The ‘Thank You’ Challenge

MMJ_Steve1A couple of weeks ago I wrote about hosting a workshop at the Happy Manifesto conference at the Google offices in London. As I shared, my session was all about thanking people for their contribution at work. And trying to hide prizes under chairs without the person sitting in said chair realising. Tricky.

Over our lifetimes, we spend more time at work than any other activity after sleeping. It’s pretty easy to see that if all that time is spent feeling under-appreciated, taken for granted or disengaged then we’re not going to be particularly joyful. Nope. Not joyful at all.

Even if we harbour a secret, or not so secret (hello leaving the CV open on the desk top), desire to get the heck out of the job and to do work we love, let’s not sit hating our lives while we wait. We may end up falling back in love with the position or at least not want to staple things to our heads while we search for a different role. It’s easy to think that one person can’t make a difference, but that’s not true. One person makes all the difference.

So, today’s challenge is to look up from the computer, work the room and see who has done something you can thank  them for today. It  doesn’t matter what level they are or whether they’re part of your team or not. All that matters is that you’re going to lift their mood and you’re going to feel fantastic too.

You can speak to them, email them or leave them an anonymous note, but whatever you do, make a FUSS of them. Please excuse the management style acronym here. I know it’s cheesy but I was very excited when I came up with it:

Frequency. Try to thank your target as soon as possible after the thing that they’ve done. This has much more of an impact than letting your praise languish.

Unique. When you thank your target, mention their unique talent or skill which made their action so fabulous. Are they particularly positive, smiley, patient, generous, informed, calm, supportive, witty, driven? We all want to feel that people see who we really are, so note what makes them unique.

Specific. Thank them for a specific action. We want people to recognise what we’re bringing to a team. If we’re thanked for a ‘job well done’ or the generic ‘great results’ then it can be more demotivating than not saying anything at all. Hone your praise.

Showcase. Don’t be afraid to talk-up other people’s fabulousness. It doesn’t make you look less good, it makes you look generous, graceful and wise. Share your target’s talents with the rest of the team, their bosses or beyond.

So that’s the challenge. Thank one person today and if you work alone, you’re just going to have to be more creative. Us Joyful Revolutionists can be the catalysts that start a workplace revolution. It’s worth a try, no? Be sure to share how you get on. 

And if you want to leave a note, then why not download one of these free printables from the lovely Gabrielle at The Green Gables. Gabrielle’s also one of the designers whose stationery we’re using at the Joyful Letter Writing Salon. If you haven’t got your ticket yet, then click here.

The quote above is by Steve Jobs and is available here.


Six ways to escape Practical Purgatory at work


Practical is not pleasurable. It’s a word that conveys sensible shoes, cagouls and never being without a hankie.

At its best it stops you making ridiculous decisions like choosing to climb a Welsh mountain in flip-flops, but at its worse it’s a dream-squasher and fear-provoker. Is there anything more disheartening than daring to voice your newest, greatest idea (even if just to yourself) for it to be met with: ‘Ok, but let’s be practical about this…’

Idea shelved. Heart broken.

Practicality has its place, but it should serve us rather than slap us down. I truly believe that when we dream big and act accordingly, we can make anything happen. It may take grit and gumption, but it’s all possible. Think of your biggest want and then think of all other people who already have it. Why not you too? And if there’s really no one who is already living a version of your dream, remember that there was once a time before moon landings, broadband and (God help us) Pinterest. If you’re not yet seeing a precedent, you get the excitement of creating your own. Hoorah!

As much as I agree with the quote above, change isn’t always instant. It takes time to work out what our dreams are, who they involve and how we can make them happen without ending up on the street. This Practical Purgatory is challenging. We may rage against it; hating where we are and hating that we’re not yet where we want to be. Or perhaps we’re cowed by it; deciding that it’s easier to be beaten by the how rather than moving towards the happened. Neither work.

The moment is all we have. If we’re not enjoying the moments then we’re not enjoying our lives. We need to find ways of making Practical Purgatory joyful. As we know from the manifesto, Delighting in the Details not only means that we find pleasure on a daily basis, it also means that the change we crave comes more quickly. It’s a win win.

And because many of us are stuck in Practical Purgatory at work, I’ve included six of my favourite ways to make our working days more joyful even when the thought of staying there much longer makes us weep blood.

1. Desk disasters. We all work differently, but if you’re faced with chaos every time you reach your desk, it can be disheartening. Get organised. And then choose stationery that makes you happy. You don’t have to settle for leaky Biros and manila files. Choose tools that are a pleasure to use and never underestimate the power of a heart-shaped Post-it and a pink rollerball pen.

2. Change your view. Staring at phone lists and fire safety announcements is enough to depress even the most joyful revolutionist. Personalise your space with inspiring words or pictures of the life you’re in the process of creating. Anything that makes you feel good now.

3. Change the culture. You may feel that you have no impact on the morale of your team, but you do. Lifting the collective spirits can be as easy as organising a cake bake-off, bringing in a few flowers for people’s desks, hiding funny notes in the stationery cupboard, leaving a chocolate on your colleague’s keyboard, making tea for everyone or starting a joyful office library with books that inspire and entertain. Bring Random Acts of Joy into the office.

4. Engage. Rather than bitching with your usual crowd, chat to the people you don’t really know. It’s enlivening. From the cleaner to the CEO, everyone has the potential to be a new friend and you never know what insight or experience they’ll be able to offer while you’re in the middle of figuring things out.

5. Lead with joy. If you’re in charge of a team, find ways to make them joyful. What are their personal goals and dreams? How can you help them to achieve them ? What can they teach you?  Get to know what motivates people individually. Work on your rewards and don’t just rely on organising team drinks when there’s a success; not everyone wants to get wasted with their colleagues to celebrate a good result! If someone’s being working especially hard, what about sending a card or some flowers to their partner if they’ve been taking up the slack at home?

6. Leave. You are fabulous, fantastic and a joy to behold in any environment, but you are not indispensable. Don’t fritter your life away with face-time and and skipped lunch breaks. Value yourself and set boundaries. You will be more efficient and you will be more respected. You’ll also be able to use this time too further your real dreams.

More to add? Leave a comment below.

The beautiful artwork above is bt Rocketrictic