The power of gratitude in the workplace

Saying thank you is so 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 an incredibly powerful 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.

Studies also show that employees who receive more gratitude perform kind acts that aren’t part of their job description, such as filling in for colleagues and helping new recruits. This contributes hugely to growing a positive culture in the organisation and creating an environment where employees are happy to go above and beyond.

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, saying thank you and giving credit where credit is due is as good a place to start as any. Everyone wants to feel appreciated and recognised for their efforts and 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. The drive for wanting to do well 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.

Giving and receiving gratitude has been shown to boost mental and physical health. Gratitude 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. 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 vibe 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.

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.

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 wins as well as the star players. 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. This is an easy practice to incorporate into your workplace. Here are 3 steps to create a Thankful Thursday Programme.

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.