How often do you receive or give thanks at work?
Why should anyone thank you for just doing your job? And why should you ever thank your co-workers for doing what they are paid to do?
One national survey in America noted that people are less likely to feel or express gratitude at work than anywhere else. Almost all participants stated that saying “thank you” to colleagues “makes them feel happier and more fulfilled”, but by the time of the survey only 10 percent of them had acted on that impulse. As many as 60 percent said they “either never express gratitude at work or do so perhaps once a year.” The result is a culturally ingrained circle of ingratitude, which can have an adverse effect on morale and cohesion in the workplace. Why should that be the case? The need for a salary is just one of the motivations we bring to work. We don’t just work for money. We also work for respect, for a sense of accomplishment, for a sense of purpose. We invest our selves and our emotions in our work, and work affects our emotional states. “Thank you” doesn’t cost a dime, and it has measurably beneficial effects.
What does gratitude in the workplace contribute to?
One of the most important aspects of gratitude is the positive spillover effect, i.e. when one behavior contributes to another in a positive way. For example, gratitude encourages individuals to have more trust in each other and are more willing to help each other. Also, gratitude leads to significantly increased levels of happiness, greater life satisfaction, and greater resilience to stress. In addition, it improves physical health, i.e. it has been shown that those who express gratitude are more likely to have fewer headaches and illnesses (Kaplan, 2012). Gratitude is associated with a number of other psychological aspects such as empathy and decreased aggression, self-esteem, and increased mental strength.
Strengthening gratitude at work
– Employees should hear a “thank you” from the boss. A culture of gratitude should first be rooted in an organization, protocols, and procedures. The boss is the first model that employees will observe, so it is important to nurture such a culture from the beginning. E.g. when hiring, employees can be asked how they want to receive a thank you note, when someone leaves the organization, a gathering can be prepared in which thanks will be expressed during the time of the individual in the organization.
– Thank people who rarely get thanks. E.g. thank the person who helped you bind the papers, thank the person who brought you the juice.
– Aim for quality, not quantity. Being grateful cannot be forced. It is important to create a time and place that will reinforce the spontaneous expression of gratitude. E.g. be consistent when you give thanks, give thanks for a specific deed, behavior.
– Provide opportunities for gratitude. E.g. make a wall of gratitude in the office, try to give thanks for the person, not for the thing (“Thank you Ana for making this delicious coffee.” rather than “The coffee was delicious.”)
– When in a crisis, thank. Grateful individuals have been shown to be less susceptible to stress. Therefore, gratitude allows you to rise above a stressful situation and identify opportunities that will contribute to resolving the situation.
When gratitude is sincere and supportive, the benefits outweigh employee satisfaction with the job. Therefore, it would be helpful to overcome the aversion to gratitude at work and understand this as just another career skill that we can apply alongside skills like communication and negotiation. It is something that everyone can learn – from which everyone will benefit.
Kaplan, J. (2012). Gratitude survey. Conducted for the John Templeton Foundation. The Berkeley University Press.