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Ingratitude is the New Normal

There’s a principle I learned some time ago, from one of my supervisors over the years, about being grateful when people do their job.  The idea is that we shouldn’t thank people for doing the job they’re expected to do for exactly that reason.  We only thank them if they go beyond what’s expected, and then some.

Although I feel a bit uncomfortable about the idea, in a twisted sort of way I can see why it makes sense.  It’s not like we’re ungrateful to people who do their job – they’re getting paid to do their job anyway.  And it’s only right that they do their job for that same reason.  Perhaps the only time where it makes sense to be thankful to someone when they meet your expectations is when the person does that for free.

However, as time goes on, our expectations from people change.  Basically, we expect more and more from them, especially as they grow in skill and experience.  Delivering above and beyond moves the baseline expectations higher; it becomes the new standard.  And if we still subscribe and apply this idea of when we should thank people, then this leads to less reasons to be grateful for people who deliver more than what’s required from them – what they do to go beyond is “normal” and “expected,” after all (part of their job already).  This eventually leads to a culture of ingratitude to people delivering above expectations, which I think, over time, can become a culture of taking any form of contribution, no matter how great it might be, for granted.

Ingratitude is the new normal.  Perhaps I’m just saying this because I’ve been a recipient of said under-appreciation over the years and the cynical side of me is showing once more.  It has come to the point that I’ve become suspicious about the motives of people for the rare times I get any kind of recognition at all.  But outside of my own experience, I have observed this happen to many people as well; I feel it’s not just me.

If our culture is turning into one of ingratitude, then so be it – and to think, this is for delivering more than what’s expected!  If someone only delivers the minimum – what’s expected, nothing more, nothing less – then there’s this tendency to be disappointed because the person didn’t go above and beyond.  And when that person fails to meet the minimum expectations, we get angry –  this is understandable, obviously this aspect is justifiable because if we have any right to feel angry, then it’s only when people fail to do what they’re expected to do, and not because they only did what’s expected, or they didn’t do more than that.  Now, if the person is actually in a lousy job in the first place, then I think it’s really not fair to expect much from the person, too.

The good news is that we don’t have to subscribe to this idea.  It’s up to us to choose to be grateful and show appreciation to people who do their job, even if they just do exactly that, and even if they aren’t interested or able to give more than just that.  In this day and age, expectations are high enough such that the ability to meet said expectations isn’t a mediocre matter anymore, but in my opinion an actual achievement worth celebrating.  If it’s not too much for us to be grateful to people meeting expectations, then let’s do that, for one way or another such an act would be appreciated.  And I’d venture to say, we’d personally appreciate any gratitude afforded to us as well, since we all carry high expectations to deliver, too.

Ingratitude doesn’t have to be the new normal if we consciously choose to be thankful.

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Categories: Ideas and Philosophy
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