INSEAD

The Transformative Power of Gratitude in the Workplace

gratitude

Professionals are often told to foster collaboration and teamwork in the workplace. Both improve productivity and can increase job satisfaction and retention rates—all measures that benefit individual employees and companies.

But it’s important to recognize one crucial element that underlies these principles: gratitude.

Gratitude is a readiness to show appreciation and kindness. In the workplace, it’s saying thank you when a coworker responds to an email, goes the extra mile, helps you with an assignment, or offers advice. It’s a small favour you can pay forward whenever you benefit from someone else’s effort.

How Gratitude Impacts Company Culture

Cultivating an atmosphere of gratitude creates a more productive and enjoyable work environment for everyone right from the start. It drives higher levels of collective work performance and fosters cooperation and camaraderie among staff. Some studies also demonstrate that gratitude can improve an employee’s mental and physical well-being, in addition to reducing their risk of developing burnout.

Gratitude delivers on all these fronts by having two significant impacts:

  • First, it transforms stress—something we all feel occasionally—into positive energy and determination to overcome challenges.
  • Second, it fosters optimism and resilience.

Why kindness might be the most important trait for a leader—and how to leverage that insight at work.


How to Build a Culture of Gratitude

Want to harness the power of gratitude in the workplace? Take the following steps.

1. Spell it out.

First, if you don’t feel gratitude in your day-to-day life, you need to foster that feeling more regularly. Every day, list several things you’re grateful for and reflect on them. Include at least one or two items that relate to your work so that you come to appreciate those experiences more profoundly.

gratitude

2. Don’t wait for a review.

You don’t need to express gratitude every day, but try to communicate those sentiments at least once per week. When you thank someone, point to a specific action or quality. You don’t need to wait for a big event like a performance review to show that you appreciate someone’s work. If employees are only thanked under specific circumstances, they could view the action as perfunctory or insincere.

3. Show respect.

To make your gratitude authentic, you need to show that you trust and respect the other person. Resist any temptations to micromanage and honor their individual autonomy. Try to avoid interrupting people, let your team manage their own time, and invite others to contribute their input on the decisions that affect them. Be pleasant when you interact with coworkers, even if you need to deliver constructive feedback.

4. Be specific.

Sometimes saying thank you can feel like a social nicety. For example, you might sign off an email with a quick “Thanks!” and then move on. It’s used to fill a gap in the conversation so you can get back to work.

This exchange doesn’t seem like a genuine sign of appreciation. To make the message more meaningful, highlight something specific about what the individual has done to help you. For example, you can thank a coworker for pushing the team to think bigger and reach for solutions that require more effort but will produce better results.

5. Follow through.

The best way to demonstrate gratitude is through action. Show a coworker that you value their input by rewarding their work. A reward doesn’t always need to take the form of monetary compensation, although a raise or bonus might be the simplest way to show that you appreciate an employee. You can also offer an early dismissal or additional paid time off (PTO), take a colleague out for coffee or lunch, provide a gift card, or share a book with them that you enjoyed. There are lots of small ways to give thanks that will motivate and inspire your team.

Everyone benefits when business leaders make a deliberate decision to build their company culture around gratitude. It has the power to make a company more productive and galvanise employees to perform their best work. It can also make the company environment more enjoyable, support employee wellness, and keep talented workers on staff. Even though it only takes a few moments to express your appreciation, the payout will create a lasting and positive impact on your business.


More tips from Ivy Exec about creating a productive and happy workplace culture.


 

About the Author

As one of the world's leading and largest graduate business schools, INSEAD offers participants a truly global educational experience. With campuses in Europe (France), Asia (Singapore) and Middle East (United Arab Emirates), INSEAD's business education and research spans three continents. The school’s 145 renowned faculty members from 40 countries inspire more than 1,400 students in its degree and PhD programmes. In addition, more than 11,000 executives participate in INSEAD's executive education programmes each year. INSEAD’s EMBA programmes are highly ranked by Financial Times, and ranked #1 by Ivy Exec in 2018.