We teach our kids to say, “Thank you,” after receiving a present or a cookie. We do this because we want them to be polite. Being polite, in turn, reinforces social ties and makes us feel that we’re being good parents. But, research in the field of positive psychology tells us that gratitude also has a strong impact on the well being of the person expressing gratitude. It produces positive emotions that can actually help us flourish. So, why not harness this power for your organization or your team?

Noted gratitude researcher and UC Davis professor of psychology, Robert Emmons, defines gratitude as having two separate stages:

  1. Gratitude allows us to acknowledge the good in our lives.
  2. Gratitude helps us recognize that the source of the goodness lies at lease partially outside of ourselves.

Expressing gratitude has proven to lead to some remarkable benefits. Study after study shows that participants who write in a gratitude journal on a regular basis are more optimistic about the future, more likely to help others, have greater levels of enthusiasm, and (one of my favorites!) experience improved sleep quality.

So, why wouldn’t you want your team (and yourself) to enjoy these benefits at work? Here are some simple things you and your team can do to practice gratitude at work:

  • Letters: Find someone you work with that you have not thanked, properly. Write a note detailing how he/she helped you and deliver it in person. If he/she is not located close to you, geographically, write a detailed email with the same content.
  • End of the Day: Reserve the last five minutes of each work day for gratitude. Identify three to five things that went well and why they happened. They could be big things (eg; I got a promotion, My boss gave me a raise) or small (eg; I got to work on time, I had lunch with my friend). It doesn’t matter. Just make it a routine and recognize that you can find something good even on the worst of days.
  • Sharing: Ask your colleagues what has gone well, today. Help them get in the habit of recognizing the moments of goodness. Then, share your good things.
  • Meetings: End every meeting by asking participants what went well in the meeting. Draw out the good and remember to include more of it in your next meeting.

Gratitude has been proven to be a powerful psychological tool. Make it a part of your organization’s culture one “thank you” at a time.


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