The Power of Gratitude

Thanksgiving is the unofficial kick-off to the holiday season and a time to remind ourselves of what we’re grateful for, while surrounded by great food, family, and/or friends.

This year, maybe we should take some time to think about how we can bring that sense of gratitude into the workplace. Taking the time to deliberately say “thanks” to your colleagues can make you a happier worker, improve the lives of your coworkers, and makes your office a better place to work.

How Gratitude Makes Us Better People

Most of us have experienced the power that gratitude can have on our mood. Receiving praise for a job well done, having someone thank you for your extra effort. Even something as simple as being thanked for holding a door can leave us feeling uplifted for the day. Being thanked can have real and measurable results.

Organizational psychologists Adam Grant and Francesca Gino conducted a study in 2010 to see how receiving gratitude can impact a person’s behavior.

In the study, the participants were asked first to give feedback on a fictional person’s cover letter. After the initial round of feedback had been given, participants received a reply asking for more feedback on a second cover letter. Half of the participants received a reply email with no gratitude, just asking for another round of feedback, while the second half got a reply email expressing gratitude for the first review. The resultant differences were remarkable.

A mere 23% of the No Gratitude group offered feedback on the second cover letter, while a whopping 66% of the Gratitude group sent additional feedback after they were asked.

The day after the initial experiment was conducted, the group received a request from an entirely different person with whom they’d never interacted. In this scenario, only 25% of the No Gratitude group offered any help to this new person, while 55% of the original Gratitude Group offered to help, even though they had never met the person before.

Grant and Gino’s findings show that the effects of gratitude can linger well beyond the initial interaction. That speaks volumes about the power that gratitude can have in the workplace. By saying thanks to your coworkers, you’re creating a more collaborative, open, and happier place to work.

No Love in the Workplace

A study released by the John Templeton Foundation surveyed 2000 American adults and found that people are less likely to feel or express gratitude at work than anyplace else. Furthermore, participants said they were not thankful for their current jobs, ranking them dead last on a list of things they were most thankful for.

That could be because, on any given day, only 10% of people say thank you to their coworkers. One study suggested that up to 60% of people said they “either never express gratitude at work or do so perhaps once a year.” This is both unsurprising, given America’s head-down efficiency-over-everything mentality. But at the same time it’s surprising: almost all respondents reported that saying “thank you” to colleagues makes them, the one saying thanks, “feel happier and more fulfilled.”

This is a cycle that can either be vicious or virtuous around the office. People saying thanks to one another creates a culture of gratitude among coworkers, which in turn creates happier workers. The same can just as easily happen in reverse, though.

In a study published in 2012, researchers found that people with power tended to believe employees thanked them only to kiss-up to them, not out of an authentic feeling of gratitude. As a result of this cynicism, managers were less likely to show gratitude to their subordinates. When managers fail to set an example for their teams, this kind of behavior has a nasty habit of spreading.

The Power of Saying “Thanks”

If you still need convincing of the profound and measurable impacts of saying thanks, let’s run through some more of the benefits. A whole host of studies have found evidence that people who practice gratitude consistently experience:

  • Stronger immune systems and lower blood pressure
  • Higher levels of positive emotions
  • More joy, optimism, and happiness
  • Acting with more generosity and compassion
  • Feeling less lonely and isolated

Gracious people are linked to being happier, healthier, being more present in the moment, more resistant to stress, and to having a higher sense of self-worth.

How You Can Be More Gracious in the Workplace

Taking the time to say thank you to your colleagues can have benefits that reach beyond health — gratitude can have a noticeable effect on the company’s bottom line.

Studies have linked practicing gratitude to happier, healthier, harder-working people. Grateful people have 10% fewer stress-related injuries, are more likely to be physically fit, and have blood pressure as much as 12% lower than those who don’t practice gratitude.

The best thing about it? It’s totally free. Saying ‘thank you’ doesn’t cost a penny. It is a real, tangible way to increase the happiness, health, and productivity of your workers. Making gratitude an initiative in your company can lead to increased profits, decreased expenses, all while tangibly creating a better place to work.

Here are a few tips which will help put you in the mindset to express and receive gratitude from your coworkers:

  • Keep a Gratitude Journal: keeping a simple journal of the thanks you give and receive can have profound effects on your health and well-being. A 2012 study showed that people who kept a gratitude journal for at least two weeks showed significantly increased happiness, greater satisfaction with life, and higher resilience to stress.
  • Watch Your Language: make a conscious effort to use words of gratitude in your everyday life, like gifts, givers, blessings, blessed, fortune, fortunate, and abundance.
  • Ask Yourself Three Questions: use the meditation technique known as Naikan, which involves asking yourself three questions: “What have I received from __?”, “What have I given to __?”, and “What troubles and difficulties have I caused?”
  • Remember the Bad Times: to be grateful in your current state, it helps to remember difficult times you experienced in the past. When you remember how difficult previous points of your life were and how far you have come since then, you set up an explicit contrast in your mind. This contrast is fertile ground for gratefulness.
  • Give Thank You Notes: taking the time to write a thank you note with a short message can make someone’s day. Keep stationary at your desk and pen a quick note whenever you notice the opportunity to give someone thanks.

As we head into the Thanksgiving weekend, remember giving a little gratitude to your colleagues can go a long way. It can have a huge effect on their productivity, health, and morale. By operating with gratefulness on your mind, you can create a happier and better place to work.

Happy Thanksgiving!