The Importance of Gratitude in the Workplace according to Science

woman enjoying beautiful summer day

Qualities such as gratitude and appreciation are extremely valuable in the workplace. Can you think of why that is? Click on this article to find out.

Gratitude increases willpower, keeps you calm and boosts employee morale. Paying attention to the good things in life makes you look at things differently and most importantly, more positively. Research shows that feeling grateful for every day for 21 days in a row significantly increases your level of optimism and can last up to six months. A study conducted by a team of researchers from Indiana University led by Prathik Kini examined the effects gratitude had on the brains of 43 people suffering from anxiety or depression.

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The experiment had half of the participants completing a gratitude exercise that included writing letters of thanks to people in their lives and then three months later going under brain scans. During the brain scans, participants had to complete a gratitude task in which they were told a benefactor had given them some money that they could donate to charity as an expression of their gratitude. The brain scans of those who donated money showed a ‘long-lasting’ pattern of gratitude-related brain activity that researchers described as profound and noteworthy.

As psychology writer Christian Jarrett explains this ‘suggests that the more practice you give your brain at feeling and expressing gratitude, the more it adapts to this mindset – you could even think of your brain as having a sort of gratitude ‘muscle’ that can be exercised and strengthened…the more of an effort you make to feel gratitude one day, the more the feeling will come to you spontaneously in the future.

It seems that performing simple gratitude exercises such as keeping a gratitude diary or writing thank you letters increases well-being and reduces depression ensuring this feeling of happiness stays for a long time after the exercises are completed.

Likewise showing gratitude at the workplace can boost morale and lower stress. As scientists confirm encouraging a culture of gratitude has added benefits to any business. A study that examined how grateful Americans are, showed that 93 percent of workers believe grateful bosses are more likely to succeed. If bosses begin to be more thankful to their employees, then they help boost workplace happiness and productivity, reduce stress and improve satisfaction.

But while this seems to be the perfect solution to building an open and effective workplace, bosses are worried that the expressions of thanks aren’t genuine enough. On the other side, employees feel that by saying ‘thank you’ to their bosses it’s like admitting they are weak and giving permission to their colleagues to take advantage of them.   

To eliminate fear and create a more grateful workplace, business owners have to evaluate the level of gratefulness they allow in their company culture and the opportunities the organisation offers employees to give thanks to other members of the team for their work.

Here are a couple of questions that should help you think about how you can encourage a more ‘thankful’ company culture.

  • How can workers express their genuine gratitude towards one another?
  • When (in what occasions) do workers say ‘thank you’ to each other?
  • How often do you or your coworkers express gratitude to others?
  • Are these expressions of gratitude sincere?
  • What can be changed to improve the situation?

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Gratitude in the workplace is the foundation of success. Apart from increasing workplace happiness, it also boosts productivity, reduces stress and strengthens team building amongst employees. Can you think of anything that could help increase the feelings of gratitude in the workplace? Let me know in the comments section below…