When was the last time you had a conversation about gratitude? Whenever it was, you most likely talked about family, health, possessions and—your job.

In many American, minority cultures—youth are often advised to present docile, agreeable and submissively grateful, when the opportunity to work in a notable capacity is obtained. Advice like “just be grateful for the chances you are given” or “code switch and do what you’re told—you can’t afford to make mistakes,” is extremely common.

While gratitude is a healthy and valuable trait to possess, it is important for people of color (POC)  to analyze the extent of which to extend their gratitude within social context. To view an excellent career opportunity from an underdog perspective, hinders the progression of chronic societal battles, such as actionable inclusion of ideas that employees of color have the ability to contribute to a company. This sort of behavior also obstructs confidence — a trait that Ohio State University psychology professor, Richard Petty refers to as “the stuff that turns thoughts into action.”

Former First Lady Michelle Obama summarized the occurrence of docile workplace behavior best— stating, “So many of us have gotten ourselves at the table, but we’re too grateful to really shake it up.”

The lesson Mrs. Obama wants employees of color to understand is that the opportunity for progressive and permanent change in the workplace is too often wasted, due to unwarranted gratitude for the opportunity to work in capacities, and among people, that were once unattainable for people of color in America. The thing is, a skillful employee should work in partnership with their chosen employer organization. It is important to remember that neither party is doing a favor for the other, but both parties, rather, should be grateful for what progression that partnership has the potential to bring about in the workplace and society at large.


This Thanksgiving season, let us remember to show gratitude for workplace progression that so many ancestors of color fought and died for everyone to experience today, across industries. One of the best ways to show gratitude is by making your ideas known in the workplace, and bringing those ideas to life with confidence.

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