How to create a culture of gratitude in the workplace

It’s the time of year when many organizations look for ways to show appreciation and gratitude to the businesses they serve and/or that serve them, and to the people whose contributions impact the organization.

Some organizations are finding that gratitude can transform the workplace year round. The benefits of recognizing and showing appreciation, even simply by saying thank you for good things that occur, help to inspire connection and authenticity. Seeing and acknowledging the positive in colleagues, events, and experiences can result in a workplace where people actually want to come to work.

Mike Robbins, author of Bring Your Whole Self to Work, says, “Appreciation is about people and their value. You create an environment where people feel valued and appreciated for who they are, not just what they do.” Studies show that employees who receive positive feedback are healthier, which helps to impact a company’s bottom line.

Some business managers think that saying thank you for what team members are being paid to do isn’t necessary. Evidence suggests the contrary. Employees who feel acknowledged and appreciated are actually more engaged in their work. Gratitude can actually be a better motivator than money.

Robert A. Emmons, Ph.D., professor of psychology at the University of California, says, “Gratitude affects the body’s biochemistry. It can lower blood pressure, improve immune function, and have a positive impact on sleep.”

Because our company gets to enjoy helping other companies say thank you, I decided to ask several local business folks for their take on showing gratitude and here are some of their suggestions:

  • A company culture of gratitude has to begin at the top and trickle down. The first place that team members look to for gratitude is from their employers/managers. The feelings employees get when shown appreciation go a long way toward creating the culture of gratitude at all levels.
  • Gratitude should be specific, authentic, and personal. Praise loses meaning when it’s given generally to all, unless it’s a team effort being praised.
  • Tailor the appreciation to the individual. Give thought to the best way to show recognition and appreciation. Though it takes time and effort, find out what the person would appreciate — the receiver will appreciate it more.
  • Look for opportunities to think about and share gratitude. Use a show-and-tell approach; start a meeting by going around the room and having everyone express one thing they are grateful for.
  • Thank the people who never get thanked. Thanking those who do thankless work means a lot.
  • Have a gratitude board where people can write about something good that happened at work or at home.
  • Create the time and the space for spontaneous appreciation.

In surveys, most people say that hearing a thank you at work made them feel good and motivated. Creating a culture of gratitude might be the best way to increase morale, loyalty, and productivity. Charles Schwab said, “The way to develop the best that is in a person is by appreciation and encouragement.” Gertrude Stein said, “Silent gratitude isn’t very much use to anyone.” And Alfred North Whitehead said, “No one who achieves success does so without acknowledging the help of others. The wise and confident acknowledge this help with gratitude.”

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