September 26, 2017: Creating or Nurturing a Positive Culture: Practicing Gratitude

By Scott E. Friedman, Andrea H. HusVar, and Eliza P. Friedman

Last week we discussed how fostering social connections and promoting “psychological safety” can create benefits for both individuals and organizations.

Today we turn our attention to another key, scientifically proven strategy that not only promotes a positive workplace culture, but can also lead to personal health benefits.

This is the art of expressing gratitude.

Within any relationship, although perhaps particularly so with family members in business together, it can be easy to take others for granted and fail to offer thanks for a job well done. The practice of expressing appreciation encourages others to think more positively, which strengthens family relationships and enhances the company’s bottom line by helping employees feel calm, re-energized, and think more clearly. This allows employees to function more productively. For example, “when managers take the time to thank their employees, those workers are more engaged and productive.”[1]

Similarly, Appirio, an IT consulting company, found that sixty percent of job seekers said they cared the most about whether their potential co-workers seemed to be appreciated by their prospective employer. In comparison, only five percent said it was most important to know how fast they could get promoted, and just “4% were most concerned with knowing how often employees were evaluated for raises.”[2]

Professional advisors might consider offering the following suggestions to their clients:

  • Encourage people to express thanks in person and on a timely basis
  • Be specific when acknowledging effort, particularly if it involved an extraordinary contribution, such as working at night or on weekends
  • When appropriate, acknowledge teams—and teamwork
  • Keeping a gratitude journal; and
  • Simply making oneself available to listen to a family member or co-worker.[3]

It might also be noted that saying thank you to staff or coworkers is also beneficial to your health. In a meta-analysis of several studies, Harvard Health found that “[g]ratitude helps people feel more positive emotions, relish good experiences, improve their health, deal with adversity, and build strong relationships.”[4] Further, “[r]esearch conducted at the University of California, Davis, found that people who worked daily to cultivate an attitude of gratitude experienced improved mood, energy and substantially less anxiety due to lower cortisol levels.”[5]

Next week we’ll discuss two more ways in which companies can create even more positivity in the workplace.

[1]Dacher Keltner, Don’t Let Power Corrupt You, Harv. Bus. Rev. (Oct. 2016), https://hbr.org/2016/10/dont-let-power-corrupt-you.

[2] Dom Nicastro, Appirio Says a Simple ‘Thanks’ Can Help You Keep Your Best Workers, CMS Wire (Aug. 10, 2016), http://www.cmswire.com/digital-workplace/appirio-says-a-simple-thanks-can-help-you-keep-your-best-workers.

[3] See Kennon M. Sheldon & Sonja Lyubomirsky, How to Increase and Sustain Positive Emotions: The Effects of Expressing Gratitude and Visualizing Best Possible Selves, 1 J. Positive Psychol. 73, 75  (2006) (commenting on the positive psychological impact of expressing gratitude); Stephanie Vozza, The Science of Gratitude And Why It’s Important in Your Workplace, Fast Company (Nov. 24, 2016) https://www.fastcompany.com/3065948/the-future-of-work/the-science-of-gratitude-and-why-its-important-in-your-workplace.

[4] Giving Thanks Can Make You Happier, Harv. Health Publications: Healthbeat (Nov. 2011), http://www.health.harvard.edu/healthbeat/giving-thanks-can-make-you-happier.

[5]Travis Bradberry, 3 Powerful Ways to Stay Positive, Forbes (Aug. 23, 2016), http://www.forbes.com/sites/travisbradberry/2016/08/23/3-powerful-ways-to-stay-positive/2/#1a7332ca6c6d.