Let's be honest: 2016 has been a heavy year. For starters, we lost several admired cultural icons (David Bowie, Prince, Leonard Cohen, and Sharon Jones, to name just a few). We also experienced what is widely regarded as one of the most contentious and divisive elections in history.
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No matter what political side you found yourself on, you would have to agree that the negativity has seeped into even our most sacred spaces and taken an emotional toll on most Americans.
Take a look at social media networks, which have morphed from safe places to exchange experiences and pleasantries into cesspools of anger and vitriol. Our relationships have been strained. Turn on any news channel, and you can practically feel the toxicity pour into your living room. Attend a local debate or any kind of gathering to see just how fractured our communities have become.
We now find ourselves in a holiday season meant to help us reflect, recharge, and celebrate new beginnings. We kicked things off with Thanksgiving – my favorite holiday, because it revolves around the granddaddy of all meals, and more importantly, offers a time when we can reconnect with loved ones and express our gratitude for our family, friendships, health, and freedom. Today is the Winter Solstice, and Hanukkah, Christmas, and Kwanzaa are right around the corner. All of these holidays offer us the opportunity to reconnect spiritually and experience the magic of giving.
Finally, we end our holiday season with New Year's Day, a time when we can reset our dreams and create goals designed to take us to new and exciting places.
We have the next two weeks to let gratitude, giving, and goals guide us back to feeling like human beings again. This is a noble opportunity. Let's not waste it. We can use this focus at home and at work.
My company, Waggl, offers a solution designed to help organizations pulse questions and create two-way dialogues with their employees. We are fortunate to have the opportunity each and every day to learn from our customers, who value their employees as their most important stakeholders and are actively and transparently managing their organizations to create amazing workplaces.
Think of a Work Experience That Made You Feel Grateful
Waggl utilizes short questions ("pulses") that you send out to employees. Last week, one of our clients offered a simple and actionable question to help set a positive and impactful tone in their workplace:
"Think of a time when you experienced an interaction with a colleague or client that made you feel grateful to be part of the company name family. Please share your story."
This pulse was received like water in the desert and resulted in one of the highest response rates ever at that particular company. We have since shared this Waggl question with all of our customers and the results have been uplifting. The opportunity for employees to share their stories has helped people realize that within all of our companies and communities, incredible acts of kindness and decency happen each and every day.
Too often, good news goes uncelebrated. We're busy closing out fiscal years. We're running from meeting to meeting. Who has time to find the silver lining when it feels like we're always under a cloud?
When we get caught up in measuring things through polls and surveys, we forget that there are people behind those numbers – people with incredible insights to share and stories that can resonate with us in many meaningful ways. Clear narratives cut through the distraction that is everywhere in our daily lives. Coupled with techniques like "appreciative inquiry," which focuses the discussion on celebrating the positive instead of wallowing in the negative, these narratives can re-inspire all of us.
Carry It Forward
We can spend the next couple of weeks rebuilding together by listening to one another and celebrating all the positive things we are achieving. We are blessed to live in a country that is built on centuries of sacrifice and grit. Our economy thrives as a result of its incredible diversity. Throughout most of business history, the best companies and ideas have come from those with opposing viewpoints.
This year, instead of hitting your employees with another 60-question survey that will take months to process, ask one question that will have immediate, meaningful impact. It won't solve all of the world's problems, but it's a wonderful place to start.
After all, according to Marcus Tullius Cicero, "Gratitude is not only the greatest of virtues, but the parent of all others."
A version of this article originally appeared on Waggl's blog.
Michael Papay is CEO and cofounder of Waggl, a real-time feedback platform that helps organizations source authentic feedback.