September 20, 2019

5 ways leaders can practice gratitude (and boost their bottom line) 

Karen Gould

World Gratitude Day is September 21, and it’s a great reminder for businesses to check in on how they’re promoting or practicing the art (and science) of gratitude in their workplace.

Why? Because to the people who work there, and to your bottom line, it goes a long way.

The proven benefits of showing gratitude at work 

A national survey on gratitude commissioned by the John Templeton Foundation revealed that people were least likely to express gratitude toward coworkers—even though they themselves wanted to feel more appreciated at work. 

Forbes argues that executives and managers may dole out more praise if it were framed as part of a larger relationship-building process instead of as feedback. 

“Gratitude is a powerful concept. It goes beyond praise, beyond positive reinforcement. Gratitude is a recognition of our interdependence, of the fact that success is the result of team effort,” the article says. 

Showing gratitude, therefore, involves showing vulnerability. It is not easy to acknowledge that we need someone, but doing so is a sign of strength, not weakness.” 

And Harvard Business Review found that leaders vastly underestimate the power of positive reinforcement and greatly overestimate the value of negative or corrective feedback, writing, “Giving only negative feedback diminishes a leader’s effectiveness in the eyes of others and does not have the effect they believe it has.” 

A Glassdoor report reported that four in five employees are motivated to work harder when their boss expresses gratitude for their work, while only 38% of employees say they’re motivated to work harder when their boss is demanding. This demonstrates how regular acts of gratitude, not just relegating it to a line item at the annual meeting, significantly increases employee productivity, engagement and retention. 

How to make gratitude a habit in the workplace 

  1. Make it easy for everyone to share their gratitude. There’s nothing like a hand-written note. Make thank-you cards easy to find and lead by example by using them regularly. At treetree, we have a “gratitude wall” by our front door stocked with our own postcards that make it easy for a tree to grab and jot down a note for a coworker, or for our guests to take with them and pay it forward. You could also create a “cheers for peers” Slack channel or designate a wall to pin up index cards of thanks.
  2. Be specific. When you have a team member to celebrate, we make sure to be specific about what they do, how they do it and why it helps you move the needle as a company. Whether one-on-one or with the team, call out their very specific actions, behaviors or attitudes, even the small things that might be easy to overlook. 
  3. Celebrate publicly. While it’s not always necessary (or, depending on the employee’s personality, preferred), recognizing someone in front of their team can be a big morale boost. One way we do this at treetree is with small desktop tokens of appreciation that are branded with our guiding philosophies on dedication, collaboration and gratitude. We also have a tree “spotlight” twice a month during our Monday status meeting in which one tree answers questions that help us get to know them a little better. When that tree chooses the next person to spotlight, they get to say how they have seen that person rise and shine at treetree, creating an opportunity for a public show of gratitude. 
  4. Make it a habit. Gratitude compounds. Cultivating a culture of gratitude, rather than a forced “’atta boy” now and then, yields returns like no other. And that requires making it a habit. One way we do that here is by sending cards hand-signed by every tree. Whether it’s for a birthday, an engagement or a promotion, there’s always something to celebrate internally and with our clients, and we do it daily. You could also give regular bonuses if budget allows (75% of employees say they feel valued when they get a pay raise), include an “attitude of gratitude” section in your company newsletter or make it part of your performance reviews.
  5. Create a culture of giving backA tangible way of showing your organization values gratitude is to give employees a chance to give back. A lot of companies take on the requisite (and PR-worthy) pro bono work, but not everyone sets aside PTO for employees to do good in their community. Here, we call it Voluntree. How can you make giving back part of your DNA, not just part of your bottom line? 

How will you celebrate World Gratitude Day today and every day in the office?