Bringing Gratitude to the Workplace


Ahmad J. | Editor-in-Chief



One recent study by USC shows that the benefits of gratitude include, “better sleep, more exercise, reduced symptoms of physical pain, lower levels of inflammation, lower blood pressure, and a host of other things we associate with better health.”

When gratitude is a big part of the workplace culture, employees look forward to coming to work, their well-being is increased, and they have more job satisfaction, collaboration, and productivity. It also leads to reduced turnover and absenteeism as well as increasing engagement and citizenship behaviors.

Why bring gratitude to the workplace?

Whether working from home or at the office, we all want to feel like we belong to a team. Unfortunately, many times we face gossip, exclusion, and bullying. So how can we make the workplace a happier, more productive environment?

Studies have shown that grateful people see things differently. According to Forbes, “They are also more agreeable to be around and show greater openness to ideas. Grateful people also behave in prosocial ways. Further, gratitude has been tied to lower rates of burnout, greater happiness, and a greater feeling of social support.”

In one study, two groups of employees were tested. One group was asked to complete two simple gratitude exercises to express what they were grateful for at work and in life. The study found that the employees who completed these exercises were more positive and felt more of a community spirit at work.

We all want to feel appreciated, but according to Forbes, only 30% of people thank their coworkers several times a week and only 20% thank their bosses several times a week.

This tells us that being a jerk at work won’t get you anywhere because people want to be thanked for the work they do.

Can gratitude decrease bad behavior at work?

According to a study by researchers at the Univerisity of Central Florida (UCF), the answer is yes.

In the study, published in the Journal of Applied Psychology, researchers asked participants to spend a few minutes each day writing down what they were grateful for. The results showed that the participants gossiped less at work, were less rude, and participated in fewer activities that excluded others.

Shannon Taylor, management professor, and co-author of the study said in a press release, “Gratitude exercises are becoming increasingly popular products to improve employee attitudes and well-being, and our study shows managers can also use them to foster more respectful behavior in their teams.”

Exercises in gratitude are “designed to increase your focus on the positive things in your life,” he explained. “That simple action can change your outlook, your approach to work, and the way your co-workers see you.”

Organizations spend lots of money on tools to improve employee behavior but according to Laura Locklear, doctoral student, and co-author of the study, “There are not a lot of known tools available to actually make the needed changes,” she said. “We found the gratitude journal is a simple, inexpensive intervention that can have a significant impact on changing employee behavior for the better.”

In a healthy workplace, adding gratitude would be a welcome addition but in an unhealthy workplace the deeper issues must first be addressed or employees will see these exercises as just something else they have to do.

How to bring gratitude into the workplace

So how do we bring gratitude into the workplace? Here are a few simple ideas:

  1. Create gratitude habits – Although there are many ways to practice gratitude, it is not a one size fits all deal. Any practice you choose must fit seamlessly into your life and the workplace so that it feels natural and not something that’s just added to the “to-do” list. For example, make a habit of thanking your coworkers when they help you with something. Or praise an employee who went above and beyond at every meeting.
  2. Choosing gratitude as a way of life – Making gratitude a part of your everyday life can give you more resilience when life throws a curveball at you. Something as simple as waking up in the morning and saying, “I’m grateful to be alive,” or starting a gratitude journal and writing down five things you are grateful for every day.
  3. Start a peer to peer recognition program –  Creating a peer to peer system that goes across teams, positions, and departments is a powerful way to show gratitude. It is a way to weave gratitude into the fabric of your workplace. It is also more meaningful because the recognition is coming from your peers.
  4. Give feedforward – Coined by Marshall Goldsmith, feedforward gives employees suggestions to positively make changes in the future. This creates an environment where you and your employee look forward to a better tomorrow.
  5. Send handwritten thank-you notes – It is going above and beyond sending a text or email. Douglas Conant, former President of Campbell Soup Company, wrote 20 thank-you notes to the staff every day. Taking the time to write the note and mail it will make it that much more meaningful and you will actually feel good for doing it.

To quote Melody Beattie, “Gratitude turns what we have into enough, and more. It turns denial into acceptance, chaos into order, confusion into clarity…it makes sense of our past, brings peace for today, and creates a vision for tomorrow.”

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