Between Acknowledgement and Gratitude

21 September is World Gratitude Day.

Semantic Differences

Acknowledgement” (recunoaștere in Romanian) comes from the Latin” recognitionem”. The corresponding verb is” to acknowledge”. The corresponding adjective is” acknowledged”.

Gratitude” (recunoștință in Romanian) comes from the French” reconnaissance”, whose root is” naissance” and contains the derivative” conaissance”. The corresponding verb is “please, satisfy”. The corresponding adjective is” grateful”.

Both involve cognition, knowledge, and validation. We need them both to receive and to offer them. But, because of their form, they can easily be mistaken.

Acknowledgment is what we expect to receive to meet the need for importance, significance, and value. Gratitude is what we hope to meet the demand for contribution. Unfortunately, some believe that acknowledgment can be offered as gratitude or recognition. That’s not like that at all. Both are wanted and valued.

Acknowledgment + lack of gratitude = I pay you to do a good job, and you do it, but I don’t thank you.

Lack of acknowledgment + gratitude = thank you for your effort/intentions, but they didn’t help me.



What conditions satisfaction?

Father Lucian Rosu from Turin once said in a sermon: “We have played games with life for far too long. Man is content with nothing, and nothing satisfies him anymore because he has had too much of a good thing and wants more and better.”

He who is unsatisfied with a little won’t be satisfied with a lot, either. Discontent is like a bottomless bag because what is wanted, and craved for, even if received, doesn’t meet the needs that not even the one who wants to receive them is aware of. If you want to test someone’s leadership ability, you can give them small tasks and see how well they solve them. Discontent may come (not always) from what does not exist as a word in Romanian and is expressed in English as “entitlement”.

Especially young people who have been spoiled by their parents or, on the contrary, deprived of many things, believe that they are entitled, that they “have become vested” and assume certain implicit benefits that are available to them. Entitlement is originally about the lack of assuming rules that are valid for everyone and the attitude toward physical and mental boundaries.

Therefore, to prevent the injustices that certain young people may feel, I should mention:

Do not think that the world owes you something. It does not owe you anything.

Even if you deserve it, it does not mean you should receive it automatically.

Consistent results are obtained further in applying a strategy in a determined manner. But, on the other hand, occasional results are what often cause unjustified envy.



Acknowledgment and gratitude, organizational enemies no. 1 and 2.

So, who determines the value of each person’s work? The value of work is determined by placing it in a context that would use and reward it. Therefore, the same work performed by an employee and a freelancer is rewarded differently, depending on the enforcement of marketing, so that the respective work would reach the target audience that would value it the most. Your work has value even though you don’t find people to appreciate it for the time being. Specifically, it has the value you give it through what you are willing to accept.

Often, the work being performed in an organization is an opportunity for an employee to capitalize on their talents in the presence of consistent resources. However, even more often, in my opinion, the work being performed in an organization is an opportunity for the employee’s lack of confidence or promotion skills to be exploited by the employer. Again, this is an effect of a lack of acknowledgment.

When we say to someone, “You did a good job!” we give them validation and, even more, confirmation and approval. This acknowledgment satisfies the need for the importance of the person who has done the work and may motivate them to continue to perform the same work, but they don’t guarantee that. Chances increase, however, if, besides acknowledgment, gratitude is also offered: “You did a good job. Thank you.”

One of the reasons that make managers get scared that if they praise their subordinates, i.e., they will rest on their oars or ask for more money, is that they don’t know how to separate acknowledgment from gratitude and offer them in a discerned and disciplined manner.

Let’s take the following scene involving a 3-year-old little girl, her mother, and her grandmother. The little girl likes sweets. Further to the fact that the little girl has just received sweets from a guest, her mother also offers her some sweets so that she would give as good as she gets. However, the little girl throws them at her. The mother starts complaining about it to the grandmother.

What really happened? The little girl already had sweets; she no longer needed them, but she needed the recognition of their importance and to be held. However, the child doesn’t know how to communicate this. A mother doesn’t want to meet a child’s needs but wants to meet the need for importance and contribution for herself. The child doesn’t acknowledge the mother’s gesture and expresses her ungratefulness. The mother chooses to go elsewhere to show her importance, i.e., she complains to her mother. The little girl remains frustrated.

Let’s make a parallel with the following situation.

Several employees want a salary increase as a result of increased performance within the company. This will allow them to be more motivated and effective. However, the middle manager wants to feel important and establishes that the salary will not be increased; instead, the employees will receive higher-value meal vouchers. Employees disagree because that’s not what they want, what they asked for, what they need, or what they have expected. In addition, the middle manager complains about the employees’ lack of cooperation with his boss. Employees remain frustrated.

Gratitude does not imply offering money but goodwill.

Gratitude is what some people are looking for further to the fact that they don’t receive acknowledgment while subconsciously thinking: “If I don’t deserve to be acknowledged as important, then I have to make myself useful”, i.e., if they are not acknowledged as subjects, they should at least to be acknowledged as objects. The phrase “make yourself useful” has the magical purpose of turning a useless slave into an intelligent creature, such as “Cinderella”. Thus, sometimes the desire to contribute is not the expression of the desire to offer an experience that would add to the well-being of others but the desire to feel special and escape from uselessness. The contribution offered for the sake of feeling important risks being dissipated in a direction that makes it unrecognizable hinders gratitude, and may even do more harm to the other. Why? Because receiving becomes conditioned even if what has been offered has not been requested. At the organizational level, the mindlessly offered charity may come to no longer be “corporate social responsibility” but “whitewashing”, “greenwashing”, “bribery”, and a downright waste of resources.



Admission in case of mistakes

Admission also has the role of facilitating forgiveness and reconciliation, not just satisfaction. Thus, the admission of mistakes is not an obligation, but moral merit, a desideratum. However, the way this happens may differ. That’s why prayer “Our Father” does not say: “motivate us our trespasses” or “excuse us our trespasses”, but “forgive us our trespasses”. However, even if it occurs, forgiveness does not also involve reconciliation.

For example, a manager can forgive and tolerate a subordinate’s mistakes without bringing them to his attention. Still, the lack of admission of these mistakes by the aid does not encourage the manager to develop a warm relationship with him. He can also bring them to his attention, forgive them, and not tolerate them in the future if he uses assertiveness. Forgiveness does not mean tolerating perseverance in error.

Similarly, a victim of rape can forgive the persecutor without assuming the admission of his deed. Even with the admission of the mistake and the demand for forgiveness, we may have forgiveness without reconciliation, i.e., strengthening the relationship between the parties due to violating some borders.

In the case of mistakes, admission can lead to reconciliation and possibly gratitude.

For the acknowledgment to exist, higher standards for the definition of success and lower borders for the definition of abuse must exist. The problem is that, for most people, these standards and borders are very different, and if not communicated and clarified, they predispose to suffering, misunderstandings, injustices, abuses, and mistakes. Pain in life is guaranteed. Suffering, however, is optional.

Copyright (C) Marcus Victor Grant  2018-present. Translation by Cristiana Brezeanu of the article “Între recunoaștere și recunoștință published initially in Romanian at 21.9.2018 on Discerne. Copyright (C) Marcus Victor Grant, all rights reserved

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