Gratitude – it’s something that we’re accustomed to thinking about in our personal lives. However, what about our professional lives? What role does gratitude have in the workplace? Actually, it’s a powerful force that can lead to many positive outcomes, including a boost to workplace performance. Below, we’ll explore what you need to know.
What Is Gratitude?
It seems like such a simple concept, but when you get right down to it, you might struggle to define gratitude. What is it? According to a study conducted by the University of Berkeley, gratitude is a two-step process in the brain. First, there is the realization that something good has happened. Second, there is the realization that this “something good” is the result of an outside factor rather than our individual efforts.
The Kinds of Gratitude
While we all experience something similar when we are grateful, you will find several types of gratitude. The two that matter most in this discussion are called “state gratitude” and “trait gratitude.” They’re tied to the affective trait, mood, and emotional impact of experiencing something positive in your life that stemmed from an outside source.
In a state of gratitude, you get a quick boost to your mood and an emotional nudge toward positivity because of whatever happened. Someone does you a favor, and you feel (however momentarily) grateful to them for doing so. It’s a short-lived thing that can wear off pretty quickly.
On the other hand, we have the trait of gratitude, which is more closely tied to personality traits and our worldviews. In this situation, a person is more attuned to gratitude. They are better able to notice the positive things in their lives and the world around them. These people notice the warm sunshine on their faces and feel a sense of gratitude for it, for instance. People with the ability to appreciate the positive things in life also experience significant, ongoing benefits.
What Are the Benefits of Gratitude?
Cultivating a pervasive sense of gratitude can have some pretty profound personal benefits. For instance, people who are more grateful experience lower levels of stress overall. They also sleep better, enjoy better health and less cellular inflammation, and can deal with difficult situations with greater equanimity.
However, the benefits of gratitude also extend to the workplace. No company is stronger than its employees. If your team is stressed and frazzled, in poor health, or unable to deal with the stress of everyday situations, it will reflect in your productivity and performance. When employees cultivate a sense of gratitude, they feel less stressed, perform better, and even show more innovation on the job.
Now, all of this begs the question – how do you create a sense of gratitude in the workplace?
Creating a Culture of Gratitude
As a manager or decision-maker, it’s your responsibility to help create a culture of gratitude within the workplace. While there’s nothing you can do about your team’s personal lives, there are steps you can take within their professional lives that can impact their outlook at all times. Below, we’ll explore a few simple yet effective steps that will help you build a more positive corporate culture.
Focus and Attention
While some people do have an inborn trait that allows them to focus on the good things, the rest of us have to learn it. Thankfully, it’s something that can be taught, particularly through repetition. It’s more mindset than talent. So, how do you do that? By encouraging your team to focus and pay attention at all moments in their lives.
There’s a misconception out there that by focusing on the good, you’ll attract good into your life. That’s not necessarily the case. However, by focusing on the good, you become better able to see the positives in any given situation. Even negative situations have a lesson to teach. By focusing on those lessons, we can tune our minds to be more focused on gratitude.
Gratitude in the Body
For many of us, gratitude is a mind-only sort of experience. Someone does something nice for us, and we feel good, at least for a little while. However, gratitude doesn’t have to live only in our psyches. By focusing on it, we can bring its benefits to bear in our bodies, effectively allowing us to feel gratitude in other ways, including better sleep, better heart health, and more.
Make Every Day a Day of Gratitude
In our culture, there’s a penchant for focusing on gratitude during the holidays. It doesn’t have to be that way, though. We can make gratitude an everyday feeling that permeates all parts of our organizations. Consider any of the following steps to help you do just that:
- Mindful Monday: Start the week with Mindful Monday, where you have a meeting, and everyone talks about an experience over the weekend for which they were grateful.
- Writing Wednesday: Give everyone a topic at the beginning of the day and have them write their response in a journal or even in an email or company-wide chat. Topics can be anything from how your struggles have helped you grow to why you are grateful for a particular individual in your professional life.
In your regular employee check-ins and performance discussions, tell them why you are grateful for them. Explain that what they bring to the team is a cause for celebration and appreciation. Make them part of the company’s gratitude culture in a very real way.
The Transformative Effect of Gratitude
When people are grateful, they feel less stressed, their moods are elevated, and they’re more productive. That has several knock-on effects, including boosting company morale, overall productivity, the level of innovation in your organization, and more. If you’re able to create a culture of gratitude, you can begin transforming the business at a deep level.
Once that transformation begins, the sky’s the limit. You can begin to work on creating a culture of ongoing learning, a culture of innovation, and establishing an organization that is more than the mere sum of its parts.