The Gratitude Game

As Thanksgiving approaches, our thoughts naturally turn to gratitude—at home and in the workplace. Studies suggest that expressing gratitude may focus your mind to notice gratitude more frequently. And the more you express gratitude, the better you feel.

In the workplace, expressing gratitude and being on the receiving end can be an effective morale booster and motivator. In fact, a Glassdoor study indicates that 80 percent of employees are willing to work harder for an appreciative boss. And of course, that appreciative boss will find even more opportunities to express thankfulness with each expression of gratitude.

Sounds like a winning formula for success, doesn’t it? It often is, but there are some rules to follow when playing—and winning—the gratitude game.

How to Show Gratitude at Work

To better engage employees, gratitude should be part of your everyday language and corporate culture at work. A simple, specific “thank you” to an employee or colleague for reports delivered before a crucial deadline or an exemplary job on an important project can go a long way.

Team emails thanking employees can motivate others to express gratitude and public recognition more frequently too. If a colleague does a fantastic job, send an email to their boss and copy your co-worker. Not only does this create a more pleasant working environment, it can help you get the assistance you need next time, all while establishing your own standing as someone fully invested in creating an environment of shared workplace success.

Figure Out What Matters Most

While things like catered lunches and company-wide team-building events can show your team you appreciate their efforts, your gratitude game plan doesn’t always have to be that extravagant. Instead, surprise a star employee with a complimentary sticky note on her computer monitor or attached to a chocolate bar or a gift card to a favorite lunch spot. Even better, you may want to reward an employee for stellar work by giving him a prime parking spot or an extra personal day off.

Also, don’t discount the value of a simple handwritten thank-you card. In this age of digital communications, old-fashioned correspondence really stands out. These expressions of gratitude may take some extra time, thought and effort, but is likely to make a huge impact on the recipient, providing a nice boost of motivation each time.

Gratitude Works Both Ways

Employees may wonder if it’s appropriate to express gratitude toward their bosses. It definitely is, and such thank-you notes delivered up the corporate ladder can go a long way to create a friendlier workplace where people at every level feel good about their efforts.

An employee may want to thank her boss for mentoring her while working a specific project, after receiving a promotion or a raise or just because the manager offers consistent and clear direction and feedback.

When Gratitude at Work Doesn’t Work

Although expressing gratitude can pump up productivity, if it’s perceived as hollow or insincere, it won’t motivate employees and may actually hurt morale. Be careful about expressing gratitude followed immediately by criticism of job performance. Saying “Thank you, but…,” in what is known as a feedback sandwich and will likely result in the employee remembering only the criticism and not the praise. Instead, keep praise and feedback separate actions. Show gratitude when it’s warranted, and when needed, provide constructive feedback in a separate meeting when an employee falls short of expectations.

Another time to steer clear of standout praise? When the behavior is expected and required as part of the employee’s job, such as arriving at work on time, rather than an example of the employee exceeding expectations.

Build a Better Corporate Culture through Gratitude

Numerous studies indicate that showing gratitude can boost your joy, optimism, and enthusiasm—all positive traits that contribute to a better corporate culture and increased workplace success. And you don’t have to wait until Thanksgiving to start counting your blessings at work.

Who would you like to thank today?

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