Why Great Leaders Express Gratitude at Work
As social beings, many of our relationships are based on reciprocity. At work, we’re often involved in transactional behavior, where we expect to receive at least as much value as we give. But our deepest relationships are usually driven by higher motives like gratitude. A thankful mindset benefits our relationships with others, even if we don’t expect anything in return. That’s why it’s so important for leaders to express gratitude at work.
Research shows that people who practice workplace gratitude help foster more compassion and consideration among their colleagues. For example, the University of Central Florida recently conducted a study among employees from various professions, asking them to journal about work gratitude for 10 days.
This simple act led participants to demonstrate more respect, politeness, and self-discipline. And this is only one of many studies underscoring the power of thankfulness. Bottom line — if you want to improve your company culture, it’s wise to focus on gratitude.
How Workplace Gratitude Works
Practicing gratitude at work is easy. It’s about recognizing good things that happen throughout the course of a given day. You can focus on an employee’s notable achievement, a coworker’s warm response to a challenging customer, or the arrival of a new coffee machine in the break room. The possibilities are endless.
Here are three types of work gratitude that directly influence employee experience:
1. Episodic Gratitude
This is tied to specific positive events you’ve encountered. For instance, you may be offered a new assignment you’ve been eyeing for a while. Or colleagues may jump in to help you meet a tight deadline. Or your employer gives you time off to deal with a serious illness in your family.
There is a strong correlation between expressions of gratitude in specific situations and positive organizational behavior. In other words, by practicing episodic gratitude over time, you can form a healthy habit that benefits you and your colleagues, alike. And ultimately, it can elevate your company culture as well.
2. Persistent Gratitude
When you consistently tend to feel thankful in a particular context, that is persistent gratitude. People with persistent gratitude are more likely to notice the good in other people’s actions and be thankful for them.
For instance, say your colleague fixes some basic errors in a document you’ve drafted so you don’t have to spend more time revising it. Some people may expect this as a normal part of a colleague’s job. But if you embrace persistent gratitude, you’ll be thankful for that effort to improve your document.
So, why is persistent gratitude important at work? When people feel good about what they do for a living, it leads to better overall well-being. Persistent gratitude leads to positive work-related emotions like enthusiasm and happiness. It also helps form stronger relationships, which in turn can strengthen your organizational culture.
3. Collective Gratitude
This is a feeling of thankfulness that stretches across an organization. It means you have a culture where people openly appreciate each other. With collective gratitude, employees feel free to express gratitude to colleagues, superiors, and clients.
A work environment where you’re appreciated and your efforts are celebrated sounds like a dream. As mentioned previously, persistent gratitude nurtures happiness and stronger relationships, so imagine what this ethic can accomplish when organizations fully embrace it. That’s why highly effective leaders foster a sense of collective gratitude.
Building a Culture of Gratitude
How can you help employees feel valued, recognized, and appreciated at work? Here are some proven ways you can encourage more gratitude throughout your organization:
- Respect employees and colleagues by consistently seeking their input and listening to their ideas.
- Take time to celebrate individual and team successes.
- Believe that even a simple verbal or written “thank you” can go a long way.
- Tell people exactly how they make a difference to you and others, so they believe your comments are genuine.
- Don’t hold back. Share positive feedback whenever you see an opportunity.
- Ask people how you can help them grow or rise to a new work challenge.
- Be available to help when others are struggling through difficult times.
- Hold periodic recognition ceremonies where employees nominate colleagues for awards like custom trophies, personalized keepsakes, or other customized items that strike a meaningful chord.
- Publicly thank those who’ve helped you at work so people will be encouraged to offer assistance to others, as well.
- Reward your team with fun group events that can also strengthen bonds. For example, you could host informal offsite trips, game nights, picnics, happy hours, and team lunches.
The Many Benefits of Gratitude at Work
When you express gratitude as a natural habit, you’ll begin to notice that it improves your attitude about work. And eventually, that genuine sense of gratitude will spread to others around you and benefit your culture in multiple ways. For example, in organizations where gratitude is a priority you’ll find:
- Less job stress and more satisfaction
- Better coworker relationships and friendships
- A happier, more collaborative atmosphere
- Heightened morale
- Better employee self-esteem, mental health, and confidence
- More energy and enthusiasm
- And even improved physical health
A spirit of genuine appreciation can fill work environments with positivity. And when employees feel good about their work experience, a better customer experience and increased sales are likely to follow. It’s an all-around win-win.
Leaders typically don’t express gratitude as often as employees wish they would. But if you’re a leader, it’s your responsibility to keep your workforce engaged, connected, and optimistic. Consistently acknowledging others can showcase your professionalism, improve your business relationships, help you stand out as a true team player, and lift your workplace culture.
It may not cost anything to be outwardly appreciative, but developing a habit of thankfulness can make a massive difference. You have nothing to lose. So why not give it a try?