Gratitude in the Workplace

Odds are that your company hosts some type of Thanksgiving festivity. Office potlucks are delicious and great for camaraderie, but there’s one element of the holiday that should be part of your company culture year-round: gratitude. “If we think about gratitude only once a year,” notes author David Horsager, “we overlook the immense power of practicing it daily, especially in a business context.”

A study from the University of Warwick found that happier employees are 12 percent more productive. One of the easiest ways to put a smile on the faces of your team is to express your gratitude for them. It sounds simple, but it’s something far too many entrepreneurs, executives, and managers overlook. The holiday season is the perfect time of year to reflect on whether or not you’re saying thanks enough.

The Benefits of Gratitude

Over the course of his career as CEO of Campbell Soup Company, Douglas Conant wrote more than 30,000 notes to employees expressing gratitude and appreciation to them. “On the face of it, writing handwritten notes may seem like a waste of time,” Conant told Harvard Business Review. “But in my experience, they build goodwill and lead to higher productivity.”

The number of studies that confirm Conant’s assumption are too numerous to list here, but there are a few that should raise the eyebrows of any business owner. A study from the University of Pennsylvania, for example, found that grateful leaders motivate their employees to be up to 50 percent more productive. Gratitude and acknowledgment have also been linked to increased self-esteem, happiness, empathy, and a better response to stress and negative feedback. And the benefits affect both the person expressing their gratitude and the person receiving it.

Everyday Appreciation

During the holidays, it’s easy to take a moment to say thank you to the people who’ve made a difference in our lives over the past year. Sharing your appreciation, however, is just as important in March or August as it is in November. Gratitude begets more gratitude, creating what researchers Robert Emmons and Michael McCullough call an “upward spiral.” Once you set the spiral in motion at your workplace, you’ll see an attitude of gratitude multiply and spread.

The easiest way to start is to create a public forum where employees can acknowledge one another. “We have an all-hands meeting once a week, and we finish the meeting by ‘giving props,’ which is recognizing people on the team for their accomplishments that week,” says Badger Maps CEO Steven Benson. “Anyone on the team can give props to anyone else on the team, which fosters an atmosphere of appreciation and teamwork.”

Other companies have a thank-you wall or shoutout email chain where employees can share their kudos. The most important thing isn’t the method you use, but that you make it an important part of company culture. It starts with leadership. If you aren’t taking the time to recognize and appreciate people, how can you expect that anyone else will? Instilling a culture of gratitude within your company doesn’t require intensive training or extensive investment. All you need to do is encourage a certain perspective and approach.

Outside the Office

Businesses don’t operate in a vacuum. They’re all part of the communities they inhabit, and your company’s sense of gratitude should reach beyond your staff and customers. Community outreach is the best way to show your neighbors that you care about them.

During the holidays, there’s so much you can do for those in need in your area. Simply raising money for a local food bank or donating turkeys will go a long way for a family during Thanksgiving. Holding a companywide fundraiser brings your team together and gives them a sense of purpose that’s much more powerful than a paycheck alone.

Certainly, the power of donating to a worthy cause is reason enough to participate in some philanthropy this holiday season. As a bonus, companies that engage in outreach projects consistently demonstrate higher levels of employee engagement and retention, which goes to show what happens when you get the upward spiral of gratitude in motion.

Go Forth Gratefully

Creating a culture of gratitude and appreciation will benefit your company long after the last piece of pumpkin pie has been eaten. So take a moment this year to say thanks and show love to your team. And don’t stop doing it, even after the holidays have passed.