Why we need a better attitude to gratitude in the workplace

With World Gratitude Day on 21st September, Derek Williams raises the need for more gratitude in the workplace.

Workplace gratitude, delivered correctly, costs nothing and has huge benefits.  Covid-19 is making the need greater than ever before. Why now?

The need for gratitude is greater now than it ever has been. 

Firstly, millennials now comprise 50% of our workforce and this will increase to 75% by 2025.  Millennials have high ambitions when it comes to their careers, they work very hard and have higher expectations of employment experience because of it. Secondly, Covid-19 has reshaped the places where we work with 50% of people now expected to work from home.  Working from home makes it harder to align with company values, people are likely to feel isolated and morale will suffer.

The science behind gratitude has long been known but is still rarely practised in the workplace. 

Robert Emmons, one of the world’s leading scientific experts on gratitude says, “Expressing what we are thankful for has many benefits including feeling less stressed, improved sleep, fewer physical problems, less regular visits to the doctor and longer lives.”  Emmons research suggests that regular gratitude can increase life expectancy by seven years on average.

The psychology and understanding of gratitude are deep rooted in most parents; teaching children to be grateful is much more than just good manners.  So, there is little doubt that we know it’s important.

What constantly surprises me is the lengths that businesses go to in creating systems for collecting customer complaints but how rarely there is any sort of system for sharing customer gratitude and celebrating employees doing things right. 

In 23 years of running The WOW! Awards recognition programmes, I have seen the incredible positive impact that gratitude can have on employees and businesses. 

Along with improved morale comes reduced sickness and churn, improved team working, greater creativity, improved service, improved sales and a better bottom line.  Gratitude is a no brainer!

The three golden rules of gratitude in the workplace…
  1. It has to be sincere.  Don’t fake it.  But don’t miss out on easy opportunities either.  The end of a really tough week is just as much an opportunity as winning a new contract to show gratitude.
  2. Deliver it properly.  Involve senior management.  Look for opportunities to praise people in front of their peers, to explain why this is good for your customers, align gratitude with your values and to encourage more of it. 
  3. Recognition beats reward.  Don’t be tempted to add reward to your recognition.  A sincere and well delivered, “Thank you,” is much easier to give and will be much more effective than a hastily given prize.  See my recommended reading at the bottom of this article for more about the psychology of recognition versus reward.

World Gratitude Day is just one day every year.  Truly great organisations practice giving gratitude every single day of the year!

Recommended Reading

Derek Williams, Founder of The WOW! Awards