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What is Gratitude really? And why does it matter?

Posted on November 6, 2013
Kimberly GladisWritten by Kimberly Gladis | Email author

Guest Post By Kimberly Gladis of Steve Gladis Leadership Partners

Merriam-Webster defines being ‘grateful’ as: grate·ful adjective ˈgrāt-fəl: feeling or showing thanks : feeling or showing thanks to someone for some helpful act

Seems easy enough. Until you get to the office. A survey of 2,007 people for the John Templeton Foundation of West Conshohocken, PA, found that the workplace is the last place people express gratitude. On average, only 10% of adults thank a colleague each day, and worse than that, only 7% express gratitude to a boss daily. And 60% said they “either never express gratitude at work or do so perhaps once a year.”

Express Gratitude Positive LeadershipWhy is this important?

Research shows that practicing positive emotions, such as joy, gratitude, serenity, interest, hope, pride, amusement, inspiration, awe, and love (Frederickson, 2009) leads to greater positivity. As the leader, you need to think of yourself as the “Morale Compass” and gratitude is one of the best ways to increase happiness and positivity. In a study by Martin Seligman in 2012, a group of severely depressed people was asked to keep a list of three things that went well each day. After only fifteen days, these severely depressed people experienced significant gains in happiness.We have a morale crisis in the workplace and that permeates beyond the walls of the organization. How do we fix it? For starters, research tells us that individuals who practice gratitude are happier, healthier, and more resilient. With working professionals spending much of their waking hours at the office without the important benefits of gratitude, our employees are less satisfied and our companies are ultimately less productive and successful than they could be.

So how can you extrapolate the results of the gratitude work of Seligman and others and use it to increase positivity at your workplace? Here are a just a few ideas to consider:

  • Thank You Notes/Emails November is a great time for sending notes or emails to supervisors, peers, and direct reports to share thanks for their contributions. Handwritten thank you notes are significantly more impactful, but even an email can help. Make sure the message is short, personal, specific, and most importantly – sincere.
  • Incorporate gratitude into weekly staff meetings Allow the team to share one thing or person they are grateful for that week. Make it part of the regular agenda and it will become part of the culture. As the leader, lead by example and start the activity off each week.
  • Gratitude Wall If your team has a private intranet page or even a common bulletin/whiteboard, set up your own Gratitude Wall. Invite people on the team as well as across the organization to put up words of appreciation for their colleagues. Keep the ‘wall’ visible to reinforce the activity of looking for good things in each other.

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