The power of gratitude in the workplace

WeThrive Team · June 16, 2020

The power of gratitude

It’s a good feeling when someone says thank you and the power of gratitude in the workplace can be hugely significant. Saying thank you is easy, so why is it that gratitude is often lacking in the workplace? Gratitude is a basic human requirement after all. Given that a simple, authentic thank you is actually a great motivator and it costs nothing, it is genuinely astonishing that more managers aren’t thanking their staff more regularly.

Unfortunately there seems to be an attitude in some businesses that saying thank you for what employees are being paid to do isn’t necessary. Yet evidence suggests that gratitude contributes to the kind of workplace where employees actually want to come to work and employee wellbeing is high.

The importance of gratitude in business

Studies also show that employees who receive more gratitude perform kind acts that aren’t part of their and job description, such as filling in for colleagues and helping new recruits. However, the importance of gratitude in business extends far beyond encouraging individual acts. It contributes hugely to growing a positive culture in the workplace and creating an environment where all employees are happy to go above and beyond because they feel valued and appreciated.

Employee engagement is a hot topic right now and many businesses are realising the importance of growing a positive organisational culture. To create a better business culture, expressing gratitude and giving credit where credit is due is as good a place to start as any. Everyone wants a positive experience at work and to feel appreciated and recognised for their efforts. A simple “thank you” is a cost-free way of showing appreciation.

It’s not difficult to comprehend that in order to get true value from employees, they need to feel valued. An important element of gratitude in business is the drive for wanting to do well, which stems largely from feeling acknowledged and appreciated. It really is as simple as that. According to research by the London School of Economics, performance-related pay often does not encourage people to work harder. Gratitude can actually be a better motivator than money.

The positive emotions felt when receiving thanks are clear. Giving and receiving gratitude has been shown to boost mental and physical health. Expressing gratitude at work improves relationships, leads to reciprocity and it boosts self-esteem.

Gratitude is not only good for the person who is thanked

Giving thanks is actually hugely beneficial to the person who is handing out the appreciation, as well as the recipient as paying attention to what we feel grateful for puts us in a positive frame of mind.

Cultivating gratitude has been shown to reduce stress hormones like cortisol by as much as 23 per cent. Robert A Emmons Ph.D, professor of psychology at the University of California thinks of gratitude as fertiliser for the mind, spreading connections and improving its function in nearly every realm of experience.

Emmons says that gratitude affects the body’s biochemistry. It can lower blood pressure, improve immune function and have a positive impact on sleep. People practising gratitude also notice changes in their behaviour, taking more exercise and making healthier food choices.

Feeling gratitude also has health benefits. It is associated with better sleep, decreased pain levels, reduced anxiety and depression, increased energy and fosters a more positive outlook, all of which have implications for better performance and relationships in the workplace. Gratitude is one of the foundations of employee engagement.

How to implement a culture of gratefulness

Nobody wants to work for an ungrateful boss. When people are grateful, they become more concerned for others and that sets up a positive energy in the workplace. Many initiatives to foster gratitude in the workplace fail because they focus on rewarding achievements, instead of the employee. Some managers and leaders aren’t fully appreciative of their employees, seeing them as numbers rather than people.

Positive habits and a culture of gratitude has to start at the top. Just a quick thank you from the boss can go long way. The former CEO of Campbell’s soup once sent 30,000 handwritten thank you notes to his employees. It was part of creating a company-wide culture of gratitude.

Campbells chicken noodle soup

Authenticity is key when showing gratitude. Managers thanking staff because they’ve been told to won’t work. It’s also important to thank and acknowledge small things as well as the big achievements. Also, team success is just as important as personal wins.

As with all aspects of company culture, gratitude as a natural practice in the workplace needs to be nurtured. Jeremy Watkin (voted as one of the top 25 Thought Leaders for 2016) introduced Thankful Thursday into his workplace. It’s a great idea to embed a gratitude practice into your workplace and Thankful Thursday is an easy way to do it. Here are 3 steps to create a Thankful Thursday Programme:

How to express gratitude at work

Thank you cards

Expressing gratitude with a physical token of appreciation feels authentic and genuine. It’s a good idea to have a stock of thank you cards in the office for when a moment arises that warrants a simple thank-you.

Employee gratitude letter or email

The positive effects of sending handwritten letters or emails were researched and carried out by professor Steve Toepfer to determine the psychological benefits. His research found that the recipients of gratitude experienced enhanced levels of life satisfaction and happiness, as well as decreased symptoms of depression.

Template for a thank you letter or email to express gratitude to employees at work

Dear [insert name]
On behalf of the [insert your company’s name] management, I would like to extend our appreciation for the amazing work done by you in [reaching specific goals/going the extra mile/ referring a job vacancy candidate/being innovative/helping our new starter feel part of the team/being a good leader etc].
Your diligence, self-motivation and passion for your role within [insert company name] are really admirable.
We know the amount of effort that you put into your work and we want to assure you that your efforts are significantly appreciated.
Our sincere thanks. We are very lucky to have you!
Kindest regards,
[insert your first name, last name, position]


One of the ways to show gratitude at work is by starting the day every Thursday (or whichever day you choose) to remind everyone with an announcement that today is a day of gratitude. Encourage employees to reach out to someone who has helped them in the week and say thank you.

Positive words for all

It doesn’t matter which position you hold in the organisation. Everyone can take part and create greater positivity in the workplace   You’ll soon notice that it’s time to order in some more thank you cards!

Business leaders and managers failing to thank their employees won’t get the best from their people. A lack of gratitude at work leaves employees feeling unsatisfied, unappreciated and demotivated, all of which have a significant impact on employee happiness and productivity.

Create a “thank you” channel in your communication system

Remote and hybrid employees who have less face-to-face contact at work can be unsure of how to express gratitude to your team. Creating a “thank you” or “kudos” channel in your messaging system where employees and managers can show gratitude at work is a powerful way for people to feel recognised for their contributions, and part of the wider company whilst working away from the office.

Saying thanks is for business partners too

Employers don’t just have to feel limited in showing gratitude to employees. Being grateful can extend to your business partners and clients too. Mintridge Foundation publically shared their positive feedback for their corporate partner, Bowbridge Homes in recognition of their support for their school campaigns encouraging an active lifestyle.

About WeThrive

Employee Engagement, Evolved

WeThrive is the agile employee engagement platform that uncovers how your people truly feel, enabling managers to create highly effective teams, increase employee retention and employee wellbeing and deliver better business results.

At organisation, team or individual level WeThive’s unique 4cs model leverages the latest psychological understanding to quickly and easily deliver insights, actions and learning content to help your managers become better managers, creating a high performance culture and improving business results. UK based, WeThrive has an average 91% employee engagement survey completion rate and to date has made over 5000 company-wide recommendations.