Cultivating an Attitude of Gratitude in the Workplace

As we enter the official season of gratitude and giving thanks, I’ve been working on my annual “what I’m grateful for” list to share during my family’s Thanksgiving celebration. Of course, I’m grateful for my amazing family and incredible friends, and I express gratitude for them not just at Thanksgiving but every day. However, equally as impactful to my daily life and happiness are my work colleagues. Considering the large portion of waking hours I spend at work, I’m grateful for all of the colleagues who have become extensions of my family throughout my career. These are people I rely on day in and day out. We work as partners and teammates to collaboratively meet our collective goals. In reflecting on my work family, I have been thinking about how gratitude is expressed in the work place and what a difference a simple “thank you” can make to someone’s work experience and connectedness and how that can translate into productivity and career growth.

I did some research on the topic and found some fascinating results showing that simple, yet authentic, gratitude offers significant benefits for both the individual and their organization:

  • Boosts Job Productivity and Performance – According to a study conducted by researchers at the University of Pennsylvania, leaders who express thanks tend to motivate their employees to be more productive. Another study showed a strong correlation between employee performance and managers who regularly recognize and thank their teams. In that study, almost 40 percent of employees said that more personal recognition would encourage them to deliver a higher level of job performance.
  • Strengthens Teams – According to UC Davis psychology professor Robert Emmons, author of “The Little Book of Gratitude: Creating a Life of Happiness and Wellbeing by Giving Thanks,” gratitude “takes people outside of themselves and to a place that is part of a larger, more intricate network of sustaining relationships that are mutually reciprocal.” By recognizing the contributions of your colleagues, you can help foster a positive team-based environment in which people are more trusting and reliable.
  • Leads to Higher Job Satisfaction and Retention – Employees who are part of a workplace culture that encourages gratitude experience higher levels of overall job satisfaction. A 2015 report by TINYpulse comprising data from more than 30,000 employees across 500+ organizations, showed that employees who receive regular recognition are more likely to rate their workplace as “fun.” Additionally, Globoforce, an employee retention firm, found that 55 percent of workers would leave their current job for a company that recognizes its employees’ efforts and contributions.
  • Improves BusinessA study conducted by Deloitte found that companies with well-established employee recognition programs are 12 times more likely to have strong business results.

So how do you infuse gratitude into the workplace? Following are my go-to tips. Yes, they are simple, but they can be profoundly impactful:

  • Be Authentic: Sincerity is key. If the expression of appreciation is not perceived as being honest and real, the gesture will fall flat.
  • Be Specific: Don’t just offer a generic “thank you for all your work.” Use concrete examples to describe what the person did and why you are grateful.
  • Be Consistent: Express thanks on a regular basis – acknowledge the work and effort contributed to a goal – no matter how big or small. A quick email reply goes a long way. At the end of each day or week, think about those who have had a positive impact on you and take the time to thank them. Take 5 to 10 minutes to handwrite a thank-you note to show your appreciation.
  • Be Public with Your Acknowledgement: Share your appreciation in a team meeting. Public recognition and acknowledgement of your team members’ talent creates a sense of work family that can help you exceed your individual and collective goals.

Recognizing with gratitude the efforts of your colleagues and their unique contributions shows that you value them and they matter to you and your organization. Expressing thanks can transform our work lives for the better. I know. I’ve seen it happen first-hand and it’s an amazing feeling.

Sending a heartfelt thank you to everyone who has positively impacted both my personal and professional lives and wishing you all the best for a wonderful holiday season filled with gratitude.


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Angela Gillespie
Angela Gillespie
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