workplace gratitude in action

Workplace gratitude can be shared in many creative ways, but it must be sincere and meaningful. (Photo via

Workplace gratitude is deceptively simple — just say “thank you” and mean it, right? — and yet it’s also just as easy to get into a rut with it.
Every few months, we scour the news for mini case studies of workplace gratitude. These are examples of company leaders who demonstrate refreshing, creative ways to say “thank you” to employees, while also maintaining a bottom line of effectiveness.
Don’t let your recognition program go stale;  get your creative juices flowing with these real world examples of workplace gratitude in action. After all, a vibrant work environment begins with a healthy culture of workplace gratitude!

1. The Chair That Keeps On Giving
A Long Island, New York school district bid a longtime employee goodbye in June with a gift four decades in the making.
Carl James, 79, retired in June after 54 years working for the Riverhead public school district. His career began as a school custodian in 1960, when Dwight Eisenhower was president, gas cost 31 cents a gallon and you could mail a letter for 4 cents. He soon moved up the ladder to head custodian.
At a farewell reception last month, the school board honored James with a plaque embossed with a group photo of the February 1960 custodial staff. The board also shared a more unique gift: his desk chair for the past 40 years, squeaky-wheeled and duct-taped from decades of use.
It may have been worn-out and essentially worthless, but as a farewell gift — combined with the ceremony, speeches and plaque — it was a symbolic gesture of goodwill, love and respect for James’ decades of work in the district.
2. ‘Ha Ha’ Thank You
An amusement park in Hong Kong called Ocean Park has found success hosting Laughter Yoga sessions for its 2,000 employees.
Laughter Yoga involves self-induced laughter, relaxation techniques and yogic breathing. Since the body cannot tell the difference between fake and real laughter, the practice has the same effect as a good session of regular laughter. It boosts the immune system, lowers blood pressure and burns calories.
The practice disrupts the normal working environment and changes how employees interact with one another, teacher Mahesh Pamnani tells “When they are doing Laughter Yoga with us, they actually love it and want to express appreciation and gratitude, but somehow in the workplace they think ‘oh, I don’t think it looks that good.’ So that builds very good relationships. Productivity goes up, creativity goes up.”
3. Before the 3,187-Word Manifesto, a Thank You
Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella recently unleashed a 3,187-word memo on his employees about his vision for the future of the company. It’s bold, comprehensive and rousing. Business Insider has a synopsis and the highlights.
What caught our eye is the way Nadella begins his manifesto (bolding added): “As we start FY15, I want to thank you for all of your contributions this past year. I’m proud of what we collectively achieved even as we drove significant changes in our business and organization. It’s energizing to feel the momentum and enthusiasm building.”
Before he dives into what he expects of the company and his employees, he takes a paragraph to express his gratitude, pride and enthusiasm to them. It’s a nice gesture — and an effective one. Sharing gratitude is a proven way to boost productivity and get people jazzed for work. It comes down to brain chemicals: giving and receiving thanks actually releases the feel-good hormone dopamine, as Inc. reports.
4. Milwaukee’s ‘Downtown Employee Appreciation Week’
The Downtown Milwaukee Business Improvement District has a great idea for showing gratitude to employees who work in the city’s central neighborhoods. Now in its ninth year, Downtown Employee Appreciation Week kicks off this year on July 28.
It offers employees in the area a week’s worth of extra perks and chances to gather communally: a free pancake breakfast, giveaways and prizes, games, a volleyball tournament, the “world’s largest coffee break” and “grandest happy hour,” and a “Suits and Sneakers” benefit day for the American Cancer Society.
The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel’s BizTalk blog has more details on the event.
5. All in a Day’s Play
In the Sioux Falls, South Dakota area, “It’s not uncommon to see grown men and women jumping on trampolines and climbing ropes” and even learning the sport of curling, the Associated Press reports. Since the economic downturn, businesses in the area have taken to engaging employees with play activities. Other popular activities include golfing, softball, bowling, beanbag tosses, chili and dessert cook-offs,  volunteering and “marshmallow golf” (putt-putt with a weightless puff).
With everyone working harder than ever, these casual, fun and even child-like activities help everyone relax, bond with coworkers and get happy. As an additional bonus, many of the company leaders agree that engaging employees with play actually increases productivity and on-the-job creativity.
To read more inspiring news stories of workplace gratitude in action, read our previous post on the topic, which includes a mini case study of a Seattle restaurant owner who developed an ongoing way to share meaningful gratitude with his kitchen staff and waitstaff.
For more on building a culture of employee happiness, appreciation and productivity, download our FREE ebook, “Winning with Workplace Gratitude”.
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