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The Power of Gratitude

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Money may make the world go around but when it comes to engaging hearts and minds a simple ‘thank you’ can be a great motivator.

The corporate culture at Sudabank (not its real name) was toxic, some even described it as “Darwinian”. The working environment was survival of the fittest; everyone seemed to be out for themselves and teamwork was nonexistent. Greed, bullying, and illegal behaviour were rampant. Focused on profits and bonuses, the senior leadership team whittled away at their employees’ self-confidence, health and sanity. Productivity was decreasing, morale was low, there was serious absenteeism and a disturbingly high employee turnover. For many, working at the bank, had become an emotionally draining experience.

Senior management perpetuated the cold, calculating and impersonal atmosphere. It never dawned on them that a culture of positive regard, cooperation and genuine caring would foster creativity and new ideas; that gratitude for work well done could be a great motivating force. As a result, most employees felt undervalued and taken for granted. Given the bank’s noxious work conditions, it was no surprise when a number of its traders were implicated in the Libor scandal of fixing interest rates. The legal actions that followed led to serious fines, although none of the top executives seemed to have been affected.

As this example illustrates, a toxic culture can trigger actions that ultimately lead to business failure. When money is viewed as the singular motivator, leaders will not be able to engage the hearts and minds and to get the best out of their people.

The benefits of gratitude

For most people what really counts (apart from fair compensation) is respect, recognition, a sense of accomplishment, a sense of belonging, and a feeling of purpose.When people are exposed to everyday acts of kindness, a simple “thank you” for work well done can be a great motivator and contribute to a more positive work environment.

Read more: The Power of Gratitude | INSEAD Knowledge

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