Corporate Culture of Gratitude
By Robert H. Rock

As I have done for the past 30 years, I delivered an address on Thanksgiving Day to my family and close friends who gathered at my home to celebrate America’s secular holiday. Thanksgiving glorifies our nation as a land of opportunity, of sharing, of plenty. We come together to give thanks for our health and happiness, and for our nation’s peace and prosperity.

This year my Thanksgiving address focused on gratitude, a theme most befitting Thanksgiving, which surprisingly I had never directly tackled. Gratitude is the very essence of  Thanksgiving: We acknowledge our good fortune, give thanks for our blessings, and show our appreciation for what we have and whom we love. I expressed my heartfelt gratitude to my loving wife, my dear family, my close friends, and my exceptional country.

Gratitude is the warm sense of appreciation you feel towards the giver of a kindness, which evokes your giving thanks and triggers your inclination to return kindness. But gratitude does not impose the obligation to pay it back. We often use the expression “a debt of gratitude.” Unlike indebtedness, however, there is no assumption of repayment.

Sometimes we respond to a kindness by “paying it forward,” perhaps years later, to people or institutions other than those who provided the original help. Rather than directly paying it back, we do a good deed for someone else, which may be what the original benefactor had desired, namely that kindnesses get passed along, growing exponentially.

Gratitude may seem to stand counter to our capitalist meritocracy which extols self-sufficiency, self-reliance, and self-interest. As people gain more success and status, some come to believe they have earned their good fortune, without any support or aid from others, least of all from the government. Dismissing gratitude as a virtue of the weak, these “masters of the universe” convince themselves that the benefits flowing their way are of their own making. But individual autonomy is an illusion; if we were relying on ourselves alone, we’d be much worse off. Parents, friends and institutions have enabled us to be better than we’d otherwise be.

Thanksgiving Day comes but once a year, but we all have the opportunity to practice giving thanks each and every day. Expressing gratitude can be done in many ways. Rather than tossing out a cursory “thank you” or a hastily scribbled note, take the time to compose a carefully crafted letter or deliver a thoughtful gift. Such demonstrations of thanks can be both meaningful to you and impactful to others.

As directors, we can help inculcate the virtue and value of gratitude into the culture of the companies on whose boards we serve. We can start by writing three notes of appreciation after each board meeting. These notes, for example, can provide recognition of an impressive presentation by management, acknowledgement of a fellow director’s cogent line of questioning, or thanks to the board liaison who made your travel arrangements. A note of appreciation for what they do can mean a lot. For a small investment of time, you can promote a corporate culture of gratitude, which in turn can improve the performance and enhance the happiness of both you and your colleagues.


2019 Fourth Quarter

Other related articles

  • Where in the World?
    Published September 18, 2020
    By Directors and Boards
    Ambassador Philip Lader weighs in on specific geopolitical risk questions for the United StatesChinaHow should the United States manage its strategic competition with China What can be done regarding ...
  • What Faces the Nation After the Election
    Published September 18, 2020
    By Directors and Boards
    Especially amidst the pandemic Nov 3s outcome will have starkly consequential geopolitical and commercial impact says Phil Lader former US ambassador to the UK and Clinton cabinet member who has serve ...
  • Geopolitics in Governance
    Published September 18, 2020
    By Philip Lader
    nbspBoards can little afford relegating anticipation of tomorrows international news to scriptwriters of screen lifes Homeland 24 and Madame Secretary For the organizations directors serve the signifi ...
  • School’s ‘In.’ Are Women Out?
    Published August 25, 2020
    By April Hall
    Can you afford to lose gender diversityWhile working parents are used to juggling the needs of both their children and their office attempting to work from home during a pandemic has presented a slew ...