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Navigating crisis with gratitude

Last Thursday was Thanksgiving Day in America. More than remembering a historical harvest feast in 1621 by original pilgrim colonists and native Wampanoag people, it has become a day to bring families together and, yes, share a feast, and also affirm what they can and should be grateful for. Gratefulness is a good thing, and in business, we could use more of it.

For too long, business has been driven by profit that can grow exponentially as companies scale faster and get ahead of the competition. Although significant changes have been ushered in by corporate social responsibility, shared value and, more recently, sustainable business, the image of the corporate world remains that of a money-making engine that provides decent-waged jobs to many but truly enriches only an elite few.

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Many academics identify this as one of the foundations of the rise of populism across the globe, making it fashionable for leaders to call out private sector players for perceived excesses even if they are compliant, practice good corporate citizenship, and uphold truly foundational values. Rank-and-file wage earners and the struggling micro, small, and medium enterprises are being left behind as opportunities continue to grow for large corporates and diminish for them. The pandemic systematically obliterating small businesses is yet just another testament to the great divide created amid global corporate prosperity.

And what does gratefulness—or the lack of it in the corporate world—have anything to do with the global upheavals around us? Simply put, I believe that huge corporates have not expressed gratefulness enough to their most valuable resource—their people. In turn, many employees are feeling less and less grateful for their diminishing quality of life and the role that they perceive their corporate communities play in ensuring their stagnation. This has resulted in what I see as a growing negative feedback loop creating frustration, low morale, and sagging community spirit among more and more people across the globe. Simply put, fewer workers may be embracing supposedly value-based corporate cultures and developing pride in their company’s mission.

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Gratefulness, mind you, may not be purely financial—though admittedly, quality of life improves vastly with better and increasing cash flow because one does need funds to enjoy the stuff that feeds quality of life. In this time of pandemic, for example, it can just be about genuine concern for the safety of every member of a corporate family, be they regulars or contractuals. It can be about having the right people managing the human resources team that can deliver “tunay na malasakit” as people face probably the toughest challenge of their lives yet in a world turned upside down by a pandemic. It can be about advancing salaries before a lockdown happens and releasing bonuses even if the corporation is face to face with a crisis of unparalleled proportions, simply because that same crisis may also be ravaging every employee and her/his family. While the corporation has deep pockets, an employee may already be worrying about formula for a newborn baby or just putting a healthy meal on the table.

In crisis situations, gratefulness for your people must quickly move from talk to concrete action that gives your people better odds. This then creates a positive feedback loop as employees jump into action to support the company through the crisis. And as they spring into action, a company gains a unique moment to instill pride in the company mission in most, if not all, of its people. That pride then quickly becomes the fuel that will feed the creativity, innovation, and passion needed to navigate through the storm, and pursue even more adventures and make the long journey onward.

As the English mathematician and philosopher Alfred North Whitehead best put it: “No one who achieves success does so without the help of others. The wise and confident acknowledge this help with gratitude.”

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Peter Angelo V. Perfecto ([email protected]), former executive director of the Makati Business Club, works with the Phinma group and chairs Oxfam Pilipinas. —————-

Business Matters is a project of Makati Business Club.

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TAGS: Gratefulness, historical harvest feast in 1621, Thanksgiving Day in America, Wampanoag people
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