaints. For example, you speak out about your job: manager plays favorites, we don’t have supplies, meetings are too long and disorganized. Response you receive: You should be GRATEFUL you have a job. Lots of people are out of work and would kill to have your job.
NOW WHAT? Conversation over- back to work. You are shamed, dismissed and sent back to your corner. No need for further discussion or exploration of the problem- There is no problem! You have a job- be GRATEFUL- and get back to work.

What can you do? You really need those supplies and you’ve been passed over for extra shifts and promotions.

We can all agree that gratitude is important. We can also agree that many people are out of work and would be happy to tGRATEFULake our job (or any job). So, start there. Agree with your boss: ‘You are so right. I am grateful to have this job.’
2- YES AND….:
Now that you have agreed and validated your boss, you can go beyond gratitude to state your case. Focus on the importance of improving: ‘Certainly we all want to do the best job possible’ (no argument here). I really need supplies to do that- specifically XYZ. I’d like to know when you expect delivery. In the meantime, please let me know how to handle this without supplies.’
Keep that smile in place (even if it feels frozen). There is little to object to from an employee who smiles and suggests improvements to benefit the company. No matter what response you receive from your boss, offer to followup: ‘I’ll check back early next week. I know deliveries can be delayed.’

Be grateful for what you have and count your blessings, but don’t let gratitude stop you! We all have the right to examine, evaluate and offer critiques. Creative ideas and suggestions should be welcome- they contribute to progress and growth. Who can object to that?

Why aren’t you SMILING?

On a recent TODAY show episode, Hoda and Kathie Lee shared their experience with strangers on the street calling out: “You’re so pretty. Why aren’t you smiling?” The discussion centered on the sexism of this (men rarely- if ever- get these comments) and the expectation that women should perpetually smile.SMILE

A similar phenomenon occurs for women (and occasionally men) in customer service positions. Bartenders, food and cocktail servers, cashiers, front desk employees, sales personnel- are expected to SMILE at all times when they are working. Not only is this not physically possible, it is not natural, and assumes a superficial “cheerleader” presence. These employees are working- focusing on the task(s) at hand, managing interactions, responsibilities and stress. The question: Why aren’t you smiling? puts unfair demands on the employee- 1- Answer the question 2- Smile. In the midst of a busy stressful shift, this is distracting and feels patronizing and offensive. The question/demand to smile implies that the job is easy, carefree and fun (not the case) and that the customer has the right to dictate facial expressions (of course not).

Think about this the next time you’re in a restaurant, bar, hotel or store. Evaluate the employee based on job performance and behavior, not the smile (or lack thereof). You’ll see competent customer service employees effectively assisting customers in a variety of ways. Smile included? Maybe, but not always.  More on smiling in future blogs.