Fostering a culture of gratitude


Over the past two decades, there has been growing evidence that gratitude is not only good for team morale but has positive benefits mentally and physically for the person delivering the subjective self-assessment.

Saying “thank you” reminds us that we would not be where we are without the effort of others. People tend to focus on the barriers they face, but by fostering a cognitively aware team they will also be mindful of the the benefits they receive. This ultimately results in greater feeling of positive emotions such as happiness and optimism. I think we can all agree that a happy team is more productive across the board, especially in creative jobs.

“practising gratitude magnifies positive feelings more than it reduces negative feelings”

by Robert Emmons in The Gratitude Project: How the Science of Thankfulness Can Rewire Our Brains for Resilience, Optimism, and the Greater Good.

Research released in the last decade has shown that people with a greater habit of gratitude have fewer common health issues, such as headaches, digestion issues, colds, etc. A series of studies involving MTurk workers at the University of Limerick revealed that being grateful tended to increase the sense of meaning in life and reduce feelings of boredom.

Actionable things you could try at work

I would like to provide some real examples of things I have tried. Some have come and gone but all have brought positives.

Keep a gratitude journal

Write down three things on a daily basis that you are grateful for to help raise your personal affirmation of gratitude. This can help you to wake up with an awareness of the goodness around you and also draw your attention to the gifts you receive from others.

Include appreciation and recognition in team meetings

In my team meetings I ensure we include time to pause and reflect on the things we have appreciated from around the team. We move at a rapid place and can forget to gift a colleague with a thank you. It’s important to provide a place to revisit and explain the action which warranted the appreciation.

Call for private direct message appreciation

I used to ask the team in our town hall to spend five minutes thinking of something they appreciated from somebody else over the last month, and to send a direct message of appreciation to that person. Some people do not relish public signs of appreciation and so this lowers the barrier for everyone: the giver and the recipient.

Lead by example

If someone does something you appreciated, big or small, ensure you take a moment to acknowledge the person’s actions. I know you are busy but it only takes a moment and the knock-on effect will justify the time spent tenfold.

In conclusion

Ultimately, as a leader (or potential leader) it is your duty to provide a culture of safety, productivity and happiness to your team. Taking steps to ensure happiness is crucial to the success of your teams and projects.

Take gratitude seriously. It is not a given that it's part of your work culture, and it may need to be consciously fostered. Be mindful of the different personalities within the team and find ways to provide safe appreciation without causing anxiety.

Most importantly, thank everyone - from your CEO for a pay rise, to someone that went out of their way to report an issue within a project. Don’t just say “thanks, ….”. Take the 5 seconds to make your gratitude genuine and therefore make it stand out to the receiver.