Stories of Gratitude from SoM

Expressing gratitude doesn't require grand gestures, but it does have huge benefits for both the giver and the recipient.

This year has been hard.  We have experienced challenges none of us could have imagined that impacted each of us both at work and at home. Perhaps now more than ever, taking time and investing energy to recognize what we’re grateful for is an important and valuable practice. 

Why do we need gratitude?  In times of crisis, it is important to stay connected to one another.  According to the National Alliance on Mental Illness, people who practice gratitude are more generous and helpful, and are more likely to offer emotional support to their peers. In our busy work lives, expressing gratitude can sometimes get overlooked. Here are some examples of the impact recognition has had here at School of Medicine. While the events are real, we’ve changed details to protect our colleagues’ privacy.

Story 1 - Sending recognition in real time (Slack) - Luna is part of a very big team under Fiscal Affairs.  Oftentimes, her day is monopolized by Zoom meetings where the task at hand uses up the time, with no space to catch-up with her colleagues.  Lately she has been feeling bogged down with the monotony of the day to day, struggling to feel connected to her team.  Luna realized that her team utilized Slack for other elements of their work - they bounce ideas off one another, ask questions, etc.  So she decides to create an “Appreciation” channel, and shares it during their next weekly huddle.  After sharing her idea of creating the channel, she and the team were thrilled to find all the activity of recognition the channel brought out.  By the end of the first month, to the team’s surprise, they felt far more connected than they did before. 

Story 2 – The Importance of Passing Along Thanks - Almost at the end of a tough week, Kyle reflected on the past few days of Zoom meetings and felt drained. The past months spent working remotely had taken their toll on him and he was starting to miss the good old days in the office. He missed being able to work alongside the people he served to solve their problems. He always appreciated the opportunity to see how his work helped others and the impact his efforts had. Without seeing it in person, Kyle wasn’t sure if the work he was doing was helpful – which was discouraging. Already tired from the busy week, Kyle begrudgingly logged in for his last Zoom.

The meeting started like any other, people logged in, checked their settings (“Can everyone hear me?”), and got to work. Kyle was running the meeting and was eager to get it done quickly so he and the other attendees could start their weekend. His facilitation proved effective – they got done ten minutes early. Kyle asked everyone if they had any other questions or concerns before they wrapped up, as he always did, and wasn’t expecting anyone to speak up. That was until his boss Karen raised her virtual hand.

“I know we’re at the end of the week and everyone is itching to log off for the weekend,” she started, “but I just wanted to say thank you to everyone for your work on this project. I spoke with a couple managers in an earlier meeting today and they wanted me to pass along some praise and thanks to all of you. This project is already starting to help them daily, and they couldn’t be more thrilled with what they’ve seen so far.” 

While the opportunities to hear gratitude and see the impact of his work had become scarcer, hearing it through the grapevine was better than not at all. Feeling a bit more invigorated, Kyle thanked Karen for passing along the message and wrapped up the meeting. A tough week ended on a high note, and Kyle was ready to carry that into the weekend.

 Story 3 – Making Space for Gratitude – The morning huddle had just started. Katie logged onto Zoom, ready to give a status update on her work and hear about what her teammates were working on. The huddle had been useful since her team went remote because it gave everyone an opportunity to ask questions and get the information they needed to be successful for the day. It was efficient and effective, but something was missing. The people connection that existed before remote work, wasn’t there anymore, at least not in the same way. Before going remote, her team would spend time around the VizBoard to chat, get caught up on personal lives, and connect with others on what they needed to work together on. They also spent some time in the old huddle talking about kudos cards, those thank you notes passed from teammate to teammate to recognize them for their hard work. While the first part of the huddle had always been business focused, ending with recognition brought a smile to everyone’s face and put the team in a good mood.

But with a virtual huddle came new hurdles. The virtual board was a change for everyone and required the team to learn to use another new platform. Instead of figuring out how to add pictures and cards to their board, Katie’s team decided to just focus on the work only to make it simple. It made the huddle easier, but they missed out on the people side.

At the end of the huddle, Katie decided that she’d try to bring some of that connection back. She’d been working with Mike on a report all week and both of them had to work late hours on Zoom to get it done on time. Katie spoke up at the end of the huddle and gave Mike a shout-out for his willingness to work a little extra this week. Mike returned the favor, and thanked Katie for her contributions to the report. After their exchange of gratitude, Katie and Mike’s teammates started giving kudos to each other as well. As each virtual kudos was delivered, more and more smiles popped up on the Zoom screen. They weren’t capturing the kudos on the board like they used to, but they didn’t need to. The important part was that they were taking time to recognize one another, and it felt good. Maybe they’d make this a regular occurrence, maybe they could take a little time in each huddle to simply thank somebody for their work and not worry about if it was “properly documented”. In the end, the opportunity to connect was the real benefit of the kudos cards, not the piece of paper.

In our challenging and dynamic situation these days, it’s often easier to see what’s hard, rather than all we have to be grateful for.  As a leading scientific expert on gratitude, Robert Emmons, reveals, “In the face of demoralization, gratitude has the power to energize.  In the face of brokenness, gratitude has the power to heal.  In the face of despair, gratitude has the power to bring hope.” 

For more ideas on how to promote gratitude, celebrate or recognize your colleagues, please reach out to the Process Excellence team.  



Kim Leung & Mitch Keogh
SoM Process Excellence Coaches