“Gratitude, like faith, is a muscle. The more you use it, the stronger it grows, and the more power you have to use it on your behalf. If you do not practice gratefulness, its benefaction will go unnoticed, and your capacity to draw on its gifts will be diminished. To be grateful is to find blessings in everything. This is the most powerful attitude to adopt, for there are blessings in everything.”
~ Alan Cohen
- Start at the top
This is one of the clearest takeaways from research into workplace gratitude: Employees need to hear “thank you” from the boss first. That’s because expressing gratitude can make some people feel unsafe, particularly in a workplace with a history of ingratitude. It’s up to the people with power to clearly, consistently, and authentically say “thank you” in both public and private settings
- Thank the people who never get thanked
Thanking those who do thankless work is crucial because it sets the bar and establishes the tone.
Yes, faculty do the research and teaching core to a university’s mission, but without a cadre of staff behind them they’d have to raise money for their own salaries and empty their own wastebaskets.
Public appreciation of, for example, administration and physical plant staff makes their contributions visible and thus broadens everyone’s understanding of how the organization functions—and needless to say, it improves morale and increases trust.
- Aim for quality, not quantity
Forcing people to be grateful doesn’t work. It feeds the power imbalances that undermine gratitude in the first place, and it can make expressions of gratitude feel inauthentic.
The key is to create times and spaces that foster the voluntary, spontaneous expression of gratitude.
It’s also the case that studies consistently show that there is such a thing as too much gratitude - it seems trying to be grateful everyday induces gratitude fatigue.
- Provide many opportunities for gratitude
When people are thanked for their work, they are more likely to increase their helping behavior and to provide help to others.
But not everyone likes to be thanked, or likes to say “thank you” - in public. They may be shy or genuinely modest.
The key is to create many different kinds of opportunities for gratitude.
- In the wake of crisis, take time for thanksgiving
Cultivating a culture of gratitude might be the best way to help a workplace prepare for stresses that come with change, conflict, and failure.
Making gratitude a policy and a practice “builds up a sort of psychological immune system that can cushion us when we fall,” writes psychologist Robert Emmons. “There is scientific evidence that grateful people are more resilient to stress, whether minor everyday hassles or major personal upheavals.”
Gratitude helps employees to see beyond one disaster and recognize their gains. Ideally, it gives them a tool “to transform an obstacle into an opportunity,” as Emmons writes, and reframe a loss as a potential gain.
If your office has gone through a crisis, hold a meeting with the aim of gaining a new perspective on the incident.
- 5-minute focus
Set a timer for 5-minutes and challenge yourself to write a morning gratitude list that’s focused specifically on what you’re grateful for at work.
Do this every day for a week, before you delve into your in box, or tackle your daily projects. Keep the list short, but specific.
This is a great way to get out of the bad habit of chronic complaining mode and to jump start your day with enthusiasm rather than dread. If you’re writing on a post it note, stick it to your computer screen to remind you of what you’re thankful for throughout the day.
- Keep a gratitude jar for the company
We do this at home with our kids, so why not bring it into the work place?
Perhaps in a break room or a reception area you could create a receptacle with a nearby notepad and pen, where staff members can jot off some quick gratitudes and put them in the jar.
You could read them annually at a holiday party or compile them quarterly, monthly or weekly and send out in company correspondence.
- Random acts of appreciation
When you’re grateful for something a co-worker did, send a quick email of appreciation. This is a nice way to foster community and wellbeing.
- Hand write thank you notes
If you want to go the extra mile, have an area in the company with a stack of nice stationary, envelopes and a pen.
If you’re reluctant to get the whole company on board, just have these supplies ready at your own desk. Write one thank you note a week to a co-worker (or even your boss) for a month.
Handwriting helps us retain more and promotes better memory recall, so it engraves the gratitude, in your own wellbeing, even more than if you’re typing. The recipient also has something tangible to savor, remember or even pin up by their desk.
- Share your customer love notes
When you receive positive comments from customers, compile them and send them out on a regular basis to everyone in the company.
It’s a great way to keep staff engaged with the mission and nice to hear thank you’s from customers.
The staff in the accounting department might not ever get to hear how well things are going in customer service. Share the positive thank you’s that the company receives with everyone.
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