Want a Healthier Workplace? Begin With Gratitude
Gratitude is having a moment. Practicing it is a topic of conversation everywhere, and you wouldn’t be wrong to believe that the attention is deserved. A principle of self-care, practicing gratitude involves taking the time to notice and reflect upon the things you’re thankful for.
Appreciation can be for anything – as simple as a Youtube video that made you laugh or as significant as a promotion at work. Research shows that practicing gratefulness has positive effects on our minds, health, and wellbeing, so regularly taking a moment to count our blessings is becoming even more compelling.
At work, expressing gratitude is how we acknowledge our team’s efforts and celebrate their wins. Receiving appreciation at work makes us feel good about our performance and motivates us to keep it up. While some leaders believe that expressing gratitude may undermine their authority, this is far from the truth. There’s nothing worse than working for someone who thinks your paycheck is the only ‘thanks’ needed. A little TLC here and there goes a long way to your team and organization’s benefit.
Some of the ways that gratitude transforms an organization
1. Increases job satisfaction, decreases employee turnover
If a company would like employee satisfaction to grow, a culture of gratitude is an excellent way to accomplish this. Without consistent and authentic recognition, employees are more likely to quit. Employee turnover is a massive drainer on company resources, and it’s pricey, costing up to $160 billion per year in the US alone. Since lack of appreciation is one of the top reasons people are ditching their jobs, implementing a culture of gratitude can help keep your team satisfied and stick around for longer.
2. Encourages employees to feel motivated, engaged, and productive
Expressing gratitude and appreciation correlates to increased employee motivation, engagement, and productivity. Some research shows that gratitude can actually be a better motivator than pay. It also causes employees to be more concerned about social responsibility in the workplace, performing more organizational citizenship behaviors such as making new employees feel welcome and filling in for coworkers.
3. Drives greater organizational innovation and performance
As mentioned, when employees feel appreciated, their job satisfaction, motivation, engagement, and productivity improve. Meaning that they are more likely to be productive performers, ultimately driving more significant organizational innovation and performance.
4. Transcends beyond the workplace
Gratitude’s positive effects in the workplace spill over into other areas of employee lives. Examples include increased happiness, greater satisfaction with life, higher resilience to stress, and even fewer headaches and illnesses.
5. Gratitude can be a pathway to achieving bigger goals
Gratitude is important, but it isn’t the only emotional skill valuable to a modern business. Emotional intelligence and empathy encourage employees to practice compassion and forgiveness. Gratitude can act as an excellent gateway to these more challenging goals.
6. It’s beneficial to everyone involved
According to research conducted by Harvard Medical School, practicing gratefulness is just as beneficial as receiving it. Giving thanks boosts happiness and fosters hope for the future. It also reduces stress, burnout, symptoms of PTSD and increases resilience. All are benefits critical to the health of your employees.
Clearly, gratitude has an important place at work. But implementing a culture of gratitude is a little bit more complicated than just saying “thank you” here and there. A culture of gratitude ensures that appreciation is practiced, followed, and established in every space within the organization.
Characteristics of an effective gratitude culture
For gratitude to be part of an organization’s culture, it has to be consistent. A tokenistic event once a year (employee awards we’re looking at you) isn’t enough. A study on recognition in the workplace by Kyle Luthans found that employees value personalized, specific, and instant social awards such as attention, praise, and sincere appreciation. Luthans study infers the importance of consistent and authentic recognition at the time of action. It is making practicing gratitude front of mind so that when a team member does something worth applauding, it is second nature to give them that recognition immediately.
A culture of gratitude must also start from the top and trickle down. This can be explained by ‘upstream reciprocity’: the tendency of those who themselves have received help or support to be more likely to pay it forward or give assistance to someone else in need. Having your management team start a chain of gratitude will result in a ripple of positive effects throughout the organization. If the organization isn’t practicing it at every level, it’s pretty unlikely that it will be prevalent enough to become part of the integral culture of the organization.
Your familiar with your team’s appreciation language
You may have heard of the five love languages theory. They are words of affirmation, quality time, giving gifts, acts of service, and physical touch. Each love language represents a different preference for an expression of affection. Well, it turns out that the love languages theorist, Gary Chapman, found a natural application for the theory in the workplace. Here are Chapman’s five languages of appreciation in the workplace:
- Words of affirmation – Team members who prefer words of affirmation feel most appreciated when receiving affirming words and praise.
- Acts of service – These team members are a fan of actions.
- Receiving gifts – Tokens of appreciation make these team members feel most appreciated.
- Quality time – Undivided attention is this team member’s bread and butter.
- Physical touch – appropriate physical contact, such as pats on the back, a high five, or a handshake, is most wanted here.
Gratitude isn’t one-size-fits-all, so knowing your team’s preferred way to receive appreciation in the workplace can help ensure that you’re meeting their needs. There are a few things that you can do to help determine someone’s preferred appreciation language. You can simply ask them, get everyone to take a personality quiz, or gauge how they respond to different appreciative acts. Keep in mind; the appreciation language may not tell the whole story. While a team member might love words of affirmation, some may prefer to receive in private, and others may prefer public acknowledgment.
Appreciation goes beyond meeting workplace goals.
While employees love acknowledgment for their contributions in meeting the organization’s strategic goals, it’s essential to go beyond that as well. There’s more to us than how we help meet the bottom line, and our personalities contribute to our achievements at work. An example of showing your employees you value them as a whole person could be thanking a team member for their sense of humor, acknowledging that they keep the team feeling light and cheerful despite challenges. Gratitude for the whole person also includes showing your team members that you care about their lives outside of work, appreciating them by caring about who they are and what’s going on in their world.
So now that we have a deeper understanding of why gratitude is essential at work and how we can embed it into workplace culture, how should you express your thankfulness?
Some fun ways that you can say thank you to your team:
1. Create an employee of the month award on LinkedIn
People who love public praise will appreciate this expression of gratitude. It’s something that employees can share with their public network, showing their communities what they’ve accomplished at work!
2. Use a recognition and rewards platform like Bonusly
Bonusly is a platform that empowers those closest to the work to recognize their peers—allowing team members to motivate and appreciate their employees through meaningful rewards such as gift cards, donations, and more. The platform makes recognition visible to everyone, encouraging appreciation, and building stronger relationships.
3. Celebratory email
Send a company or department-wide email that celebrates your employees for the fantastic job that they’re doing.
4. Handwritten note
Sometimes it’s nice to go a bit old school and send a heartfelt handwritten note that celebrates your team member’s wins.
5. Pull them aside
Take some time to speak to your teammate with the specific purpose of saying thank you. Keep it to appreciation only to reinforce the importance of gratitude!
If your employee is consistently standing out, going above and beyond, and killing it at work, give them a promotion. Upgrade their job title to truly represent their role and make sure you increase the pay to match.
7. Tickets for an event
Who doesn’t like getting tickets to something special? Tickets to a movie premiere, sports game, or concert are all ways to show your team you think they’re doing an excellent job. Bonus points if you choose something that caters to an employee’s unique interests.
8. Take a task off their hands
Thank your teammate for a time when they’ve helped you out by lightening their load in return. You could offer to help them with admin tasks, grab them lunch when they’re slammed, or join in on a brainstorming session for their big project coming up.
9. Provide educational and career development opportunities
Show your team that you appreciate their hard work and believe in their abilities by helping them develop their skills and knowledge. This could look like purchasing a corporate membership to LinkedIn Learning, a conference ticket, or bringing in a guest speaker.
10. Give them a high five or handshake
This is a great way to show those who appreciate physical touch that you acknowledge their contributions. It’s something that you can initiate spontaneously and immediately after a team member does something worth celebrating to show them that you’re paying attention and care about them.
11. Add an appreciation element to your weekly stand-up meeting
Having each employee reflect and acknowledge a teammate in a regular meeting encourages awareness, appreciation, and thoughtfulness. It helps employees feel grateful for their team and recognized for their accomplishments.
12. Look after their wellness
Health is wealth, so what better way to appreciate your employees by helping them achieve greater wellbeing. You can do this by giving out yoga class passes, meditation app memberships, or mental health days off.
13. Team outings
Make your team feel appreciated and encourage team bonding all at once! Head out to a bowling game, corporate getaway, escape room, or cooking class. Telling your team that you care about who they are outside of work too.
14. Ask for their opinion or advice
Valuing your employee or teammate’s insights shows them that you appreciate their skill and expertise. Asking someone to do a favor for you has also been shown to make them like you more – so it’s a win-win!
Embracing a culture of gratitude at work can help develop an environment where employees feel valued, acknowledged, and appreciated. Gratitude has a business case and a human case, with the positive effects reaching far beyond the bottom line. Have fun with gratitude and get creative! We spend a lot of time at work so let’s make it a place where everyone wants to be.