By Toshie Ito
The year 2015 is almost ending and people will be in the festive mood. In workplaces, there may be company parties, gift exchange events, wining, dining, etc. People will be busy with planning and preparing for these activities. Soon after the celebration and fireworks, the New Year will be here, knocking on our door. This transition happens amazingly fast as you know.
Before closing this year’s chapter and moving forward to the New Year, you may consider doing your coworkers a great favor. There is a training program called “Year-end Transition Workshop – Moving forward with Attitude of Gratitude,” which encourages participants to reflect back on the entire year and identify people they owe an apology to and/or people they want to express thanks to.
After attending the workshop, some people have gone to see their coworkers and apologized for being a difficult team player, arriving late at work, complaining all the time, showing negativity at managers’ meetings, bringing personal problem to workplace, being judgmental, getting easily frustrated, refusing to help other departments, retaliating, etc. It was not a usual casual day-to-day, “Sorry about that.” They were very sincere and serious when they apologized.
Others met their coworkers and thanked them for being very supportive, patient, considerate or even being straightforward to point out their problems. Some thanked them for taking time to share new knowledge; working twice as hard, late hours or weekends while there was a staff shortage; helping to deal with difficult clients; tackling new projects together to meet the goals, etc.
They took these actions before the end of the year when the recipients of apology and thanks were able to recall what took place during that year. To express their apology or thanks, it only took five or six minutes. But their actions created a very positive impact to their work environment and professional relationships in the following year. It was an emotionally and spiritually cleansing experience for both givers and receivers.
If you choose to take such action, do so before this year flies away. Once the New Year arrives, it’s harder to look back. What happened last year will seem distant and insignificant. Your memory starts to fade somewhat. On top of that, a long list of to-dos such as tax preparation, submitting new objectives to your boss, following up on unfinished projects and writing a New Year’s resolution will be waiting for you. By then, your focus and your coworkers’ focus will be on the now and the future, not the past. So it’s important that you do not miss your chance.
Let me share my experience of missing an opportunity to thank someone. When I was in elementary school, my grades were rather low and I was a timid girl. When I was 9, I met a compassionate teacher. The teacher became concerned about my shyness, and he cared enough to visit my mother. When she confessed how helpless she was feeling, he assured her by saying, “Every child has a special talent and character. So does she.” Over the next two years, they worked as a team, gave me encouragement and helped me blossom. They discovered that I had a talent in poetry recitation. In two years I was a winner of a contest and I improved academically.
Upon graduating from elementary school, my family moved to the outskirts of the city, and I never saw the teacher. A few years later, I heard that his health was deteriorating and he was hospitalized. I felt the urge to visit him but I didn’t go. I was studying hard to pass a difficult entrance examination of a high school. I thought that was my priority. A month later, I spotted his obituary in the local paper. A great sadness engulfed me as I regretted that I never thanked him for pulling me out of the dark tunnel.
That experience taught me that it’s critical to thank or apologize to someone as soon as possible. Just this year alone, I found three obituaries of much younger local people that I had known from training classes and previous workplaces. Some people may not be with us very long. Today may a perfect day to thank someone.
— Toshie Ito is the owner of Motiva Training & Consulting. She can be reached at [email protected].