Gratitude at Work – The Results are In… Spoiler, it’s REAL GOOD!

(Part 3 of a 5-part Series)

In Parts 1 & 2 (below), we looked at why organizations should consider ensuring gratitude is a part of their normal business practices, and some of the immediate results when one company did just that. In today’s segment, we’re going to dive a little deeper into some of the feedback from people who experienced gratitude as an active, intentional practice.

Gratitude at Work – One Company’s Story

Connections and team culture. Study participants repeatedly emphasized the impact of gratitude on the quality of their connections with their supervisors, colleagues, clients, and their relationship with their employer. They also pointed to an increase in trust, alignment, and psychological safety in their working teams. These are all strong drivers for performance as well as reducing turnover. Recruiting top talent is positively impacted by healthy workplace culture, and people want to stay when they feel good about their experience as a team member.

Study participants who were in supervisory roles also indicated that gratitude as a formal leadership practice improved their sense of connection with their direct report and felt a positive impact on the overall culture of the team as a result of the shift in tone resulting in gratitude being a regular part of the workplace experience. One participant shared the impact for newer employees who were not part of the study, noting, “I would literally have the new consultants say, Is this normal? Is this normal to appreciate and recognize people?”, and further commented that it felt validating to be able to say that this was something the company actively endorsed.

Job satisfaction. The literature highlights job satisfaction as a key driver of employee engagement. In this study, all participants noted that gratitude had a positive impact on their job satisfaction, and several participants reiterated multiple times that experiencing gratitude from the people around them, including supervisors, coworkers, and clients, had an immediate impact on their job satisfaction. However, it is crucial that gratitude be experienced as an authentic expression and not a forced group activity. Inauthentic expressions of gratitude have the potential to damage the employee experience. If you decide to make gratitude a more regular player in your workplace culture, leadership will want to be very intentional in framing gratitude as a positive practice that must be founded on genuine appreciation for a specific activity or experience to realize the benefits.

Role confidence. Gratitude was highlighted as a contributing factor in role confidence for both experienced employees and those newer to their roles. Participants who were in supervisory roles at the time of this study noted that gratitude allowed them to connect with their direct reports in a positive way, improving those relationships and strengthening the team dynamics, improving their confidence not only in their own work but in the ability of their team to meet business objectives. Supervisors also noted that they had previously believed that gratitude was an important piece of their personal leadership style, and that their participation in this trial validated that belief.

From the individual contributors who participated in this study, several noted that the company culture was a key reason they had joined the company, and their experience as study participants reinforced for them that the company actually takes positive culture seriously, which helped them feel more secure in their role.

Further, participants highlighted the challenges inherent in often being on a smaller working group or the only consultant working on a project and felt that gratitude positively impacted their confidence in those situations. This was noted both in terms of current projects, as it provided positive informal feedback that they were meeting expectations. This also resulted in an increased sense of capability for the individual, which translated to greater confidence when looking forward to upcoming projects to which they already had some visibility as well as a more generalized sense of confidence. As one participant stated, “I feel like I’m walking into this new project with the confidence I didn’t have prior.”

Workplace stress and well-being. The strong response from study participants relating to the impact of their gratitude activities and its influence on their wellbeing and stress as not initially part of the study design, but this theme very prominently and quickly emerged from the data. Participants noted that they felt supported by the company by being allowed to pause periodically to engage in gratitude, and that it reinforced their decision to be part of the organization. They also reflected on how it gave them an opportunity to connect with others, both within and outside of the organization, and that the daily practice created a positive impact on the rest of their workday. Several also commented that they found the practice spilling into their relationships with friends and family members as well, helping bolster those connections.

While this study focused on the workplace, it would be remiss to suggest that stress can be compartmentalized into specific parts of one’s day. Several participants also mentioned that taking time to focus on gratitude for even a few minutes each day provided balance, and an opportunity to reframe their experience as being more positive than they might have been feeling previously. This has strong implications for considering how this practice might be embedded in other well-being initiatives sponsored by the organization or individual employee resource groups.

So how can organizations tap into intentional gratitude to improve outcomes for their teams?  We’ll explore some recommendations in the next installment in this series on Gratitude as a lever for improving the employee experience and organizational outcomes.


Sarah Ratekin
Sarah Ratekin
Sarah Ratekin, founder and Chief Happiness Officer of Happiness Is Courage Inc., translates the science of happiness and well-being into actionable plans that get radically positive results. An enthusiastic positivity activist, speaker, author, and researcher, she believes we can change the world for the better by being positive, grateful, and kind, and she’s often quoted as saying “Happiness is a gauge, not a goal”. Her current focus is on helping organizations and teams navigate the particularly complex reality of today’s stressors and engagement challenges by nurturing healthier workplace cultures. No stranger to weird working environments, she believes that everyone deserves the opportunity to develop their strengths, find joy in their profession, and engage in the pursuit of happiness in the workplace and beyond. Sarah has a veritable army of garden gnomes keeping watch over her extensive container gardens and is the proud mother of four amazing humans who are making their positive own marks on the world. She and her spouse Kris, both certified Laughter Yoga leaders, also travel extensively bringing the joy and power of laughter and positivity with organizations of all sizes and industries. In their downtime, they enjoy exploring the outdoors (usually by kayak), dancing, and general merry adventuring. Sarah and her family currently reside in Indiana and travel as often as humanly possible.

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