The Impact & Benefits of Gratitude in the Workplace
Let’s talk about gratitude in the workplace. Don’t feel like reading? Listen here!
Have you ever worked with someone toxic?
We all have. We probably still do. Toxic people leak negative, pessimistic, cynical, and judgmental vibes all over their colleagues. They rarely offer support, encouragement, or solutions. Instead, they focus on problems, both in the workplace and in their personal lives.
Even worse than a toxic colleague is a toxic boss. They taint every task, meeting, and interaction with their negative comments and energy, draining any remaining inkling of motivation from their employees.
Sound like someone you’re dying to work with or for? Of course not.
We all seek to surround ourselves with positive people at work. If we can’t work in an upbeat environment with great morale, we—at the very least—want to focus on our jobs and avoid distraction.
How can gratitude create a more positive work environment? How does gratitude boost morale and affect production at work? Why should you practice gratitude even if no one else cares about it?
We’ll dive into a discussion of gratitude in the workplace, its impact in the workplace, and how to implement a daily gratitude practice if you don’t have one already.
How Gratitude Impacts & Influences Your Workplace
A study on gratitude by the John Templeton Foundation found a significant gap in beliefs and intentions about gratitude and the actual practice of gratitude, both personally and professionally.
88% of those surveyed believe expressing gratitude to colleagues “makes me feel happier and more fulfilled.” Despite the high percentage of respondents who believe gratitude works, only 10% actually express gratitude to colleagues daily. Worse yet, 60% admit they’ve never voiced gratitude at work or do so less than once each year.
Perhaps we should consider the positive impact of practicing gratitude in the workplace. In post-pandemic times of economic uncertainty, shifting workplace settings, and adjustments to new generational needs and preferences, every workplace could benefit from a more positive, uplifting, and healthier work environment. Practicing gratitude leads to greater workplace appreciation, recognition, and fulfillment for everyone.
Gratitude in the workplace certainly impacts employee retention positively.
Employees are more motivated to work harder if their boss demonstrates appreciation for their efforts. Not only do gratitude and recognition in the workplace motivate others to work harder, but they also motivate employees to stick around, aiding in improving the retention of employees. 53% of respondents said they would be more likely to stay with an organization if they felt appreciated and recognized for their efforts.
When asked how they prefer to be recognized and appreciated at work, money talks, of course. 75% admitted they love to receive pay increases. However, non-monetary acts of recognition, inclusion, and acknowledgment ranked high as well. 46% enjoy unexpected gifts or rewards, and 40% like to be involved in making decisions at work. These cost employers nothing, yet they make a huge impact on workplace morale.
The Grateful Workplace study suggests that gratitude can move beyond the individual and event levels and into collective gratitude. Collective gratitude is defined as persistent gratitude expressed and shared by members of an organization. This is the kind of gratitude that helps boost workplace morale.
The researchers found that through a variety of means, employers can encourage the practice of gratitude in the workplace and boost morale. While some efforts may only provide a temporary or episodic boost, many efforts have longer-lasting effects on the workplace environment and on overall morale.
In fact, persistent collective gratitude practices seem to also encourage a sense of corporate social responsibility and organizational resilience as well.
Stronger Soft Skills
We all feel more appreciated at work when others recognize our accomplishments and contributions. A study by Hill, Allemand, and Roberts (2013) found that when we feel grateful, we’re more easily able to form social bonds, defer stress, and practice creative problem-solving techniques. Additionally, a study in 2012 by Bartlett, Condon, Cruz, Baumann, and Desteno suggests that gratitude increases relationship satisfaction and encourages socially inclusive behaviors.
Conflict management, communication, problem-solving, and creativity. What do all these positive effects of practicing gratitude in the workplace have in common? They’re all soft skills. Practicing gratitude strengthens soft skills in the workplace, and this impact is sorely needed in a time when employers are scrambling to address the evident soft skills gap.
When we verbally acknowledge others’ accomplishments and efforts, we communicate to them that they are valuable members of our organization. When we feel valued and needed at work, we’re more likely to be motivated to collaborate, share, and help others. This more frequent communication and greater collaboration, in turn, spurs higher rates of productivity and efficiency in the workplace.
Research on gratitude overwhelmingly indicates that practicing gratitude always impacts the workplace positively. Robert Emmons, an author and UC Davis psychology professor, says that “gratitude is the ultimate performance-enhancing substance at work.”
How to Practice Gratitude at Work
There are endless ways to practice gratitude individually and corporately. The most important key is to practice it; how you practice gratitude doesn’t matter much, as long as you make the effort.
Here are some tried-and-true methods for practicing gratitude. Simply start with one method, and you’ll notice a huge impact on your mood, your interactions with others, and the quality of your workplace relationships after only a few weeks.
Daily Gratitude List
There’s no substitute for the standard gratitude list. Whether you keep your list electronically, text it to other colleagues daily, or jot down three things you’re grateful for in a journal, keeping a list will help you become more focused on the positive aspects of the workplace. The more specific your gratitude list items, the more easily you begin to recognize blessings and gifts in your day-to-day work environment.
An easy way to keep gratitude front and center in your office is to use sticky notes to document your gratitude list items. You can color-code your items to help jog your memory on days when you feel less than thankful. And if you want to extend gratitude to others, sticking a note on their door, mirror, or computer monitor is a free and easy way to say thank you.
Call People Out
If a colleague does something exceptionally kind or above and beyond their scope of responsibility, why not recognize them publicly?
You can create a social media post on LinkedIn, tagging them and thanking them for their help. Or you might consider thanking them at the beginning or end of a business meeting. Being recognized in front of others in the workplace can make us feel more appreciated than private acknowledgment.
If you want to invest in your own mental well-being and career fulfillment, consider keeping a gratitude folder. This can be an electronic record (like a Google doc) where you copy and paste emails, notes, and certificates of appreciation. Or you can keep a file folder in your desk for compiling sticky notes and cards. Another method for documenting gratitude, both individually and corporately, is to create a gratitude bulletin board in your workplace. This encourages collective gratitude in the workplace, createing a persistent reminder of the need to appreciate and recognize others.
While we all love getting raises and bonuses, there are plenty of non-monetary ways to recognize others, acknowledge contributions, and show appreciation for help and support at work. Consider bringing snacks for the break room, adding a note of appreciation, and inviting everyone to enjoy the snacks. If you supervise others, consider giving them an extra break or the opportunity to leave work early without docking pay.
Start Practicing Gratitude in the Workplace
The ways to practice gratitude in the workplace are as numerous as the benefits you receive when you practice it. Start practicing gratitude today in one small way and watch the ripple effect of positivity in your workplace.