Thanksgiving Spirit at the Office

This Thanksgiving I am making three desserts – a chocolate chip pumpkin cheesecake, layered pumpkin cheesecake brownies, and white chocolate peanut butter oatmeal cookies. While I do love to bake, this is above and beyond even for me. It’s in the spirit of the season – and judging by the empty shelves and long checkout lines at the store, I am not alone. Think about that – and consider all the work that goes into preparing a Thanksgiving dinner. Is there any way to replicate this productivity and motivation in our professional work?

There just might be. Dissecting the situation, we have three elements:

Public Recognition

We want the fruits of our labor to be enjoyed. As any bachelor(ette) with takeout numbers on speed dial knows, cooking for one is no fun. But when Thanksgiving rolls around, nearly everyone has something to contribute, secretly hoping to hear that their dish was the favorite. We put in just a little more effort when there is an opportunity to be praised and recognized for it.


When someone does something genuinely nice for us, we are driven to do something nice in return. The majority of us would feel a tinge of guilt if we didn’t at least bring a bottle of wine to the family who is hosting the turkey dinner. But the principle of reciprocity goes beyond guilt and keeping score – those who give freely tend to receive even more in return.


Host a barbecue last minute, and you’ll likely have guests bringing cups, napkins, or chips. But with tradition comes expectations, and the predictability of the holiday allows for preparation.

So there you have it. To replicate the merry motivation of the Thanksgiving season, make an effort to:

  • Praise good work and do it often.
  • Celebrate successes and show gratitude to everyone who was involved.
  • Make big projects visible and contributions recognizable.
  • Make it known up front that there is potential for praise and recognition.
  • When you have down-time or a slow week, actively seek out colleagues you can help.
  • Be generous with your assistance and willingness to collaborate.
  • Don’t expect anything in return for your ‘favors.’
  • Set your own traditions – is there one season or month that is busier than most at your office?
  • Make expectations known clearly, preferably by example.
  • Make sure that the workflow is as predictable as possible.

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