Reminders to practice gratitude surround me. Facebook friends inspire me with their daily gratitude postings for the 30 days leading up to the U.S. Thanksgiving. Articles point out how gratitude can decrease heart attacks, improve sleep, and increase happiness. ‘Tis the season for reminding us to be grateful.
My husband and I experience the power of gratitude in our relationship. On special occasions, we practice “flooding,” devoting 20 minutes each to “flood” one another with appreciation, a practice we learned in a couples workshop. I never cease to be amazed at the power of unleashing a torrent of appreciation and receiving the same, the power to uplift me and connect me more deeply with my spouse. Every time we do it, I think, “Why reserve this practice for special occasions?”
Can gratitude make a difference in the workplace as well? Meg Clapp, Chief Pharmacy Officer at Massachusetts General Hospital, has discovered that indeed it can.
To bring out the best in everyone in her department, Meg asked her managers and employees what would help them be their best selves. “We don’t feel appreciated,” commented a number of employees and managers in the department. “Notice our work and appreciate us.” In the perfectionist culture of a large research hospital, expressions of gratitude weren’t the norm. Only inadequate performance was pointed out; excellent performance was taken for granted. In an effort to shift the culture of the department, Meg supported a gratitude initiative by, among other things, purchasing a program called “The Customer” to help train managers and employees in the practice of expressing gratitude. Meg began to pioneer practices of gratitude. The gratitude initiative, involving all managers and staff, focused on “catching people doing things right.” Meg herself sought to notice managers’ and employees’ contributions regularly, and to offer specific appreciation in the moment for work done well. She noticed people lighting up when appreciated, and those around them improved their performance, as well. Managers and staff also began to catch one another doing things right. Pioneering practices of gratitude improved the atmosphere in the department.
At her last annual review, Meg received the highest grade for human resource management. The MGH pharmacy has become known for its high standards, and its pharmacists are well respected in the medical community. With low turnover and high morale, the department is known as a great place to work. Newcomers, upon first entering the department, often comment that the positive energy is palpable. That intuitive sense is borne out in the department’s low rate of absenteeism. With its satisfied employees, the department is full of bright, competent professionals who regularly extend themselves for patients.
Through her work at the MGH pharmacy, Meg Clapp has demonstrated the power of gratitude in the workplace. A culture of gratitude positively impacts both the patient and the institution as a whole. In the midst of a large formal bureaucracy, the pharmacy department shines as a beacon of hope.
(Part of this article is excerpted from The Soul of a Leader: Finding Your Path to Success and Fulfillment. Used with permission of the publisher.)