Have you ever crossed paths with that one remarkable person who makes you feel truly special? The kind of individual who not only listens to your words but holds onto every sentiment you share. Someone who remembers your most significant milestones, birthdays, pivotal life moments, and even goes the extra mile to check in on others’ well-being? This is the caliber of people who are the very heartbeat of an organization’s culture. They are the connectors, the nurturers, the colleagues with doors wide open. Regrettably, it’s all too easy to take for granted the invaluable contributions these remarkable people bring to the workplace.

We’re all familiar with the fast-paced nature of the modern workplace, where we can easily be swept away by the whirlwind of tasks and deadlines. We often find ourselves moving from one project to the next, working tirelessly to meet our goals, sometimes forgetting to take a moment to acknowledge the incredible people walking alongside us. But today, let’s pause and reflect on something profoundly important…expressing gratitude for the people we work with, especially considering the recent loss of a colleague.

In the most gut-wrenching moment recently, our Steople family was shaken by the loss of a beloved friend and colleague, Kristi Gifford. Kristi had been an integral part of our team, weaving her presence into the fabric of Steople since 2009. Her departure has reminded us of the fragility of life and the value of the bonds we share. It has underscored the significance of showing gratitude to those who stand beside us, navigating every triumph and tribulation together.

The Importance of Everyday Gratitude
How do you rate yourself showing gratitude to those who now sit around your table?  We must become intentional because true appreciation shouldn’t be a one-time event reserved only for moments of loss or significant milestones. It’s a daily practice that should seamlessly permeate our everyday work lives. Recognizing the efforts, dedication, and unique talents of those around us not only fosters a great work environment but also strengthens the bonds of all our relationships.

So, why don’t we show gratitude more often?  In a recent study, respondents unanimously agreed that saying “thank you” to colleagues “makes me feel happier and more fulfilled”—but on any given day, only a mere 10% acted on that impulse. A stunning 60% said they “either never express gratitude at work or do so perhaps once a year.” In short, Americans actively suppress gratitude on the job, even to the point of robbing themselves of happiness.

Why? It may be because, in theory, no one gives away anything at work; every exchange is fundamentally economic. You don’t deliver that memo to your boss at three o’clock sharp out of the goodness of your heart, but because that is what you’re being paid to do. Your paycheck becomes the equivalent of a “thank you.” Fail to do what you’re “asked,” and you may not see another one.

But, we cannot fall into that dangerous trap.  If you really want to be an employer of choice and cultivate a strong culture, expressing gratitude must become a habit.  Small gestures of appreciation, such as handwritten notes, picking up a lunch tab, highlighting a colleague in a meeting, or sincerely expressing appreciation for their contributions, are powerful ways to convey the depth of our gratitude. These actions celebrate the unique qualities that make our colleagues indispensable and contribute to a workplace culture that thrives on genuine appreciation.

The Power of Appreciation
In the aftermath of experiencing such a profound loss, we are reminded of the immense impact a single person can have on an organization. These moments underscore how deeply we cherish the presence and contributions each of us brings to the collective table. It’s important to acknowledge that every individual adds a unique set of skills, experiences, and diverse perspectives to our shared endeavor. Together, we operate like the pieces of a complex puzzle, harmoniously fitting together to create something far greater than the mere sum of its parts.

Reflecting on Kristi’s time with us, it’s undeniable that she brought an invaluable richness to our collective experience. In times of grief and loss, appreciation takes on an even deeper meaning… it becomes a way to pay tribute to her contributions, friendship, and legacy. While there are countless ways to honor Kristi’s memory, we have carefully chosen the six most meaningful ways to remember her, highlighting what made her an exceptional part of our work family.

  1. Kristi was genuinely passionate about her work with people wherever she was – she never met a stranger.
  2. Her attention to detail and excellence was beyond reproach…she constantly went above and beyond for the team.
  3. Kristi had so many friends and invested as much time as she could with them – she was that 3 am friend you could always count on.
  4. She had a gift for conversation and storytelling, sometimes tickling herself as she recounted a funny story.
  5. Kristi was a crier with a heart as big as the ocean. But she always owned it saying – sorry I can’t help it!
  6. Kristi did everything she could to tend to others, often putting our needs ahead of her own.  This was her life’s purpose.

As I reflect on the void left by Kristi’s absence, I remember the warmth of her smile, the wisdom of her counsel, and the deep camaraderie we shared. I remember when we laughed together, overcame challenges, and achieved great things as a team. We also had so many heartfelt thoughts and memories shared by our clients about Kristi – I honestly am not sure how much each of us realized the impact we might have on others in our daily lives.  It was remarkable and a good reminder.

Moving Forward Together
Kristi’s legacy highlighted the value of each person in our organization. It urges us to appreciate the living, express gratitude, and strengthen the bonds that hold us together. In doing so, we honor not only the memory of our friend but also nurture the whole reason we are together as colleagues and friends.  We truly are sitting around the table together, working to make a difference in the world.

The team and I recognize that appreciation must transcend mere moments—it should be ingrained in our daily lives. Reflecting on the days since Kristi fell ill, we’ve openly acknowledged that we don’t celebrate and appreciate as much as we should, so we are working to fix that. We believe it’s how we can celebrate the remarkable group of individuals who make our organization great.

Here is a rallying cry. Can we all commit to making this a priority as we move forward together, ensuring that we appreciate one another?  Making sure we look across the table appreciating our similarities and differences, fostering a culture of gratitude, and working towards making all workplaces a place of support, respect, and camaraderie.