Gratitude is a staple of self-care repertoires everywhere. It’s a research-based, small but significantly impactful practice that can help to shape our thinking and perspectives in positive ways. Many people apply it to themselves, their home life and their personal pursuits.
But it’s still not that common in the workplace.
That said, practices of gratitude and appreciation have seen a rise in importance and inclusion across multiple workplaces, and it’s no surprise why. Gratitude is a fantastic way to promote feelings of happiness and contentment, and when people are happier at work, they’re more engaged and productive.
Expressing our gratitude to colleagues and management can feel awkward — it’s not something that happens frequently in many workplaces. But research is indicating that building a culture of gratitude can transform workplaces, helping colleagues to build stronger connections to each other and their work.
Why Gratitude At Work Matters
Gratitude is the process of recognising the positive things in our lives, but also who and what has contributed towards those positive things.
Often, this can feel counter-cultural to the well-established hierarchies we have in place at work, making it feel uncomfortable to acknowledge our emotions or reliance on others, and to express our gratitude and appreciation.
Yet, the evidence is emerging that openly expressing gratitude in positive and authentic ways at work actually contribute towards happier work culture and happier staff overall.
Expressing gratitude helps staff to feel appreciated, as well as a part of the bigger work structure. When they feel they are a successful part of the organisation they work for and their contributions do not go unnoticed, it promotes individual well-being as well as positive workplace behaviours.
3 Ways To Promote Gratitude At Work
Gratitude at work works best when it is authentically driven, and not just a part of a larger HR ‘Employee Engagement’ campaign. It needs to sincere, direct, and relevant to be the most effective.
Below are three ways to achieve this:
1. Make the Individual the Heart of the Gratitude Response
Gratitude is not one-size-fits-all and needs to be tailored towards individuals and their respective contributions. It should take into account the individual’s broader character and the ways they make the workplace a positive place to be.
Authentic gratitude at work cannot simply be a repurposing of recognition programmes, which are important for acknowledging workplace success and achievements. Gratitude is more about individual behaviours and personalities.
2. Managers and Leaders Must Be On Board
Across our general culture, busyness and always being ‘on the go’ are rewarded and seen as the status quo in many businesses. Taking time out to express gratitude in different ways might make some feel uncomfortable as it may be seen as frivolous and frowned on by management.
Leaders and managers need to set the example they want to see across their company, putting in place easy and accessible ways to promote gratitude. Whether it’s through gratitude letters, an email chain, a public acknowledgement in team meetings, or taking staff out for coffee or lunch. The more on board they are, the more they can help to promote the types of activities they want to see across their staff.
3. Gratitude Needs to Be Embedded in Wider Company Culture
For gratitude at work to really become meaningful and acceptable, it has to be embedded into smaller company practices and in so doing, become part of the broader culture. It’s no good acknowledging some staff one month if those activities are quickly forgotten and swept under the rug in subsequent months when things get busy.
Leaders and managers can make it a weekly or monthly initiative to put gratitude on the radar of themselves and their staff, to keep it consistent and authentic.
Gratitude at work can feel like ‘someone else’s’ problem — but it starts with you.
More than ever, in our remote-working, pandemic-struck times, we need others around us to be positive influences. Taking the time to express gratitude with your colleagues, whether through a quick email or text message, could mean the world of difference to someone as we navigate these challenging times.
In the workplace, gratitude is about so much more than simply saying ‘thank you’ — it’s about demonstrating to those around you that they are ‘seen’.