Gratitude Brings Benefits to the Workplace (and You!)
November is the month of thanksgiving, and it turns out, being reflective and having gratitude can not only bring many positive health effects, but can also bring lots of benefits to the workplace too.
This blog takes a look into why it’s important for leaders to have and encourage an ‘attitude of gratitude’.
What is Gratitude?
In positive psychology research, gratitude is strongly and consistently associated with greater happiness. Simply put, gratitude is about recognising and acknowledging the good things in your life.
Definition from Oxford Languages:
the quality of being thankful; readiness to show appreciation for and to return kindness.
Ramp it up!
With the current global news landscape, it can often feel difficult to have an ‘attitude of gratitude’, but it’s proven to be hugely beneficial for both giver and receiver.
It’s been a heavy period for humanity, where many of us feel confused, saddened, angered, and helpless. Personally, after much time reflecting (which let’s face it is an enormous privilege), I continually urge myself to ramp up the kindness, compassion and gratitude in my every day.
The Research is Clear, Gratitude is Good for You
A 2023 study; ‘Counting blessings versus burdens: An experimental investigation of gratitude and subjective well-being in daily life’, was led by Psychologist, Robert A. Emmons and sought to understand how people benefit from gratitude, a question that scientists had hardly explored until then. Dr Emmons said; “Gratitude heals, energizes and changes lives, it is the prism through which we view life in terms of gifts, givers, goodness and grace.”
Talking about the findings of this study, an article in The New York Times summaries, by saying; “Dr Emmons’s findings suggested that gratitude may improve psychological well-being – (and) inspired a spate of additional research. To date, numerous studies have found that having a grateful outlook, ‘counting one’s blessings’ and expressing gratitude to others can have positive effects on our emotional health as well as on interpersonal and relationships.”
The power of gratitude and appreciation is huge when it comes to managing stress, building resilience, and generally creating more positivity in your life – and who doesn’t want that?
The Power of Gratitude at Work
An attitude of gratitude isn’t about simply saying thank you (although that’s a good place to start), but it is about making it a conscious habit, to regularly practise gratitude and thankfulness.
Research shows that having an attitude of gratitude in the workplace also drives performance, engagement and loyalty.
The University of Central Florida conducted a study among employees from various professions, asking them to journal about work gratitude for 10 days and 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.
Studies also found that leaders who express appreciation are more influential, respected, and happier.
15five, who help HR leaders drive results through human-centred leadership and management, have data that shows some great benefits of gratitude in the workplace, including:
- “Increased engagement: Organisations that recognise their people inspire real connection.
- Higher productivity: When employees feel celebrated and valued, they’re more excited to work.
- Better retention: A positive recognition strategy boosts morale and breeds loyalty.
- Greater motivation: Regular appreciation gives people fresh purpose and momentum.
- More satisfied customers: Employees who are openly praised earn higher loyalty and satisfaction scores.
- Stronger connections: Remote teams feel more connected when positive feedback rolls in.”
Within this INC article social psychologist, Amit Kumar, who is the lead author of a recent study that looks at how people tend to undervalue the effects of showing their gratitude, said; “People think it’s not that big a deal … What was interesting to me is that even though it’s something that’s well-known, people still don’t express gratitude all that often.”
The article goes on to say that ‘In his findings, Kumar discovered that many believe that expressing thanks will be awkward, or that the other person will be offended by receiving an array of compliments. Yet his research showed that people underrated the positive effects their letters had on the recipient. “We found that expressers may worry inordinately about how they are expressing gratitude — their ability to articulate the words ‘just right’ — whereas recipients are focused more on warmth and positive intent,”the study authors wrote.’
Company Culture Boost
Positive recognition is contagious. So, leaders have the opportunity to create a ripple effect of gratitude and thankfulness.
An important part of building a company culture where people feel valued, is proactively taking time to show appreciation and kindness to employees, colleagues, contractors, suppliers, and anyone else involved in helping your company be successful.
If you want to improve your company culture, it certainly seems wise to focus on gratitude.
Recommending Leaders Invest in Gratitude
Having an attitude of gratitude has to be consciously done, purposefully done and something I personally believe leaders benefit from investing in.
If you follow me on social media, you will probably already realise I’m a BIG believer in having an attitude of gratitude – I’ve worked on it personally, I work with clients on this and related topics regularly, and it’s even had a good mention in my book ‘Have It All Without Burning Out’.
For me, having an attitude of gratitude and incorporating gratitude habits into my daily routine, has really helped enhance my resilience, boost my ability to work through challenges, and simply enjoy my everyday life more.
Expressing Gratitude to Work Colleagues
Expressing gratitude to a colleague can start by being aware of simply saying thank you. This doesn’t just mean pop a ‘Many Thanks’ at the end of your email signature, it’s about being intentional and explaining why you’re grateful, what for and why. This could be via conversation, email, text… but it could also be a simple post-it note or card left on someone’s desk or other virtual mechanism – this shows extra effort.
Warnings x 2:
- Don’t overdo it! You don’t want your thank you’s to come across as overworked and disingenuous.
- Be sure to know your audience and offer your thanks in a way that you know will be received well.
Receiving Thanks – Can You Cope?
Not only do we have to be intentional about having an attitude of gratitude, we also need to be intentional when it comes to receiving thanks with grace.
When someone compliments or thanks you, do you accept it gracefully or brush it aside?
A research journal article ‘Sex-Based Differences in Compliment Behavior’ by Robert K. Herbert showed that women have a more challenging time accepting compliments than men, especially when the praise is from another woman.
Many of us, particularly women it seems, automatically respond with; “Oh no worries!” or “No need to thank me!” or “It wasn’t that good!”… and this needs to change. It’s better to acknowledge our responses to compliments and thanks, and stop playing small or putting ourselves down. It’s better to graciously accept the compliment with a simple, “Thank you” or “Thank you – I put a lot of effort into it, so I’m glad you liked it.”
So, the next time you find yourself the beneficiary of someone’s thanks, try to respond positively and avoid putting yourself down.
Build Up The Thanks Bank
Not only is it important to respond to positive feedback and gratitude, but it can also help to record it too. We can easily forget our achievements, whilst we are busy moving on to the next thing, so I always encourage taking the time to capture thanks, wins, achievements, and proud moments.
It might seem basic, but the practice of capturing these things can help with your own motivation, resilience, confidence, and performance. And they are perfect to remind yourself of when the going gets tough.
Give it a go, and encourage your team to too.
Gratitude as a Habit
So, how do you integrate gratitude as a habit? The simple answer is to consciously keep doing it.
Joel Wong, a professor of counselling psychology at Indiana University’s School of Education, said in an article by NYTimes; “I think the benefits of gratitude activities truly unfold through long-term habits.” The article goes on to say, in order to develop an enduring gratitude habit, try linking your gratitude practice to an already ingrained routine, Dr Wong said. He chooses to think about what he’s grateful for in the morning. “I try to do it when I first turn on the computer at work.”
I truly believe that gratitude and positivity are qualities all leaders should invest in personally, and also encourage in the workplace.
By embracing gratitude and mastering the art of giving and receiving compliments and feedback, we are not only enhancing our individual lives but also contributing to happier workplaces where everyone can thrive.
How I Can Help
Day to day I’m helping leaders excel in their roles, whilst thriving overall. And yes, for some people, that might include shining a light on the positive and being grateful for it. If you’re interested in 1:1 coaching support with me, take a look here for more information.