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Submitted by the USPS Employee Assistance Program
Gratitude is the positive emotion one feels after receiving something valuable or being thankful for something one receives. Science has demonstrated that people who practice gratitude on a regular basis feel happier and have a greater sense of peace and balance.
Practicing gratitude also can lead to an improved sense of well-being, higher self-esteem, less depression and anxiety and better sleep. What makes gratitude such a powerful emotion is that we cannot experience gratitude without thinking about others.
When offered properly in the workplace, gratitude allows leaders to appreciate their employees as individual human beings—not a business outcome or result. Employee recognition can be a fundamental determinant of company growth and productivity; there often is a direct connection between showing appreciation or gratitude for employees and attracting and keeping the best talent, as well as having employees bring their personal best to work each day.
Despite the convincing benefits, expressing gratitude in the workplace does not always happen. Disregarding the importance of gratitude can be damaging to your team and workplace culture. It also can breed exploitation, complaints, feelings of entitlement and resentment, gossip, negativity and toxicity among your team.
However, leaders who express gratitude on a regular basis can promote the kind of environment human beings typically long for because it promotes a type of relationship-building that fosters and strengthens team bonds and a healthy workplace culture.
Research shows practicing gratitude and providing public forms of employee recognition benefits both the giver and the receiver of the recognition, as well as having a positive effect for anyone who witnesses it. This, ultimately, creates a culture of appreciation.
Demonstrating Gratitude as a Leader
Showing gratitude at work helps organizations and their employees thrive in the face of change. Organizations need leaders who can demonstrate authenticity and empathy in the workplace, communicate effectively and create psychological safety at work. When workers become disengaged and display low levels of trust with their leaders, avoiding gratitude and appreciation makes it difficult for leaders to create a shared vision for their team, maintain a healthy work culture and keep talented, engaged employees.
To boost employee engagement, motivation, productivity, satisfaction and retention, leaders should make it a regular habit to express more gratitude at work with their employees. This is particularly important in today’s post-COVID-19 society and contentious economic state because change cannot be done alone.
Leaders should take the initiative and display sensitivity to their teams’ needs. Because gratitude is such a complex social emotion, it can build a sense of belonging and unite people in pursuit of a greater vision. This also gives all team members an increased sense of social worth of being valued by others.
Gratitude Tips for Leaders
There are some strategies leaders can implement to strengthen their team and create a work culture of gratitude, appreciation and acknowledgement. First, share gratitude—one of the easiest and most effective ways to give employee recognition. Leaders can show gratitude in the workplace by:
Leaders also should be mindful to provide recognition on an individual level. When team members become known for who they are and not what they do, they become more than just a number. Customizing employee experiences, just as you would customer experiences, are associated with greater positive outcomes. This naturally will raise retention rates, overall job satisfaction and create more productive work environments.
Leaders can recognize their team members as unique individuals by regularly interacting with each person, engaging in conversation centered on the employee’s professional and personal interests and goals and asking what meaningful recognition looks like to them.