Shakespeare’s Take on Workplace Gratitude
Was the Bard a good boss?
Absolutely, says the late John O. Whitney, management professor at Columbia Business School. In a 2000 NPR interview, Whitney discussed William Shakespeare’s business wisdom.
“He was the ideal management consultant,” Whitney said. “Not only did he understand power, he understood governance, he understood business, he knew organizational design, he knew strategy, he certainly knew tactics, and did he ever know human relations.”
In his honor, let’s look to Shakespeare for wisdom on building a healthy company culture — particularly a culture with vibrant workplace gratitude!
10 Shakespeare Quotes to Inspire Workplace Gratitude
Practicing workplace gratitude is more than telling employees “Thanks.” It’s an attitude shared by everyone in the company and grows through kindness, compassion, respect and mindfulness — and ultimately makes everyone happier and more productive! In a healthy culture of workplace gratitude, employees feel not only appreciated and valued, but empowered to appreciate and value each other.
Shakespeare was a master observer of human nature and relationships, as John Whitney discussed. Here are ten quotes from Shakespeare’s plays relevant to building workplace gratitude, showing appreciation to employees and motivating teams to do their best.
“This above all, to thine own self be true, and it must follow as the night the day, thou canst not then be false to any man.” — Hamlet, Hamlet
Workplace gratitude without authenticity will come off as phony and manipulating. Relax! You can be true to your feelings and still be professional and grateful. Entrepreneur contributor Paul White explains how in his article “Appreciation at Work: Two Major Misconceptions Leaders Hold.”
“The foundation of authentic appreciation is respecting and valuing employees for who they are as people, in addition to the contributions they make to the organization. When appreciation is communicated from this perspective, all stakeholders win,” White writes.
“Better three hours too soon than a minute too late.” — Mistress Ford, The Merry Wives of Windsor
Being on time is about respect, and this goes for more than showing up or turning in assignments on time. Your gratitude to employees also has to be timely!
When you recognize employees right away, they’re much more likely to make the connection between your appreciation and what they did right — and repeat that behavior. Punctual gratitude reinforces and builds great work behaviors.
“I can no other answer make but thanks, and thanks, and ever thanks.” — Sebastian, Twelfth Night
Yes, building a culture of workplace gratitude means more than saying “Thanks” … but that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t be saying “Thank You” every day! “Thank You” are two powerful words that are always appreciated.
“Love all, trust a few, do wrong to none.” — Countess of Roussillon, All’s Well That Ends Well
“No legacy is so rich as honesty.” — Mariana, All’s Well That Ends Well
Like punctuality, transparency in the workplace is about respect. A “culture of straightforward communications” builds employee loyalty. Employees need to trust their leaders and want to know how and why their work matters.
“Once more unto the breach, dear friends, once more!” — King Henry V, King Henry V
The opening line of King Henry V’s famous battle speech translates in modern English to, “Let us try again one more time!” (Of course, Shakespeare’s poetic version is better any day!)
Leaders who demonstrate and encourage resilience are key employee motivators. And words of encouragement have to come from leaders, because leaders set the overall workplace tone.
“Be not afraid of greatness. Some are born great, some achieve greatness, and others have greatness thrust upon them.” — Malvolio, Twelfth Night
Malvolio may have been deluded when he said these words, but their truth remains. Great workplaces are created when greatness is expected, worked for, and — most importantly — celebrated!
“The fault, dear Brutus, lies not in our stars, but in ourselves.” — Cassius, Julius Caesar
“I like this place, and willingly could waste my time in it.” — Celia, As You Like It
“Be great in act, as you have been in thought.” — Bastard, King John
“Go wisely and slowly. Those who rush stumble and fall.” — Friar Lawrence, Romeo and Juliet
Shakespeare has some final pearls of wisdom for leaders working toward a better workplace culture. The takeaways? Keep personal and institutional responsibility, love your job, do what you say, and be patient. Cultures aren’t built in a day!
Go see some Shakespeare for more inspiration! Use this fun and handy flowchart to decide which play to see and seek out local Shakespeare productions in your community (Chicago, for example, has a whole slate of “Shakespeare 400” events planned).
Want to Build an Everyday Culture of Workplace Gratitude?
Download our free eBook “Transform Your Workplace With Gratitude” for practical advice on recruiting and retaining a great workforce, increasing profits and building a sustainable culture of gratitude.
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