Since we were little kids, most of us have been reminded to say "Thank You". But in many work environments, gratitude has all but disappeared among the frenzy of deadlines, competition, burnout and a general feeling of being overwhelmed.
It’s unfortunate, because who wants to work for an ungrateful boss? No one.
But somehow this thankless attitude has become pervasive in many organizations. In this day of being connected 24/7, it’s easy to feel overwhelmed, overworked and stressed out. Without gratitude, people can easily become disengaged and demoralized.
To make it worse, many leaders have shared that they don't feel that employees need to be thanked for just doing their job. They ask, “Isn't this what a paycheck is for?”
Me - deep breath, pause. “It’s time to flip the script now”!
We all have experienced the positive feelings that come with being acknowledged for doing something well. These feelings often drive our positive repeat behavior. But even more poignantly, research continues to prove that in work environments where employees feel appreciated and engaged they have higher levels of retention, are more productive and have better attendance. As a direct result the organization is more productive and profitable.
Gratitude can make real impact, not only to your employees, but also to your customers, partners and your bottom line. This is no surprise! If you don't feel appreciated, would you be doing anything more than your basic job duties to get a paycheck?
However, even armed with this knowledge, many leaders still don't get it. In a 2013 survey on gratitude sponsored by the John Templeton Foundation, results showed that many Americans find the office to be the last place where they either give or receive thanks. Amazingly, 80% of respondents agreed that receiving gratitude makes them work harder, but only 10% expressed gratitude to others every day.
APPRECIATION IS A BETTER MOTIVATOR THAN MONEY
Gratitude is a non-monetary motivator. Saying “Thank You” doesn’t cost a dime, and it has measurably beneficial effects. A study from The Energy Project and Harvard Business Review shares that employees who felt they were regularly recognized and appreciated by their leader reported 53% higher focus, 58% higher engagement, and 109% higher likelihood to stay with their organization.
Additionally, lack of acknowledgment is one of the top 3 reasons that employees leave their job.
Building a culture of gratitude at work is not easy, but it’s worth the effort. So here are four proven tips for fostering gratitude on the job. (Proven successful when done systematically, authentically and consistently - Reinforcement is often key!)
1. Lead By Example
Sadly many workplaces thrive on negativity. Expressing gratitude is far from the norm and in the current state, employees may not feel comfortable doing so. It’s up to the people with power to clearly, consistently, and authentically say “Thank You” in both public and private settings.
“A personal thank you means a lot to employees”, says Doug Conant, (former CEO of The Campbell's Soup Company) “Believe it or not, I've sent roughly 30,000 hand written notes to employees over the last decade. While some think that thank you notes are a waste of time, in my experience, they boost good will and productivity”.
Google’s Larry Page is the highest rated CEO on Glassdoor.com in 2015. The company’s own “Reasons to Work at Google” reflect his way of doing things, declaring: “We love our employees and we want them to know it” and “Appreciation is the best motivation.”
2. Be Genuine
Mandating gratitude doesn’t work. It feels inauthentic and forced.
The key is to for leaders to promote the benefits of gratitude and for them to do it publicly and consistently. Create a safe environment and clear processes to do so. Make it voluntary and spontaneous – but again, it must start at the top. Promote the positivity. Whether you give or get, it all feels good.
3. Weave Gratitude into your Culture
When people are acknowledged for their good work, they are more likely to increase their positive behavior and to provide assistance to others. There are many ways to do this and it’s important to find the ways that feel most genuine to your organization and your employees.
A. Research finds that keeping a gratitude journal makes you happier, healthier and more focused.
To support this professionally, many organizations have created platforms to publicly share gratitude.
- Mindvalley, a learning experience company, created GratitudeLog a community for spreading gratitude and appreciation.
- The Administration and Finance office of the University of California, Berkeley, created an appreciation platform that allows employees to recognize each others' contributions, which feeds into a “Kudos” webpage that publicly highlights these contributions.
B. Don't feel that you need to build a website. Several organizations have morphed a bulletin board into a “Gratitude Wall.” These posts (often using colorful post-its and photos) thank specific people for specific activities.
C. Other organizations encourage handwritten or email “Thank You's” or small heartfelt gifts, like homemade cookies….something to make your colleague or customer know that you genuinely appreciate them.
D. Many companies now start meetings by going around the room and having everyone express one thing they are grateful for, thanking a colleague for doing something helpful, or sharing a success story.
E. Also, catch your employees in the act of doing something right! Acknowledging and appreciating employees doing something right is a far more impactful than continually pointing out what they are doing wrong.
4. Have Gratitude for Those Too Often Forgotten
Every organization has a class of employee that steals all the glory. In hospitals, it’s doctors. At universities, it’s faculty. Every organization has high-profile individuals. But what about those who answer the phones, run the back office, cut the checks, mop the floors, or manage technology?
Thanking those who perform these roles is crucial because it sets the bar and establishes the tone. Yes, the high-profile staff are core to your business, but without a cadre of support behind them they’d have to fix their own computers, send out invoices and empty their own wastebaskets. We are a team and all roles are important. Let everyone know they are appreciated!
Gratitude at work, works! So start saying "Thank You" today!
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