Recognise This! – Putting people who cannot express appreciation into managerial roles is detrimental to team and company success.

Do you have people on your leadership team who seem incapable of expressing appreciation to others? That’s my idea of an attitude problem – rejecting the value of the contribution of others to the point of never saying “thanks.”

In his Positive Organizational Behavior blog, Dr. Bret Simmons highlights the findings of research on this “attitude of ingratitude” in his Handbook of Positive Psychology.

“What Emmons and Shelton say about ingratitude really grabbed my attention. They define ingratitude as ‘the failure to acknowledge the benevolence of others’ (p. 463) and conclude that being chronically ungrateful toward others is a character defect. They specifically identify narcissism as a personality trait at work in those that rarely give thanks to others:

“‘People with narcissistic tendencies erroneously believe they are deserving of special rights and privileges. Along with being demanding and selfish, they exhibit an exaggerated sense of self-importance, which leads them to expect special favors without assuming reciprocal responsibilities…The sense of entitlement, combined with insensitivity to the needs of others engenders, whether consciously or unconsciously intended, interpersonal exploitation. In short, if one is entitled to everything, then one is thankful for nothing.’ (p. 463).”

A sense of entitlement is an impediment to gratitude.

I haven’t thought of it in such selfish terms before, but I agree with the argument. If a manager or even a peer thinks their subordinates or colleagues owe it to them to do a good job, then why should they be grateful for it?

An even more important question – why would you put such an entitled, ungrateful person in a position of power in the first place? Dr. Simmons answer:

“I think the proven ability to recognise when others have earned our sincere expression of gratitude needs to be a litmus test for promotion to positions of leadership. Promote people with a track record of ingratitude toward their co-workers and team members and you will legitimise interpersonal exploitation as an acceptable leadership tactic.”

Does your manager or your organisation “legitimise interpersonal exploitation” or does it ensure managers and those in leadership positions are capable of noticing and appreciating the good work of others around them?

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