Skip to content or call us at ‪(240) 630-4674‬
2040's Ideas and Innovations Newsletter Image Header
Mindful Management

Mindful Management: The Power of Gratitude and Building Trust

Issue 165, June 20, 2024

“Do you see me?  Can you hear me? I mean really see me.”  This is a refrain of so many younger employees. Having been sheltered from the public for years during the pandemic, the shadow of anxiety follows them into the world at large. And the need for recognition is not exclusive to next gens. Increasingly many people feel they are wearing invisibility cloaks at work and in society. There is a lot of hype about customization and personalization in social media, ecommerce, newsfeeds, and any other number of other communications. But don’t confuse any of that with relevancy.

The elephant in the room we are tackling today is the root cause of the current, pervasive wave of loneliness, depression, anxiety, and frustration: it’s the lack of recognition and trust. If you were one of the many who went to a theater to see Inside Out 2 last weekend, you know what we are talking about. The emotion of anxiety is not just for animated 13-year-olds. Disney and Pixar are definitely onto something with this $155 million opening sequel, and anxiety played a front-and-center role undaunted by peppy, persistent joy.

What Is Gratitude in a Disruptive Marketplace?

Appreciation is not gratitude. Acceptance is not gratitude. And “if you like this, you’ll love that” algorithms definitely do not show gratitude. We propose organizations at large have lost the art of being grateful compounded by the ability to engender authentic trust.

Think about how much we take for granted. We expect our employees to perform. We depend on our teams to exceed expectations. We trust our leaders and managers to lead with courage, demonstrating grace under pressure. And we take ourselves for granted in the process. It’s one thing to show gratitude to our workforce, but how often are we grateful for ourselves? This is not a Zen, New Age philosophical idea. Typically we are not taught to be grateful, especially at work.

Showing gratitude is understanding vulnerability. Let’s consider a real-life situation we encountered. An icon has built a media business focused on the beauty industry through sheer tenacity, relationships with industry peers, and the notion that her brand can improve the strategy and operations of a multibillion-dollar global beauty market force. She realized that she was aging out and she and her editor who had built the business into a respectable digital brand found a buyer to keep her professional passion alive. They entered into what turned out to be an uneasy dance with the new owner in what turned out to be a non-aligned culture. But the new owner kept her media brand alive infused with back-office resources. They passed the first year and things were settling down.

Then she had a stroke. Succession planning is often put on the back burner for small organizations. Although she was expected to make a full recovery, overnight a significant gap reared its ugly head. The editor instantly took on his boss’ responsibilities until she recovers. But here’s the rub. The new owner communicated no gratitude to either the founder or the editor for the partnership, brand, or its influence in the industry. Not to mention showing any feelings about the uncertainty of the founder’s ultimate recovery. It was all about the company. How the owner will shore up the media brand and maintain business as usual while its founder recovers.

Now you might be thinking at this point, what’s the point?  We all try to do our jobs well. Especially if we are experienced veterans. But we have become so inured to not being seen and heard that we have forgotten why it matters. But it does matter and any organization that does not practice authentic, relevant gratitude is at risk in today’s marketplace of becoming a statistic, not a solution.

The Business Case for Gratitude

Being grateful is an expectation in our personal lives, yet “gratitude in the workplace is especially critical because it satisfies the higher psychological need to feel a sense of belonging to something greater than ourselves – to feel a sense of meaning at work.,” writes, Eric Mosley, part of the Workhuman movement. He advocates a “human workplace, rooted in gratitude, where employees feel appreciated, valued, respected, and empowered to reach their fullest potential.” It’s not Nirvana, it’s a modern way to run an organization.  Mosley adds, “The gratitude effect is a ripple of acknowledgment that surges forward, transforming and inspiring us, and improving business outcomes. The more gratitude going around, the more human connections are being made, and the more collaboration, engagement, and innovation across the organization.’ Moreover, when recognition is given frequently throughout the year, the impact of that positive reinforcement is even greater.”

At 2040, we are first and foremost realists, able to temper our overly optimistic vision of what an organization can be. However, when you listen to younger employees who have emotional gaps that could derail your workplace culture, it takes a mindful management team to balance the emotional quotient with the business quotient that leads to success. Gratitude is seeing and hearing a workforce as a group of individuals. Trust is the foundation that builds a healthy organization.  And the combination of the two should be the North Star for retaining a workforce and cultivating its potential.

A Virtuous Cycle

The traditional leadership mindset is that “everyone is rowing in the same direction in my boat.”  It’s a top-down perspective of the leader, not the rowers. But today, leaders need to be as sensitive to the needs and wants of employees as they are to the needs and wants of the board and customers. Author Dan Pink has written how gratitude can generate positive momentum: “When you show someone genuine gratitude, it can lead them to consider whom they might never have acknowledged.” After all, a leader’s primary job is to grow a business by growing the expertise and strength of its workforce.

Yes but. Recent research conducted by the John Templeton Foundation revealed that for Americans, the workplace is the least likely place to express gratitude. Although as many as 93% of the respondents agreed that a grateful boss is more likely to succeed, and almost all of them agreed that a simple “thank you” at work made them feel valued and respected, only 10% were actually prone to express gratefulness. The majority, or 60% of the respondents, have never expressed gratitude at work, or have only done so once a year. (Intelligent Change)

And why is this important?  Take a look at your future managers and leaders. Zoe Kaplan reports “Mental health can be one of the most taboo problems with Gen Z in the workplace, as Gen Z struggles with mental health conditions at higher rates than other generations. According to McKinsey, over half (55%) of Gen Zers report having either been diagnosed or receiving treatment for a mental health condition, compared to 31% of people aged 55 to 64, who have had decades longer to seek and get treatment.”

And on the news front, The U.S. U.S. Surgeon General Dr. Vivek H. Murthy recently recommended social media companies be required to use safety warning labels. He cited several studies, including a 2019 American Medical Association study published in JAMA that showed that teens who spend three hours per day on social media double their risk of depression. Teens spend nearly five hours per day on social media applications, according to a Gallup poll, as reported by CNN.

And there’s more. Gen Z has a much lower tolerance for companies that don’t follow through on missions and promises than other generations, and they’re not afraid to leave if things aren’t what they seem, Kaplan adds. “According to LinkedIn, most Gen Zers (87%) say they’re willing to leave their current role if they find another one at a company with values that more closely align with theirs. Values are a top consideration when Gen Zers think about changing roles; 60% say they prioritize values in these decisions.”

We’re not fixated on Gen Z, per se.  But consider that if half of your future management team has been treated for mental health and nearly all of them will leave if they find an organization that better aligns with their values, you’re sitting on a powder keg.

We all have work to do.


Do we know how to write letters to anyone anymore?  Our digital mailboxes are usually devoid of personal messages. Flooded with bills and direct mail catalogs, how many letters arrive in the mail? We are not, ever, fans of the Victorian Era, but they did write letters. They wrote thank-you notes. There is ample opportunity for that in our increasingly impersonal digital communications space. Think about it: Handwriting is words that stay, and we know people who save letters, notes or missives that have been handwritten by someone they care about.

We have written about the power of taking a pause. To reassess. To better understand. To connect with stakeholders. Gratitude is not a cliché.  It may be one of the most essential tools we have to inspire and motivate a workforce, but it cannot be disingenuous or prosaic. Just look again at the immediate success of Inside Out 2. It touched a nerve. The film supports the fact that we have feelings, feelings matter, and that on a macro level, we are led by our feelings subconsciously as well as unconsciously.

At 2040 we work with clients to assess their businesses holistically.  What makes it work, what gets in the way. What is powered consciously and how subconscious biases can color success We advocate that taking a page out of a clever animated film may be cathartic. We believe that the most basic unlock of positive outcomes can be unleashed by gratitude superpowered by trust.

Get “The Truth about Transformation”

The Truth about Transformation Book Cover ImageThe 2040 construct to change and transformation. What’s the biggest reason organizations fail?  They don’t honor, respect, and acknowledge the human factor.  We have compiled a playbook for organizations of all sizes to consider all the elements that comprise change and we have included some provocative case studies that illustrate how transformation can quickly derail.

Order your copy today and let us know what you think!

Back To Top