Cultivating gratitude at work

Jeremy Adam Smith, writing for Greater Good magazine published by the UC-Berkeley Greater Good Science Center, observes that we are less likely to express gratitude in the workplace than in just about any other setting:

Elsewhere in American life, we say “thank you” to acknowledge the good things we get from other people, especially when they give out of the goodness of their hearts. We say “thanks” at home and in school, in stores and at church.

But not at work. According to a survey of 2,000 Americans released earlier this year by the John Templeton Foundation, people are less likely to feel or express gratitude at work than anyplace else. And they’re not thankful for their current jobs, ranking them dead last in a list of things they’re grateful for.

To remedy this, he describes five ways in which organizations and workers can cultivate gratitude at work:

1. “Start at the top” — “Thank you” should come from the boss first.

2. “Thank the people who never get thanked” — Instead of recognizing the usual suspects defined by high institutional status, how about giving kudos and appreciation to those often overlooked, such as staff?

3. “Aim for quality, not quantity” — Authentic, heartfelt expressions of gratitude count for a lot more than frequent obligatory ones.

4. “Provide many opportunities for gratitude” — People may prefer to express gratitude in different ways, so provide different options for doing so.

5. “In the wake of crisis, take time for thanksgiving” — In the aftermath of a crisis, assess, debrief, and show appreciation for those who helped to get through it.

Potential misuses of gratitude

In addition, I think it’s important to recognize the potential misuses of expressions of gratitude. Two immediately come to mind.

This first is when gratitude is expressed selectively by the Powers That Be to remind everyone who is “in” and who is “out.” When appreciation or recognition reinforces factions, cliques, and hierarchies at work, those left out feel ostracized and neglected at the expense of others who are made to feel superior.

The second is when expressions of gratitude are used primarily to kiss up, kiss down, or otherwise curry favor. Such examples of brown-nosing and manipulation give a bad name to genuine gratitude.

What about your workplace?

Is genuine gratitude a valued expression where you work? Do people feel valued and acknowledged? Are good work and extra efforts validated and acknowledged? Why or why not? The answers will tell you much that you need to know about the quality of life at your workplace.


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2 responses

  1. I’m truly grateful for this news letter.  Even though I left my nursing job after severe bullying and becoming sick, your news letter shows me what a healthy work environment looks like.  It helps me not to doubt myself about what happened to me and what I was experiencing.  Thank You.Sincerely,Anna Laca 

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