Gratitude & Trust

I’m going to go out on a limb and make a proclamation:  Gratitude breeds trust!  (We’ll see if I survive this post.)

Gratitude encompasses two things – recognition and genuine thanks.  Lots of really good blogs out there talk about practicing gratitude for who you are, what you’ve become, and where you are in life no matter how many lemons life gave you.  This is recognition of you.  I’m talking about the kind of gratitude where you see and appreciate others.

Managers struggle with recognition beyond formalized awards and performance pay structures.  We get that Jamal’s contribution to the team justifies a bigger bonus than Jimmy’s failure to meet basic goals.  These are easy.  The recognition most managers can get better at is seeing every employee for the contribution they bring to the organization outside the confines of the job description.  Yes, we need employees to do their job, but we also need employees to be seen and appreciated so they can raise their voices without fear of being shot down or retaliated against.  We need employees to tell us about problems, possible solutions, where we could do better, and where we should be going.  Compliance has a lot to do with this.

Recognizing an employee means seeing them for who they are, what they contribute to the organization, and genuinely listening to them, good and bad.  It is hard to give constructive feedback when you’re a manager.  It’s even harder when you’re an employee fearful that if you speak up, you could get unwanted attention or worse, lose your job.  But when we recognize employees as their whole selves and not use cogs in an industrial wheel, they are empowered to talk to us.  This kind of recognition doesn’t mean we can’t hold employees to tough standards – we can and in many cases, should – but when we recognize the whole person, that person is more likely to trust us.

Gratitude also involves thanks.  Genuine thanks for the individual’s contribution to a situation or a task.  There are lots of blogs out there that go over what is genuine and what really is a contribution, so I don’t need to delve headlong into that discussion.  What I will say is that genuine thanks is more than a paycheck.  Employees get paid for their work, and their contributions can be recognized, and they feel comfortable in being themselves at work. Authentic expression of thanks will get employers more than a set of employees.  Employers will get dedicated, hardworking partners in the organization’s success (for the most part).

I’m currently working on a couple of different projects that all come down to this principle of recognition and gratitude.  What these employers are doing is building communication practices that draw upon these ideas to make a better workplace for everyone.  (Before you ask, yes, these are employment law related (diversity+inclusion and manager trainings) and not just the “soft” stuff of HR.)  It’s inspiring to see employers trying their darndest to do the right thing and build an employee community based on recognition, genuine thanks, and therefore, trust.


Image by Mathieu Barrette available at

Selling Compliance

No one in HR wants to be considered a Peter from Peter and the Wolf.  But yet, when it comes to compliance issues, it is easy to fall into that trap.  We are often running around saying “we can’t do that!  We’ll get in trouble!”   After a while, leaders start to tune us out.  To be effective, we have to seize a case for compliance in terms of business.

Consider this:  What if we looked at employment laws and regulations like best practices with teeth?  Now, I get that this is controversial.  Very, very few people would design a diversity program like the OFCCP’s affirmative action regulations and other examples certainly exist, but bear with me.  What if we looked at the underlying reason for a particular law and compared that with a business goal?  Wouldn’t they be similar in most cases?  Would that make it easier to sell compliance?  The answer: You betcha!

Take for example, paid sick leave.  As of December 31, 2016, 37 jurisdictions (mostly cities, counties, and some states) had enacted paid sick leave laws.  While paid sick leave is certainly a trend at the local and state levels, many employers have understood that they needed to provide sick leave to employees for decades.  These businesses knew that if they didn’t offer the paid time, they would not get the talent they were looking for and employees might leave if they didn’t have the time to care for themselves and their families.  While paid sick leave is now law in some areas, it has long been a recruitment and retention tool for employers.

For an employer in a jurisdiction with a paid sick leave law who doesn’t offer it, HR is now in a position where it needs to sell the benefit as a legal requirement.   HR could package a proposal like this – paid sick leave is needed to get and keep the talent we need and the new ordinance provides a framework to do that.  Would that be an easier sell?

What about sexual harassment?  We know that anti-harassment laws were designed to protect women in the workplace so women could be productive, safe, and contribute our skills.  These laws also try to create workplaces built on the respect for all employees.  These are business goals.  When there is a culture rife with disrespect or disharmony, productivity comes to a near halt.  Turnover increases.  Employees are disengaged.  No business leader wants this to happen.  Preventing and then stopping harassment in its tracks protects the workplace and protects the business from legal claims and PR nightmares and keeps the focus on where it should be – the organization’s mission.

CEOs care about talent.  They care about finding the best talent the can and holding on to the great talent they have. According to PwC’s 2017 CEO survey, talent remains a top priority and as does diversity.  When we view employment laws and regulations as things that can be aligned with business goals, it becomes easier to get buy-in from the top.

This works for every employment law.  If you can’t come up with a business goal, try me.  I believe there is a business goal attached to nearly all employment laws.  I’ll accept the challenge to find one for your organization!


Photo by Redd Angelo available at