You may think it’s simple, just be grateful. But, there are many challenges in consistently using an approach of gratitude. Some of these challenges might surprise you, as they did me.

Because of these challenges, telling someone to be grateful, generally, does not work. Creating a culture of gratitude, to replace one dominated by negative behaviors, can be an uphill battle. Learning to tailor strategies for each gratitude challenge allows both, these difficult realities and gratitude, to exist.

Gratitude allows us to look at problems differently, resulting in more options and better solutions. The first step is to identify what specific challenges related to gratitude you may have. Here’s a list of some common gratitude challenges. Some are discussed in my book, Leading With Gratitude, and some were identified after publication.

  1. Unclear – When gratitude is oversimplified, not expressed clearly, or when someone doesn’t know how to express gratitude.
  2. Confusing – Gratitude is not happiness, positivity, or optimism, they are related but they’re often confused.
  3. Reality – Realities may be overlooked or denied because we are busy being grateful.
  4. Too Trusting – People may ignore negative intentions, suspicious behaviors, or impacts.
  5. Assuming – People should not assume that others are as grateful as they are. Others may not see and appreciate the same things we do.
  6. Never – People may talk in absolutes, “I will never be grateful for that.”  (“That” could be a person, situation, product, song, movie, etc.)
  7. Evangelists – Gratitude is not always appropriate and people may not want it pushed on them.
  8. Woo woo – Gratitude may not be taken seriously as a leadership approach or is considered too far “out there.”
  9. Inauthentic – If people feel they should be grateful even when they aren’t, it will appear inauthentic.
  10. Must – People are told they must express gratitude. Sometimes this is as part of a job.
  11. Weakness – People may consider showing gratitude a weakness.
  12. Culture – Different cultures have different views and express gratitude differently.
  13. Personality – Different people give and receive gratitude differently (extroverts versus introverts is one example).
  14. Negative – It’s hard to stay grateful when surrounded by negative people.
  15. Complaints – Complaining and being grateful at the same time, is hard, people don’t want to be seen as defensive.

Being committed to gratitude as a leadership approach isn’t always easy. Knowing what the challenges are is the first step. We’ll explore these challenges, with stories and potential solutions in upcoming articles. Most of us are not born knowing how to express and behave gratefully in work settings. The good news is, it’s easy to learn and to practice. Gratitude is transformational when it is fully and authentically used as a leadership approach.

How many of these challenges have you experienced?  What was done to overcome them?