Gratitude is a verb.
It’s an action, it’s a mindset, and it’s a way of being. Living with an attitude of gratitude means living in a state of thankfulness. Gratitude is the human way of recognizing the good things in life.
The incredible benefits of gratitude
Gratitude goes a long way toward affecting our overall biological functioning and has a profound effect on our brains and our nervous systems. Biologically, it has been linked to improved sleep, better immunity and lower risk for disease.
Gratitude also lowers stress and reduces toxic emotions that affect our bodies and our brains. Gratitude reduces anxiety and depression while increasing empathy and emotional resilience.
Bringing gratitude to work
Nurturing an attitude of gratitude as part of your corporate culture not only brings individual benefits to employees; it’s also great for your organization. Research suggests that it can transform our work lives, leading to deeper connections, higher job satisfaction and stronger teams. Gratitude also helps organizations persevere and bounce back from adversity.
Here are five ways to help create the time and space needed for gratitude to flourish in your workplace:
1. Build understanding.
Not everyone likes to be appreciated in the same way. While some people may like gifts or public praise, others may prefer a different way of being acknowledged.
Similarly, each individual may like to be appreciated for different things. Building an understanding of these preferences is an important first step before introducing gratitude practices that assume everyone wants the same thing.
2. Practice showing gratitude.
Individual practice of gratitude often involves keeping a gratitude journal that helps people pause and reflect.
The workplace equivalent of a gratitude journal could be a thank-you card, sharing one thing we are grateful for during a meeting check-in, or creating a gratitude channel on Teams, Yammer or Slack.. These activities begin to create social proof of the importance of gratitude and help cue others to change their mindsets and behaviors.
3. Appreciate differences.
Apply a diversity lens to the gratitude practice. Organizations often express gratitude for the same behaviors, actions, and strengths repeatedly—even when those behaviors can be toxic.
A good example is expressing gratitude to someone who has worked all night to get something done. This sends the wrong message. Instead, express gratitude to people for doing things like admitting mistakes, having the courage to say they need help—or for tackling a problem using an unconventional approach.
4. Go beyond the obvious.
Once you get started, finding things to be grateful for as an organization can be easy—but it’s important to show gratitude for the not-so-obvious.
Let’s face it: In some organizations, we forget to appreciate those who do the less than glamourous work. Whether it is those who keep the lights on, the floors clean or the technology working, remembering to express appreciation for the character and contribution of those unsung heroes in our organizations is essential.
Similarly, going beyond the obvious qualities in a person or an aspect of your organization (the transportation network that moves your product, for example) can bring new dimensions to workplace gratitude.
5. Weave gratitude into storytelling.
Storytelling is a powerful force in organizations. It shapes mindsets and behaviors by helping employees understand what is expected of them.
Including stories that feature or weave in elements of gratitude will build the understanding and the cultural competence required to bring the benefits of gratitude to your organization. From the narratives shared by leadership to the stories in newsletters, vlogs or podcasts, expressing gratitude and telling stories about gratitude in your workplace will help people understand how to practice it.
For example, a video by a senior leader might highlight the things she is grateful for, or a story in your company newsletter might share highlights from the Slack gratitude channel or recount how gratitude was practiced by a team.
Gratitude has the potential to build a better employee experience, make the workplace more humane, strengthen connections and build resilience.
How do you plan to build an attitude of gratitude in your organization?
Andrea Greenhous is the founder and creative director of Vision2Voice Communications. Read more of her work on the Vision2Voice blog.