Is gratitude deficit rising in the workplace? When was the last time you sent an employee, colleague or customer a sincere thank-you note or a personalized gift to show your genuine appreciation for what they do? If it has been so long you cannot remember, you may not be alone.
A recent survey of 2,000 Americans found, while almost everyone agreed that thankful bosses would be more successful, only 10% actually reporting acting on their impulse to express thanks on any given day. Often we take other people’s work and help for granted (“they are just doing their job”). Or, we assume employee-recognition programs are sufficient at rewarding extra effort. But does another company mug really tell someone they are valued?
The American writer William Arthur Ward noted that, “gratitude can transform common days into thanksgivings, turn routine jobs into joy, and change ordinary opportunities into blessings.”
Scientific research is beginning to support folk wisdom. In 2003, a study by psychologists Robert A. Emmons and Michael E. McCullough compared three groups: a group who kept a weekly journal noting things they were grateful, a second group who kept a weekly journal focusing on things that irritated or displeased them and a third group that simply noted all events that impacted them. After 10 weeks, the first group wasn’t only much more optimistic and goal directed, but also had fewer visits to their doctor and exercised more.
Subsequent studies have linked higher gratitude levels with greater happiness as well as better financial decision making and problem solving skills. A 2014 economic working paper showed that happy people are more productive. And Google recently began a study of 4,000 randomly selected employees (“gDNA study”) to gain insights into how employee happiness drives engagement.
Improving workplace morale isn’t the only reason to practice thankfulness. More studies show gratitude practices not only result in better sleep, mood and alertness, but surprisingly, may also improve overall health as well as physical risk markers for future disease.
So, if you want to be an effective leader, and help your teams thrive–you should regularly show your appreciation to others and cultivate being grateful for the goodness in your own life. Writing a heartfelt note to an employee can be significant–but it isn’t the only way. Celebrating “small wins,” a few sincere words in the hallway, taking an employee for lunch or a “call out” to express gratitude before a team meeting can also be meaningful.
By Dr. P. Murali Doraiswamy
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