Thank You in the Workplace

How Gratitude Can Change Your (Work) Life

The holidays are upon us and you know what that means — premature Christmas decorating, seeing those distant relatives for the first time all year, and food. So. Much. Food. But one of the most important and often overlooked parts of this time of year is expressing GRATITUDE. So let’s give thanks, ya’ll! Here’s why:

It’s not new science that tells us about the incredible physical, mental, and social benefits of being grateful. People who show gratitude tend to be more optimistic, happy, less stressed or depressed, and feel more life satisfaction. Physically, gratitude is linked to better sleep habits, increased metabolism, reduced risk of heart disease and cancer, and overall boosts your immune system. Pretty awesome, right?

Well, while there are so many benefits in everyday life to giving thanks, there are also tons of benefits in the workplace. Yes, you heard me right, throwing the phrase “Thank you” around a few times at work (as long as it’s sincere, of course) can lead to increased productivity, reduced absenteeism, and a better, more supportive and collaborative work culture. Say what?! Let’s delve deeper:

According to a survey by the John Templeton Foundation of 2,000 Americans, participants ranked the workplace as the least likely place (over anywhere else) to express or feel gratitude. However, most agreed that saying “thank you” to colleagues makes them “feel happier and more fulfilled”, yet only 10% actually did this regularly, while 60% reported never saying “thank you” or only did so once a year. If we know something so simple makes us feel so much better, why don’t we do it?

Let’s take a look at (I can’t get no) job satisfaction. According to an SHRM study, the top contributors to job satisfaction are #1, “respectful treatment of all employees” and #2, “trust between employees and senior management”. Given research done by psychologists Adam Grant and Francesco Gino, saying “thank you” and hearing it from a supervisor creates just that: a sense of self worth and self efficacy, and trust in the workplace so colleagues are more willing to help each other out.

So. How do we achieve all of these crazy awesome benefits in the workplace? Google’s “Jolly Good Fellow” (yes, that’s his real job title), Chade-Meng Tan, has pioneered this journey starting with gratitude’s sister: compassion.

It starts at the top…

Tan believes that compassion creates highly effective business leaders. So what does that mean? The most effective business leaders are those with ambition and humility. If they have these two ingredients, they are less likely to be motivated to inflate their own egos.

Create a culture of compassion at work: Ask yourself, how can your company serve the greater good or how can you serve it further? This creates grounds for compassion to grow in.

Promote autonomy: based on Tan’s research, if you’ve already created space for compassion and idealism, employees will do the right thing, and do it compassionately.

Personal growth and development: Leadership begins with character. Focus on developing self awareness, self mastery, empathy, and compassion.

Basically, having compassion is the bee’s knees and it’s contagious. Just like the Dalai Lama once said, “If you want others to be happy, practice compassion. If you want to be happy, practice compassion.”

#winning! Celebrate small victories…

And celebrate as they are unfolding! Acknowledging appreciation for efforts or successes in the moment encourages certain actions, fosters confidence and positivity, and builds trust.

If you can, create opportunities for gratitude. For example, start off meetings with focusing on what is working well. According to work by Natalie Currie, the human tendency to focus on the negative is so strong because it is a “critical survival mechanism” that’s amplified in the workplace. Finding ways to incorporate gratitude can kickstart a positivity shift!

Be sincere and be specific…

Unlike a vague “thank you”, the more specific, the more sincere and quality the “thank you” becomes. This signifies respect between colleagues and senior management, as well as reduces the risk of sounding simply like you’re kissing up and therefore, seriously backfiring.

Moral of the story: ’tis the season for giving. And if you give anything this year, give thanks!

By: Eliza Gendron for The Wellness Project NYC