Ingrates & Ungrates - An Engineer's Manifesto

Ingrateful and ungrateful attitudes are costing North American workplaces somewhere in the order of $600 Billion every year. Gratitude on the other hand drives prosocial behaviours characterized by positivity, helping, interdependence, achievement, generosity, creativity, learning and growth.

It’s time to cut the losses and do something about workplace malaise. Here’s how.

As a CEO or leader, you don’t need to be clinical psychologist, but you need a model to guide you. While the neurological and psychological processing behind human behaviour is complex, a simple model will suffice. It's the BTFB process… BELIEF, THOUGHT, FEELING, BEHAVIOUR. Each of these is a step in the process that illustrates how beliefs translate into behaviours.

Behaviours are almost automatic, driven by feelings. Gratitude is the feeling we'll focus on. When it comes to feeling gratitude, for every situation you experience one of three states of gratitude, namely:

  • Grateful
  • Ungrateful - neutral (i.e. take it for granted or absence of gratitude)
  • Ingrateful - the antithesis of grateful

In order to stem absenteeism and bring about more prosocial behaviours, we need people feeling grateful more often and feeling ingrateful or ungrateful less often. Taking a step back to the THOUGHT element of the process, gratitude, as a feeling, surfaces after answering YES to the following three questions concerning, what is called "aid received":

  1. Is the aid valuable to me?
  2. Was the aid costly to the recipient?
  3. Was the aid provided altruistically, with no strings attached?

NOTE: Consider the term “aid” broadly (aid might be "flexibility at work to deal with personal matters" or it could be "compensation").

Every day at work, hundreds of millions of people unconsciously play out this rigorous cross examination, and based on Gallup's polling, we know that 70% of them end up feeling ingrateful or ungrateful. This is why workplace malaise is so costly.

At the root of the BTFB process are beliefs, which bias thinking and very reliably predict our behaviours. Our world views (our dominant beliefs and the way we explain the world around us) shape everything we do. There are a handful of beliefs about oneself that are extremely important in relation to the end state of gratitude someone is likely to feel. The beliefs directly impact how we make meaning of situations, influence our predominant gratitude state and ultimately dictate our behaviours. The key worldview beliefs about oneself are:

  • I am self-made
  • I am owed something
  • I am fortunate (which leads to gratitude)
  • I am a victim
  • I am insignificant (or don’t make a difference)

Which do you hold? As for your people, which do they hold? Be on the lookout and watch for them. While these beliefs may change from one situation to the next, they are likely to remain constant within an area of one's life (work, home, health, etc).

Thanks to neuro-science we know our brain can be re-wired. And through our work we know when it comes to gratitude, we can shift beliefs and gradually adopt a more grateful perspective that transforms the output of the BTFB process... generating more prosocial behaviours. Not surprisingly, the shift to a more grateful mindset also enables us to find more joy in what we do and how we live… so we can lead positive, engaged, productive, meaningful lives.

Get More Prosocial Behaviours at Work
To change our behaviours we must change our beliefs and transform how we think. That’s why simply giving someone a raise, or a gym membership doesn’t produce lasting results. We must establish new habits and eliminate the short cuts in our thinking. We take short cuts all the time as a coping mechanism in life so we don’t have to think about the thousands of decisions we make every day. This is problematic in the gratitude cognitive process (look back to the 3 cross examination questions) because a THOUGHT short cut can leave us in one of two traps:

  1. We don’t properly value what we’ve received (and we may not value it at all). When this happens we take things for granted which leaves us ungrateful.
  2. We get things wrong with our cognitive assessment. In general, this happens in one of three ways:
    1. We attach more importance to ourselves (thinking we deserve more)
    2. We presume less generosity from the benefactor (thinking others haven’t done enough)
    3. We impute negative intentions on the benefactor (thinking they want something in return)

And while every situation does not always deserve gratitude, do you think that 70% of the people (the ingrates and the ungrates) are justifiably right?

The solution to more prosocial behaviours at work is simple - build grateful mindsets. This means building people up, not tearing them down. Use these 3 tips to steadily build a more grateful, level frame of mind.

  1. Grateful Habit 1 - each day, write a list of 3 things you’re grateful for
  2. Grateful Habit 2 - each day, read what others are grateful for (sign up for Daily Gratitudes here and become part of an amazing community of grateful people).
  3. Whenever you catch yourself being ingrateful or ungrateful, do the following self-assessment. Step back and reassess your situation (use the 3 questions above to cross examine yourself) and ask yourself:
    1. Have I properly assessed the aid I’ve received?
    2. Did I get things wrong in my assessment of the situation?

Use the handy printable step-by-step guide (just fill out the form to the right and you'll get it immediately and we'll email you a copy for safe keeping) to eliminate the ingrateful and ungrateful feelings and get More Prosocial Behaviours at work.

Try these exercises on yourself and become a master at helping your people build a more grateful belief system.