What Can Gratitude Bring to the Workplace and are UK Corporates Behind the Curve?

Gratitude at work

People are getting better and better at delivering consistent, reliable results at work, allowing companies to reach incredible heights. But as these results become the expectation, we run the risk of forgetting that our employees and co-workers are, first and foremost, people. In order to feel content and fulfilled, we all need to give and receive a bit of gratitude. And, not just for what we can do for our employers, but for the people we are and the people we strive to be every day.

James K. Harter, Ph.D., Chief Scientist for workplace management at Gallup, notes that at least three-quarters of the time, employees leave their jobs not because of compensation, but because of the culture. And in fact, Corporates here in the UK might experience that employee turnover worst of all. Workhuman conducted its International Employee Survey in 2019. Of all the countries surveyed, UK employees reported the lowest levels of gratitude. We have our work cut out for us!

Many people go to work with the mindset that they need to focus on their own career advancement. How co-workers have helped them progress can easily be overlooked. But appreciation and gratitude are essential to creating an environment that employees want to come back to.

A culture of gratitude can lead your company to even greater success.

A lack of gratitude in the workplace leads to job dissatisfaction, burnout, absence and, eventually, turnover. Incorporating genuine appreciation into your regular operations helps increase satisfaction and motivation, prompting a concomitant boost in productivity. 

It might also be your best over-the-counter solution to reduce sick days! A more positive working environment stimulates higher levels of dopamine release. The result, a boost in our colleagues’ energy, optimism, and wellbeing, in addition to helping them manage stress. Laughter might be the best medicine, but showing you’re thankful helps, too.

A more appreciative culture can improve relationships with management and other co-workers. Employees who feel valued are more comfortable collaborating and looking for opportunities to advance their career within the company.

Many large companies have already seen the benefits of gratitude in their workplace.

Research on gratitude is on an upward trend, but some prominent corporates are already touting its advantages.

Southwest Airlines, America’s second-best large employer in 2019, owes a lot to a culture of gratitude and appreciation for that ranking. Among other practices, company leaders make sure to mark important events in employees’ personal lives by sending things like flowers or cards. It’s a nice gesture in itself, but it also acknowledges the importance of one’s life outside of work.

Glitch is the small but influential New York tech company responsible for creating Trello, the list-making software, and Stack Overflow, the programming enthusiast flagship website of the Stack Exchange Network. The company holds regular townhalls with everyone on staff. One of their longest-lasting and most effective townhall traditions is to have people stand up and publicly acknowledge contributions from their co-workers. Glitch CEO, Anil Dash initially had reservations about the idea, but he attests to better communication and overall collaboration among his teams.

But the benefits companies and employees can derive from a bit of gratitude reach far beyond the office.

Showing employees you care inspires them to do the same.

Doug Conant was CEO of Campbells Soup for more than a decade. During his tenure, he had a team search for employees contributing to the company’s success. Conant personally handwrote around 30,000 letters of gratitude to his employees. The positivity he shared came full circle when he was involved in a severe car accident. Conant attests his speedy recovery to a mass of get-well letters from colleagues who genuinely cared about his wellbeing, as he did theirs. What a beautiful story.

Practicing gratitude can help create a workforce with a closer connection to their community, at work, and in their personal lives. Employees who practice and receive gratitude are much more likely to open up for real discussions with friends, family, and co-workers. They also engage more in “organisational citizenship”: looking for ways to pitch in beyond their job description, like filling in for a co-worker or creating a welcoming environment for newcomers. 

It doesn’t have to end at gratitude!

Gratitude and appreciation can create such a positive environment in your workplace and strengthen the collaborative mood, but the transformation doesn’t have to end there. This positive practice can be just what you need to open your workplace to more empathy, compassion, and forgiveness. 

Practicing gratitude and recognising other people’s efforts is a gateway to a better understanding of yourself and the people with who you spend your time. Here are a few things in mind:

Gratitude is about the person as a whole, not just recognition for their work performance or achievements.

Gratitude won’t work the same for everyone. Not all employees desire the same forms of appreciation. Stephanie Pollack put together a book of 52 different ways to show appreciation and gratitude. That’s one a week for a year. Are you up for a challenge?

Leadership needs to fully embrace the practice of gratitude as much as their employees. Otherwise, employees will view it as just another attempt to squeeze a bit more productivity from them.

To create lasting change, companies need to make a culture of gratitude. Yearly awards and a “thank-you” speech at the Christmas party won’t do. Sincere appreciation has to be ingrained in every aspect of your operations.

Nothing will change overnight, but make an effort to employ gratitude throughout the day, and you’ll start to see a shift in mindset. Not everyone will be onboard — any change to the workflow might see some complaints — but you only need a few willing role models before it catches on and picks up like a wildfire. Why not start right now and extend thanks to someone who helped you today? Thank you for reading this article.

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