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Incorporating Gratitude in the Workplace

Why we should, why we aren’t, and ways we can

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Studies on gratitude have exploded over recent decades, but research on gratitude in the workplace specifically is still somewhat limited. What do we know about it? Evidence has shown that appreciation is a better motivator than money.

Science shows gratitude has many benefits. It strengthens teams, reduces aggression and stress, increases job satisfaction, and has health benefits, which result in fewer sick days.

Gratitude is starting to show up more and more in organizations, yet one of the top reasons people quit their job is still lack of appreciation.

If incorporating gratitude into our workplaces has so many benefits, why aren’t we doing it?

In a culture fueled by hustle, individualism, and getting ahead, expressing gratitude in the workplace can seem counterproductive. Being emotional in an environment of hierarchies, promotions, and dollar signs has been perceived as a weakness and “unprofessional” in the past. The pandemic has forced our personal and work lives to collide, and we can’t ignore our humanity at work any longer. Nor should we. It’s long overdue.

“But we’ve always done it this way!” That way of thinking is not innovative or practical in today’s world. For the first time in history, we have five generations in the workforce at once, with GenX and Millennials making up the majority.

The younger workforce is driving the expectation that our workplaces be someplace inspiring where we do purposeful work that is recognized, instead of just a way to pay the bills (and it’s about time, isn’t it?)

Despite our brains telling us that gratitude doesn’t belong at work, research suggests that gratitude and appreciation contribute to cultures where people actually want to show up for work and don’t feel like parts in a machine.

Want to welcome gratitude into your workplace? Here are some tips:

Keep it authentic: If you’re expressing gratitude only because of the benefits to your business, people will know it and think you are using them. Be grateful AND genuine.

Make it specific. Don’t just say, “I’m grateful for you.” Although that’s nice to hear, listing specific reasons for your gratitude or describing an incident that made you grateful someone was a part of your team is more impactful.

Make gratitude an ACTION instead of just a feeling. Saying “thank you” is great, but showing it with actions like handwritten cards or rewarding the team with a day off combines intention and impact.

Customize it. If you want to show gratitude, know your team, what inspires them, and how they like to be appreciated. “One size fits all” appreciation doesn’t exist and isn’t effective.

Create many opportunities for gratitude within your team. Incorporate gratitude into your culture with regular activities like implementing a gratitude circle at team meetings, putting a gratitude whiteboard or bulletin board in your office (this can also be done virtually for remote teams with online whiteboards and digital sticky notes), and sending handwritten thank you notes.

If expressing gratitude at work is foreign to you, don’t panic! Start with something small. Ask your team for ideas. Commit to the change. Once you start to make it a habit, you’ll be amazed by the magic!

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