Simple Ways to Promote a Positive Workplace Culture through Gratitude

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Nov 12, 2018

Image Above: Jim Burns, Vice President of Systems, and Doug Grimm, Vice President and General Manager of Collabrance, help show their appreciation to fellow employees by providing breakfast.

The importance of gratitude and how to cultivate a culture of gratitude at work

In the movie, Remember the Titans, Coach Herman Boone, is faced with the challenge of uniting a team of high school football players who display resentment toward one another. Throughout the movie, Coach Boone helps the men develop empathy and gratitude for each other.

When the football players were finally able to appreciate one another and establish a positive atmosphere, the team began winning games and went on to win the state championship.

Similar to Remember the Titans, businesses must continually develop and maintain a positive culture in order to work efficiently as a team. One of the most simple, effective and cost efficient ways to increase a company’s workplace culture is through gratitude and appreciation.

The Benefits of Gratitude in the Workplace

Gratitude is the ability for an individual to recognize the positive things in their life and link them to external forces, particularly other people (Greater Good Magazine). Oftentimes, it is easy for gratitude to lack in the workplace as we get caught up in daily tasks. However, studies suggest that 80% of employees who feel appreciated by their boss are motivated to work harder.

Harvard Health Publishing published a study done by the Wharton School at the University of Pennsylvania who randomly divided people into two separate fundraiser groups. Each group was assigned to make donation phone calls to alumni, the only difference was; one group received a pep-talk from the annual giving director who relayed her appreciation for the fundraiser’s efforts. In the end, the group who received appreciation prior to fundraising, raised 50% more than the group who did not.

Besides motivating employees to work harder, gratitude has been linked to improve mental and physical health as well. Studies on the benefits of gratitude within the workplace have been linked to:

  • Reduced stress
  • Higher job satisfaction
  • Fewer sick days
  • Lower blood pressure and healthier hearts
  • Greater outlook on achieving goals

How to Cultivate a Culture of Gratitude at Work

1. Personalize It

The more personal a sign of gratitude is, the greater an impact it will make. Generic messages of ‘thank you’ are appreciated, but they do not create an emotional connection with the receiver. Instead, address someone personally and specifically express why you appreciate them. Personalization is a simple way to make someone feel valued.

Also, keep in mind that certain people like to be appreciated in different ways. Many individuals do not like being publicly recognized and prefer simple displays of appreciation, while others may thrive off public recognition.

2. Make it Genuine

Quality over quantity is important when it relates to gratitude. Displays of gratitude should be genuine because if you throw them around too often, they become less meaningful.

3. Start at the Top

Of course, it is every employee’s responsibility to help contribute to improving workplace culture; however, buy-in from the leaders is crucial to its success and sustainability.

Like a domino effect, if leaders display signs of gratitude for their employees, their employees, in turn, are more likely to reciprocate the appreciation and pass it on to other employees as well.

4. Make it About the People

If an employee is performing well and hitting their goals, it may be a great time to show a sign of appreciation. Instead of saying “Great job bringing on that customer,” compliment them for their hard work, persistence, or positive attitude in the process of making of that deal. Tailoring your comment toward their strengths will motivate them to continue their great work.

Displaying Gratitude with More than a ‘Pat on the Back’

Gratitude can be shown in many different ways, and depending on your role within a company, your expression of gratitude may have the ability to impact employees throughout the entire company. No matter your role,

cultivating a culture of gratitude requires everyone’s involvement, from the CEO to the intern.

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Image Above: Collabrance team members participate in an educational workshop.

Here are 5 ways leadership can thank employees for their hard work:

  • Encourage continued education
  • Host family friendly parties and events
  • Create celebrations and make time for fun
  • Provide opportunities to educational workshops
  • Create achievement awards/bonuses

Even without specifically saying ‘thank you’, these gestures show your employees you truly care about their family, well being and professional development.


Image Above: Employees and their families participate in a family fun event hosted by GreatAmerica.

Here are 5 ways employees can express gratitude:

  • Treat another co-worker to coffee or lunch
  • Hand-write a ‘thank you’ card
  • Stop by a co-worker’s desk to chat and personally thank them
  • Post an appreciation message on social media about another employee
  • Send a heart-felt email

Gestures of gratitude don’t have to be ‘over-the-top.’ Simply taking a few minutes out of your day to express appreciation for another employee can have a significant positive impact, and may start a chain reaction of gratitude.

Expressing gratitude is one of the most simple, effective and cost efficient ways to increase a company’s workplace culture.

Join GreatAmerica this week on social media as they celebrate gratitude with “5 Days of Thanks”. Click on the links below to find out what the people at GreatAmerica are thankful for.

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Below are highlights of GreatAmerica's social media posts during "5 Days of Thanks".



Category: culture

About The Author

Taylor McDonough

Taylor is a marketing intern at GreatAmerica. She is a student at Iowa State University where she is majoring in advertising and expected to graduate in 2019.