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Gratitude’s Role in Fostering Positive Work Relationships

gratitude in the workplace

Giving thanks to employees isn’t just a nice thing to do – it could be the thing that completely turns around your office culture and makes your company healthier, happier, and more lucrative.

Robert Emmons is a professor of psychology at UC Davis, and he has been researching gratitude and its effects for a long time. What he has found is that lack of gratitude is a major factor contributing to toxic work environments. Job dissatisfaction, high employee turnover, and burnout are often present in office cultures that don’t place a premium on gratitude. At the other end of the spectrum, offices that value and express gratitude tend to have fewer complaints, less exploitation, entitlement, gossip, and general negativity.

Part of the reason for that amazing effect is that when people express gratitude to one another, it tends to lower aggression levels and create a sense of unity. Teams grow stronger and people focus more on what connects them rather than what divides them.

And it makes a lot of sense when you think about the mechanics of giving thanks. In order to tell someone that you appreciate them with any level of sincerity, you have to take a moment to reflect on why you appreciate them. In that reflection, you weigh the value of their contributions, take note of their unique traits, and find the words or gesture to show them that they have value in your eyes. Employee appreciation – and gratitude more generally – is intrinsically a process of reflection and connection, and that process helps foster more positive relationships both in and out of the office.

In fact, expressing gratitude – whether through formal employee recognition programs or a verbal “thank you” at the end of each work day – can be the best first step toward other work culture goals, such as improving emotional intelligence, conversational intelligence, and appreciation for diversity. Peter Bonanno, director of a nonprofit that promotes mindfulness and emotional intelligence for individuals and teams, describes gratitude as the “gateway drug” for empathy, because gratitude is always positive and it’s easy to express.

Studies support this belief, as research has shown that grateful employees and employees who receive more gratitude tend to engage in more acts of kindness that aren’t part of their job description. Those acts could be taking out the trash or adding a spontaneous note to an office gratitude board.

The best thing about gratitude is that anyone can do it. It’s free, it’s easy, and its benefits are nearly endless. So, as you give thanks with family and friends this holiday season, remember to bring that gratitude with you to work, as well.

And know that we are grateful for you! Enjoy your holidays, and thank you for being a part of the Level Up Leadership family!

About Joy Ruhmann
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