Thankful Workplaces: What Gratitude Looks Like at Work

We explore gratitude in the workplace and how you and your organizations can foster feelings of gratitude!

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As a child you were probably taught to thank others for what they do for you. Thanking others remains important in adult life as well, especially at work. Today, we explore gratitude in the workplace and how you and your organizations can foster feelings of gratitude!

In the workplace, gratitude is defined as a person’s orientation to noticing and appreciating the positive in one’s work life. Today, we review 3 different levels of gratitude, what they look like, and how to cultivate that type of gratitude.

Episodic Gratitude

Episodic gratitude is the feeling of appreciation you get in the moment in response to an experience. It’s when you feel grateful that your coworker helps you meet that strict deadline, your manager gives you some extra time off to cope with a family issue, or your company provides you with a new opportunity that you’ve been wanting. This type of gratitude happens during and right after a specific event.

Why is it important?

Episodic gratitude is linked to organizational citizenship behavior. That’s just a fancy way of saying employees that feel grateful for something that was done for them are more likely to help others and the company. Can you imagine what that looks like? Grateful employees can help others meet their deadlines or go out of their way to help a customer even if it’s outside of their normal job.

Those little gestures by your coworkers, leaders, or customers can make you feel gratitude in the moment.

How do you foster it?

In order to feel grateful in a situation, it is important for employees to understand the benefits they are getting. Let’s walk through an example. Two employees are both sent to an expensive training. The first employee has never worked anywhere else and expects that training should be covered by their company. The second employee worked at a smaller company before and has never had this type of training paid for. You can imagine that the two different employees have different levels of gratitude. The first employee might not feel grateful because they expect this benefit. The second employee might be extremely grateful for the opportunity because they know it is not always a given. As an employee, you need to try to be aware of the benefits around you and the help you are receiving from others. Don’t take the good things around you for granted!

It’s also important for employees to feel like the company and managers are doing things for their benefit and not for the company’s bottom line. For example, if HR starts hosting yoga at lunch, the reason behind it matters. If employees think this is happening because a HR really cares about their wellness, then employees will feel grateful for the new benefit. But, if employees think it’s a trick to get them to stay at work later, they are unlikely to feel thankful for the free yoga. Managers, leaders, and HR really need to be careful how new programs, policies, and opportunities are communicated. Make sure there’s a genuinely benevolent reason behind it and your employees will grateful!

Persistent Gratitude

Persistent gratitude is your tendency to feel grateful in a specific context. If you have persistent gratitude at work, you are more likely to see and interpret other people’s actions as something to be grateful for. It’s when you notice the little things that others might miss. For example, you might be thankful that your coworker stopped by your desk to let you know when you could expect their piece of the project because now you can plan your day better. Others might interpret this act as something that’s expected on the job. But someone with persistent gratitude would see it as something to be grateful for.

Why is it important?

People with persistent gratitude are more likely to feel positive emotions at work – things like excitement and happiness. Feeling more positively at work improves overall well-being. Additionally, persistent gratitude can lead to high quality relationships. Employees with persistent gratitude are happier overall, have higher well-being, and have stronger relationships with their coworkers. How great is that?

Writing in a gratitude journal can help you foster persistent gratitude.

How do you foster it?

Persistent gratitude can be developed if it doesn’t come naturally to you. Employees who savor and focus on the experiences they appreciate are the ones that are likely to develop persistent gratitude. If you want to feel grateful more often, take time to reflect on the things that you are thankful for. Spend some time each day thinking about what happened and what experiences make you feel grateful. Remember when your coworker  brought you a cup of coffee when she noticed you seemed tired? Or when your manager praised your work in a big team meeting? Remind yourself of those moments and write them down! Journaling is an effective way to help you practice gratitude. Check out our previous article on journaling for some tips!

Collective Gratitude

Collective gratitude is gratitude at a company level. You can think of this as a culture of appreciation. It is persistent gratitude that is shared by all or most of the members of an organization. It’s where appreciation and thankfulness becomes a part of the company’s social context. Imagine a company where most people are thanking others for all they do. Employees are showing appreciation to their coworkers, their leaders, and their customers. Imagine an organization where everyone notices the little things you do and tell you they appreciate it! Doesn’t that sound like a nice place to work?

Why is it important?

We already know that persistent gratitude leads to well-being and strong relationships. If a company can create a culture of gratitude and spread it across the workforce, then, employees should be happier and more well. That workplace you just imagined is possible!

How do you foster it?

Gratitude is contagious! If you interact with people who show their appreciation and thankfulness, you will become more appreciative and thankful too. Organizations can actually promote gratitude through HR practices. There are so many recognition programs, apps, and software that exists today. Launching these types of programs where people have an outlet to publicly recognize and thank their coworkers can encourage positive gratitude behavior.

Since gratitude is contagious, leaders can also build that collective gratitude more informally. They can implement simple practices like starting team meetings with everyone sharing one interaction they appreciated that month or sending thank you emails to their team members on a consistent basis. Leaders can create a “thank you board” where team members can write and post things they are thankful for. Finally, leadership can share the idea of gratitude journals and provide some fun journals for their team members!

In sum, gratitude can have some important positive impacts in the workplace. Now that you know what can help create more gratitude in the workplace, what do you plan to do? Have you ever tried any of these strategies? Let us know! We’d love to hear from you!

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