November is a good month to reflect on the abundance of things in our lives we should be thankful for. However, my perception of thankfulness may confuse some… Being biblically inclined, I encourage others to “Give thanks in all circumstances” (1 Thessalonians 5:18). Life does not give us only good circumstances. We must also deal with hurt, pain, and negative experiences. It becomes hard to be thankful when things go wrong, but it is still a command. “Give thanks in all circumstances.” Not for, but in. That’s how we become strong.
As part of my Thanksgiving exercise, I enjoy asking employees and clients to share a good thing that happened for which they are thankful. Then, I ask them to share one bad thing and how they overcame that difficulty. Personally, I think about this in the context of the wonderful business opportunities I’ve been blessed with and all the support I’ve received from family, friends, and the community. Sure, there have been peaks and valleys in this journey. But in learning from the lows, we moved forward, stronger and smarter.
For one of our environmental staff members, Carri thinks back to early in her career when she was performing an AST (above ground storage tank) Inspection and an acid line unexpectedly blew out, spraying extremely low pH (aka potentially damaging) acid onto her body. Out of reflex, she threw up her hands in front of her face, though she also had safety glasses on, as she quickly backed away from the mist.
To this day, she reminds me how aware that incident made her. She is not only thankful for her vision but is also more forward-thinking and aware of her surroundings. Thankfully no one was injured, and the rupture was quickly isolated and repaired. But the “what if” factor of this situation changed her outlook forever. When training others, she shows them a little dark spot on her hand, tells them her story, and reminds them how important pre-job planning, PPE (personal protective equipment), and safety inspections are.
Another employee responded to my question, saying he was thankful he now has a job that allows him to spend more time with his family. He also added that he was happy he survived his time working in a much more hazardous job at a company that had little concern for employee safety. (I’ll second that.) It gave me chills to hear someone I care so much about say, “I’m glad I survived that job.”
Amongst all these stories of thankfulness, no one said “I’m sure glad I got a bonus this year,” or “I sure am happy that I made a bunch of money.” Sure, there were conversations about being thankful they could give their children a college education or could pay off debt or they were able to save enough to take their family on a vacation. However, this isn’t thanks for money, this is thanks for the financial means to do something for their loved ones.
Of the stories I shared, both were cases of an employee having to learn from their own mistakes to stay safe. As a safety consultant and trainer, that tends to rub me the wrong way. But, in reality, that is how it happens more often than not. If you are an employer or manager reading this, please remember to show your employees in earnest how thankful you are for them this holiday season. Do this by giving them the gift of safety.
I’m not saying don’t give them a bonus (or, like Cliff Griswold’s boss, a gift certificate for the Jelly of the Month club). I’m simply asking you to share how much you genuinely appreciate them by keeping them safe. That is what Thanksgiving is truly about. That is what employees will remember you for—not the jelly.
With that, I ask each of you to think about–
What is something you are thankful for this year?
What obstacles did you overcome?