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Gratitude at Work

It’s November, so you may have seen friends posting “I am thankful for…” daily posts on your favorite social media platform. Perhaps you do it yourself. Perhaps you think it’s appropriate around Thanksgiving, and it’s a touching, positive practice. Or, perhaps you think it’s just a schmaltzy, boring, or useless practice – one that has no place in your life.

The truth is, expressing gratitude has been correlated with a host of benefits – most notably, people who express gratitude tend to be happier, healthier, and less stressed. The field of positive psychology has found many reasons people should practice gratitude, and many ways to practice gratitude.

But all of this is about your personal life, right? Wrong! Imagine if you had a less stressed-out workplace, with healthier coworkers who were generally happier than they are now. Gratitude may be the key!

In the workplace, gratitude practices can include:

  • Give gifts in person.

    • Don’t just send a 5-year pin to celebrate their work anniversary through the mail or unceremoniously drop it onto their desk. Take 5 or 10 minutes during a scheduled meeting to say something about how thankful you are to have had this person working with you, or at your company, for 5 years.

  • Create a gratitude wall.

    • Take that empty bulletin board, or the white board that rarely gets used, and label it the “Gratitude Wall,” then post something short about someone specific who has done something positive. Maybe it’s the admin who makes coffee every morning, or the janitor who keeps your office clean. Maybe it’s the brilliant idea a colleague shared and you both get to work on. Don’t forget to explain the wall to others and invite them to post as often as they like! (This can be done online, too.)

  • Keep a gratitude journal.

    • Yes, this can be done at work, too. Perhaps your workplace does not feel so open to gift-giving or a wall of thank-yous. You can still keep a journal at the office, and take just a few minutes once a week to think about and write out whatever has happened at work that inspires gratitude in you. You may be able to do it in as little as 5 minutes, but even 20 minutes once a week is worth it.

On the other hand, perhaps you’ve had the experience of exasperation with gratitude at work – when every email or phone call with your boss ends with “thanks,” you may find the gratitude does not make you feel anything positive. In this case, it’s likely because you read this “thanks” as insincere - it is a conversation closer, not an opening or even a thought unto itself. One of the suggestions from the Greater Good Science Center about gratitude in the workplace is “Aim for quality, not quantity.” And importantly, they connect quality with authenticity. Maybe there is no such thing as too much gratitude, but insincere gratitude is certainly irritating – and may backfire.

So perhaps in your next professional interaction, you avoid saying “thanks” as a way to close the conversation. Use it to open a conversation instead. One thing is certain: saying thank you at work, in a sincere way, can open the door to a happier and healthier workplace.


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