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Gratitude is Powerful: Especially at Work

November 24, 2021
Gratitude is Powerful: Especially at Work

Gratitude is Powerful: Especially at Work

As we sit and reflect on the past year, the upcoming holidays, and 2022 looming around the corner, it is easy to focus on what went wrong, we missed, or didn’t get (see negativity bias). Knowing that we cannot change the past, let’s flip the perspective and focus on what did happen and what brought us joy.

Gratitude is the expression of appreciation for what we have, a simple way to boost your mood (mental and physical health), and a practice that can be learned and deliberately cultivated. People feel and express gratitude in multiple ways. They can apply it to the past (retrieving positive memories and being thankful for elements of childhood or past blessings), the present (not taking good fortune for granted as it comes), and the future (maintaining a hopeful and optimistic attitude). Regardless of the inherent or current level of someone’s gratitude, it’s a quality that individuals can successfully cultivate further.

Gratitude at work is often overlooked or forgotten (we are primarily task-focused and stress narrows what we see and feel). One survey found respondents “actively suppress gratitude on the job, even to the point of robbing themselves of happiness.” Colleagues (and people generally) like knowing that their contributions are valued. We may very much value everyone on the office and assume they know that (“Why wouldn’t they? I’m happy to see them every day.”). But that assumption needs to be reinforced continuously and consistently. After all, our colleagues also experience negativity bias (It’s not just us. Human nature applies universally). Plus, the simple act of showing gratitude, in addition to making us healthier and happier, increases optimism, boosts career goals, encourages better decision-making.

For me it is a deliberate practice. I’ve started emailing and texting people this week and “plan” to continue with thoughts of appreciation and love for the little things I may have taken for granted. This is the beginning of cultivating my practice with the intent for it to grow and become a natural, everyday occurrence.

Here are some ways we all can start:

  • Say “Thank you” or “good job.”
  • Leave a “Thank you post it” on someone’s keyboard or with your edits.
  • Provide personalized praise (a note or email praising a specific accomplishment, always having a positive attitude, being thoughtful).
  • Celebrate wins office-wide.
  • Promote peer-to-peer encouragement (In one of my workplaces, we did a “gold star shout-out” at our staff meetings. I was resistant but we all embraced it and loved getting our stars).
  • Invest in personalized, professional development opportunities (give folks a list of options and have an in-house training on the one folks want the most).
  • After a hard day, week, month, encourage your colleagues to leave early or take a personal day (even if they do not take it, they appreciate having the option).
  • Return a favor after someone has done one for you (it tells the other person that the relationship is not one-sided).

Employee dissatisfaction is one of the top reasons for attrition. Some sincere words of appreciation can pick up an employee or co-worker who is showing signs of burnout or depression. It also helps to strengthen relationships and at work, improve office morale (in-person and virtually), builds pride in the individuals and throughout the office.

Building a culture of gratitude at work is not easy, but the science says it’s worth it.

Additional Resources:

  • The Lawyerist on Gratitude: Article
  • “10 ‘Τhanks for your hard work’ ideas for your employees:” Article.
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