gratitude is your business
Updated: Nov 30, 2019
As we approach Thanksgiving and the beginning of the holiday season, many Americans and cultures all over the world gather with family and friends to pause and give thanks. It is the one time of year that, despite the chaos of travel and shopping, we generally give ourselves permission to feel an extra dose of innate joy and gratitude. The word gratitude is derived from the Latin word gratia, which means grace, graciousness, or gratefulness. With gratitude, people acknowledge the goodness in their lives and connect to something larger than themselves as individuals (4). Companies also participate in the holiday spirit, often in the form of parties, office decorations, bonuses, and extra tokens of appreciation for their employees.
But why wait for the holidays to say thank you? According to the Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM), after revenues, gratitude is the most fundamental yet neglected ingredient to a company’s success. If an employee is performing well, the overarching assumption tends to be that a paycheck is the reward for a job well done. Yet, studies of engagement surveys repeatedly show that employees simply want an expression of appreciation (1). In positive psychology research, gratitude is strongly and consistently associated with greater happiness. Gratitude helps people feel more positive emotions, relish good experiences, improve their health, deal with adversity, and build strong relationships (4). In every high-performing organization and team, there is clear and repeatable evidence of a winning strategy. This includes well-defined goals, systems of accountability, clear roles and responsibilities, open communication and last but not least, a culture that fosters cohesion with a sense of appreciation and gratitude. Harvard Business Review cites research on gratitude revealing that when employees feel valued, they have high job satisfaction, are willing to work longer hours, engage in productive relationships with co-workers and supervisors, are motivated to do their best, and work towards achieving the company’s goals (2). A 2014 study published in the Journal of Applied Sport Psychology found that gratitude increased athlete’s self-esteem, which is an essential component to optimal performance, and other studies have shown that gratitude reduces social comparisons (4).
When considering the cost to a company when it neglects to nurture a culture of gratitude, this should be a no-brainer. The majority of the U.S. workforce (51%) is not engaged, according to Gallup's State of the American Workplace report. Disengaged employees cost companies up to $550 billion a year. A study of over 1,700 employees conducted in 2012 by the American Psychological Association (APA) indicated that more than half of all employees intended to search for new jobs because they felt underappreciated and undervalued (2). Highly engaged teams, on the other hand, show 21% greater profitability. Those teams who score in the top 20% in engagement realize a 41% reduction in absenteeism, and 59% less turnover, and engaged employees show up every day with passion, purpose, presence, and energy (3).
If gratitude is the secret sauce to peak performing teams and organizations, what then is the recipe to cultivate it? In the hustle of everyday life, our brains are always in overdrive thinking about the next task, meeting, deadline, or phone call. It’s no wonder a simple “thank you” can be so elusive. Yet, good leaders know that influence is key to their success. If they can influence others, including their teams, they can get things done – and hopefully enjoy themselves in a positive work environment in the process. First, leaders and managers need to manage their own time and energy to be effective. Gratitude primes leaders to be in a state of optimal effectiveness, eliminating time and energy-wasting tendencies so they can focus on supporting and executing on team’s goals (5). The simplest action that will arguably make the biggest impact is taking five to ten minutes of solitude in the morning to write or think of three things to be grateful for. As the world-famous performance coach Tony Robbins says, “if you don’t have ten minutes, you don’t have a life.” Make it a priority.
According to Harvard Business Review, research also suggests that a leader can enhance a culture of gratitude in the following ways (2):
1. Develop others. The previously-cited APA study indicated that 70% of employees feel valued at work when they have opportunities for growth and development.
2. Involve employees. Team members feel valued when they have an opportunity to take part in decision-making, problem-solving, and to use their skills to benefit the organization. A 2012 study by the Society of Human Resource Management (SHRM) showed the importance of employees’ opportunities to use skills and abilities, with 63% of respondents listing the ability to use their skills as the top driver of their job satisfaction.
3. Support camaraderie and collegiality. Camaraderie in the workplace can lead to greater job satisfaction and commitment to the organization and doing a job well. The SHRM study also found employees’ relationships with their co-workers was the second highest factor related to their connection and commitment to the organization.
In summary, gratitude directly impacts a company’s bottom-line success, but arguably, success without fulfillment is failure. As most of us spend at least 1/3 of our lives at work, it is worth considering the quality of that time and experience. A practice and culture of expressing appreciation for each other and how we are growing and developing in the process of work directly influences our emotional state and the quality of our lives. Simple actions that promote a focus on gratitude and the human interaction opens us to be more productive, creative and fulfilled. Now that’s a no-brainer.