Liz Jazwiec believes people have to work at being negative and that's not good.
I was brought into a large corporation to work on morale," recalls Jazwiec, a leadership consultant based in Chicago. "I asked them what they were going to do about the lack of morale and they told me that they were making Tuesdays a no-negative day and giving out yellow cookies with smiley faces on them."
Though many were happy to get a cookie, some reacted, well ... negatively.
"They said I'm not a dog, you can't shove a cookie in my mouth and tell me to be nice," says Jazwiec, author of "Eat That Cookie!: Make Workplace Positivity Pay Off For Individuals, Teams and Organizations" (Fire Starter Publishing 2009, $28). "Usually I would accept that but I think it goes both ways, employers have to show gratitude to their workers but people also have to work on not being negative. It's not okay to come into work every day with a bad mood because the work is hard. Let's just make a decision not to complain."
According to Jazwiec, it takes a tremendous amount of effort to be negative all the time.
"Being negative at work spills into our home life," she says. "In my book I talk about the importance of what we do, you can't be negative and gracious; you can't be negative and proud. Negativity pushes a lot of things out."
As Jazwiec sees it, there's been a culture of negativity at work. And both leaders and employees can work on changing that, she says.
"Too many people leave work every day thinking that their boss doesn't appreciate them," says Jazwiec. "When you feel that your boss doesn't fully value your work, you start to care less. You don't provide the kind of service you would if you felt appreciated. You don't make an effort to help your co-workers."
A recent Gallup poll indicated that 65 percent of workers don't feel appreciated, which leads to low morale, decreases productivity and negativity.
That's why Jazwiec says it's important for everyone to be positive.
"If a workplace is negative, it's easy to get sucked into it," she says noting that being positive can come from anyone, no matter what their positive in the work place food chain.
"Leaders can infuse gratitude from the top down," she says. "Maybe by making it a required standard of behavior for everyone. Employees can start their gratitude movement by expressing gratitude themselves and encouraging their co-workers to do the same. Everyone, and I emphasize everyone, can show gratitude in the workplace and by doing so, can influence others to do the same."
By being positive and expressing gratitude for a myriad of things -- a job well done, getting a helping hand, even a cookie -- it helps change the atmosphere of a work environment.
"It's obvious when you're in a workplace where people value gratitude and graciousness," she says. "It creates a great vibe in those places and if they're missing, that's very noticeable as well. People in those types of workplaces have a sense of entitlement and when customers come into contact with them, the workers might think or say there's no pleasing them while the customer says they just don't care about me. It doesn't help the business and ultimately that can hurt the employees. In tough times, it's harder to look for the best, but that's when it's most important. Graciousness and gratitude can be a survival skill."
Jazwiec's tips to hardwire workplace gratitude from the ground up
* Say thanks. When someone does something kind for you, whether it's your boss, your co-worker, or a stranger, recognize it! A simple "thanks" will do.
* Adopt an "it's the thought that counts" attitude. Sometimes you have to take into account the intentions of your boss or your co-workers no matter what the outcome.
* Communicate openly and honestly. If it's gratitude you need, tell someone. Often leaders or co-workers can be so tied up in their own tasks that they forget about those working around them. The natural reaction when this happens is to either hold in your negative feelings or complain to another co-worker. But a more proactive stance might be to opt for open and honest communication.
* Be prepared for some kind words. If you are unaccustomed to getting compliments, it may take some time for you to feel comfortable receiving them.
* Thank those you serve. Once you have mastered the gratitude thing with your bosses and your co-workers, you need to move on to the people you serve. Regardless of your line of work, there is no better time to start showing your customers you appreciate them than in a slow economy.
* Know that gratitude encourages repeat performances. Leaders, remember the behavior you recognize will be repeated. If you think an employee handled a disgruntled customer well or showed great proficiency in managing a group project, let her know about it and she'll work hard to do the same, or even better, next time. And employees, if you acknowledge your boss's efforts to show gratitude, she will keep doing it.