Last week we talked about bullying and humility. Today, we are going to dive into how gratitude can also help reduce things like bullying and ostracism. Gratitude has a lot of benefits in the workplace! And, recent research shows how a simple intervention can reduce mistreatment. Unfortunately, toxic workplaces are quite common and we know coworkers can often mistreat each other. If you’ve been a victim of mistreatment or maybe have had bad moments yourself, read on to learn why gratitude might be what you need!
The Gratitude Intervention
We’ve talked about various gratitude interventions before and this one is not different. The intervention is simple. Researchers asked participants to journal every work day for 2 weeks with this prompt:
“Try to think about the many things in your job/work, both large and small, for which you are grateful. These might include supportive work relationships, sacrifices or contributions that others have made for you, advantages or opportunities at work, or thankfulness for the opportunity to have your job in general. Think back over the day and write down on the lines below the events that you are grateful or thankful for and why. Try to think of new ideas that you have not focused on in the past.”Locklear, Taylor, & Ambrose (2021)
That’s it! Simple to implement to help boost gratitude. And, the researchers found that this simple intervention reduced incivility, gossiping, and ostracism. In other words, it helped coworkers be kinder to each other, speak well of each other, and be more inclusive. Everyone wins!
Why It Works Against Mistreatment
So why does this gratitude intervention work? We think it’s really interesting. This research not only showed that it did work but explained why. Gratitude helps us have more self-control! As humans, we only have a finite amount of resources to use throughout the day. We only have so much energy during the day that we can use. Self-Regulation Theory highlights that we also only have a limited amount of resources to regulate our emotions, reactions, and impulses. Thus, the more self control we have to practice, the harder it is to have control in the next situation. We can run out of self control.
It makes sense that self control could be tied to mistreatment. If you’ve had a hard day and had to control or regulate your emotions all day, it’s hard to keep it together the next time someone says something you don’t agree with. You might be rude to a coworker just because they accidentally interrupted you at the wrong time. We’ve all been there before – being rude to someone we respect just because they were there when you were already drained of your resources.
Luckily, this study showed that practicing a little gratitude with a gratitude journal can go a long way. Gratitude can help you actually increase your self control resources. And, because you have more self control, you’ll be less likely to gossip, leave people out of conversations, and make rude comments. If you are in an environment where coworkers mistreat each other, you can introduce the idea of a gratitude journal intervention. It’s cheap and easy to implement and you are probably not the only one that feels mistreated. Managers and leaders can easily introduce this intervention when a culture of incivility is occurring. Other interventions like trainings, restructuring, and moving team members around are much more expensive. We’d suggest trying gratitude a try first!