Does your memory get leaky like mine? Why is it that we forget the simplest things, such as where we put our car keys or that we’re out of oatmeal? Sometimes, we even forget the most basic essentials that directly affect our own happiness.
I’m talking about gratitude and its close cousin, appreciation.
Imagine you’re in a meeting called by your company’s leadership. The recent changes in structure, roles and cultural rules have put everyone on the defensive. Morale and confidence are low. Uncertainty is high and the toxicity level is noticeable. If you were in charge, what would you do first?
Gratitude in the workplace = no more unhappy employees
Now imagine a shift in attitude. Instead of complaining, people talk about the benefits of what’s good in their work and personal lives. Then, they express this to their colleagues. Real connections can grow in an atmosphere of gratitude and appreciation. Forget the pecking order for a while and find some genuine thankfulness that you can direct toward co-workers. It may inspire others to do the same!
Douglas Conant, the former CEO of old-school Campbell’s Soup, took time to hand write personal “thank you” notes to employees and partners — from maintenance workers to vice presidents. He estimates around 30,000 notes were written over the course of his tenure. The Journal of Business and Psychology published “A Test of Two Positive Psychology Interventions to Increase Employee Well-Being,” a study on the effectiveness of individual responsibility for workplace well-being. The results were mixed with the exception of one clear data point:
The social connectedness exercise did not significantly impact any of those four outcomes. However, both interventions related to a reduction in workplace absence due to illness. The study suggests that self-guided, positive psychology interventions (particularly gratitude) hold potential for enhancing employee well-being.1
A sense of the dignity and purpose in work can affect much in our lives, including our physical health. There is no way around the fact that happy, grateful employees are more productive and profitable for any business. There is very little cost to building a culture of gratitude in a department or an entire enterprise. In fact, the benefits are high.
You’ll hear this often from Larek Point: “We believe that employees are much more engaged when they know that their efforts are appreciated. A simple heartfelt and authentic ‘thank you’ goes a long way to benefit both the employee and the bottom line.”
How to Grow Gratitude
There are so many appropriate and simple ways to start growing a culture of appreciation in your workplace. One of the best examples is a letter of gratitude exercise from the University of California Berkeley’s Greater Good Science Center.
As you brainstorm ideas for bringing gratitude to your context, remember these concepts:
1) Gratitude is about whole people, not solely the tasks they accomplish. It’s not enough to say, “Good job on that report, Sally.” What was behind the good job? Perseverance? Resourcefulness? Creativity? Sacrifice? The good stuff happens when you look beyond the numbers to the human heart behind the work.
2) Gratitude should be tailored, not off the rack. Don’t lay out a general blanket of appreciation and expect it to go well. Some people will be completely turned off by the kinds of appreciation you like. Everyone has a “sweet spot” when it comes to their language of gratitude. Author Gary Chapman proposes several “love languages” with such subcategories as giving gifts or well-chosen words. A brief online search can give you hundreds of ideas for ways to appreciate. By far the best way to discover an individual preference is to ask or to pay attention to what they do to express gratitude. We typically default to our own favorite means of expressing gratitude.
3) Gratitude must be top-down or not at all. Without buy-in from the very top, you’ll end up with a mere temporary stab at a grateful work culture that will evaporate over time. Leaders must own and drive the habits that will influence the organization in ways that are passed down through a positive work culture legacy.
Appreciation is the intentional act of focusing on the good — naming and affirming the positive aspects of events, other people, experiences and situations. Gratitude goes a step further in pinpointing the reasons behind the appreciable. Gratitude acknowledges sources of good that are outside ourselves, and serve as an understanding that we actually owe something to the positive traits of other people.
Never is this more needed than in our current cultural tendencies of hypercompetition and depersonalizing. Long live gratitude!
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