Every November, and especially today, many of us try to be a bit more grateful than usual. This might manifest as simply as saying “thank you” a bit more often or clearly, or posting on social media about the ways you #GiveThanks. Whatever the motive, we instinctively know that gratitude makes us feel good.
But did you know that this good feeling can actually translate into increased success for business owners?
Here is what the science says.
According to Robert Emmons, a psychology professor at the University of California and one of the world’s leading experts on gratitude, being grateful acts like a firewall against toxic workplace behaviors, such as anger, envy, and relationship conflict (the damaging kind of conflict in which you want to strangle your co-workers).
But preventing negative workplace outcomes is not all.
Gratitude also increases the likelihood of prosocial behavior, which is a fancy way of saying workers are engaged with their jobs and willing to go the extra mile.
An important thing to note is that those benefits are much more likely to be realized when they come in the form of a two-way street.
The best results come when workers are grateful for the opportunity to work and be part of your company (because you’ve made it a genuinely enjoyable place to be), and you should be equally grateful for their contributions.
This causes a virtuous cycle to ensue (and yes, gratitude is generally considered to be one of the most important personal virtues for that reason) that progressively builds up positive relationships and favorable business outcomes.
While it’s difficult to measure and prove that gratitude in a company directly improves the bottom line, we know and understand quite well that gratitude positively affects business outcomes that are beneficial to profitability —increased worker satisfaction, productivity, retention, and decreased absenteeism all have been tied to grateful workforces, and their connection to the bottom line is quite clear.
So how can managers use the power of gratitude to generate positive outcomes in their organizations?
Fortunately, it is not that difficult (at least on paper).
Perhaps the most important step is to understand that organizational change can start with you, especially if you are a leader in the organization.
Here are some easy ways to get started:
1. Thank your workers frequently.
Openly acknowledge and praise their contributions, and publicly express appreciation for the things they do. If you haven’t done this much, it may take some practice.
Try starting off every meeting by bringing attention to something great you’ve noticed about a team member. You could even open up the opportunity for others in the room to call out their colleagues with grateful observations, which has the added benefit of building a sense of comradery.
2. Make sure that your actions match your words.
Your overt expressions of gratitude will likely not be perceived as genuine if you fail to follow through with corresponding actions.
We hope it goes without saying that adequate working conditions and reasonable compensation should be the bare minimum. After all, if you praise your employees for their work ethic but they have to pee in bottles because of lack of break allowances…your words are empty and will most likely backfire.
3. Appreciate Differences.
While it can be tempting to treat public displays of appreciation as a way of positively reinforcing desired behaviors, we’d like to caution against Pavloving your employees.
It can be tempting to publically praise John for working 20 hours of overtime last week and implying that the others should be stepping up their hustle game, too. While John should absolutely be commended for the way he stepped up to get the project to the client on time (along with an accompanying analysis of how this crisis can be avoided in the future), this is sending the wrong message to the group.
Instead, it’s important to recognize that everyone contributes in unique and valuable ways. Show appreciation for the diversity of perspectives and ideas they bring to the table.
Consider the “invisible” good traits that often go unrecognized.
What would happen to your company culture if owning up to mistakes was met with appreciation rather than discipline?
What if using creativity to solve a problem was celebrated and actively encouraged?
Or how about thanking an employee for their courage to point out something in the office that could be improved, and then actually taking steps to fix it?
Gratitude is character development, not a quick fix.
If you’re looking for a way to improve your business climate, productivity, worker retention, and satisfaction, look no further than making gratitude an all-year and not just a Thanksgiving focus.
The positive effects of gratitude are well-documented and can be easily implemented into your daily operations. Lead by example and show your team that they’re appreciated. After all – appreciative workforces perform better!
It’s more than just saying thanks.
Making the effort to show gratitude in your organization could be the catalyst for improved employee engagement and morale. And if you’re looking for even more ways to make your employees feel valued, try implementing some of these ideas into your organization:
• Offering generous benefits packages that recognize workers’ efforts
• Offering flexible hours where possible
• Implementing reward systems such as bonus schemes or recognition awards
• Holding team social activities to build relationships and foster an atmosphere of camaraderie
• Investing in training and development so employees can reach their potential
• Allowing for remote working whenever possible
• Encouraging feedback from employees
All of these things will help to create an environment where admiration and respect are the norm and employees feel valued and appreciated. So start mindfully practicing gratitude when you return to the office on Monday, and see how it can change your team dynamics.