culture of gratitude in the workplace

Image via Eli Braud, Flickr


Building a healthy culture of gratitude at a workplace doesn’t happen overnight, but you’ll see improvements the minute you begin making just small changes every day.
Whether your company already excels at promoting gratitude, or you think it may have a ways to go, the following steps can help energize you, your employees and coworkers to strive for a happier, more purposeful culture.
1. Toxicity, begone!
Wherever workplace gratitude isn’t valued, a toxic atmosphere sets in. A toxic work environment drains everyone. This is the kind of workplace where gossip has currency, insulting jokes are tolerated, blaming and lack of taking responsibility are accepted, chronic complainers flourish and just about everybody feels their work is under-appreciated. Check out this Yahoo! Jobs article “Workplace Checklist: How Toxic Is Yours?” to identify common problem areas and learn emergency solutions.
One of the biggest gratitude-killers is griping. There isn’t anything inherently wrong with complaining — some of the proudest moments in human history began with a complaint and call for change. But griping that is constant, purposeless and attention-seeking has no place at work (or anywhere, for that matter). Alexander Kjerulf, a workplace happiness expert and author of “Happy Hour is 9 to 5”, draws a distinction between constructive and unconstructive complaining and suggests ways to turn a gripe into a positive solution, such as choosing when and to whom to complain.
2. Change the Story
Sometimes griping isn’t blatant, it’s just part of the general attitude or “story” we share with each other. Pay attention to how you talk about your work with coworkers or how you describe work situations with employees. Look for underlying negative themes, such as annoyance (“I’m so swamped today, as usual!”) or despair (“This stinks, but what else can we expect from this industry?”), and find ways to banish the negativity: “We have a lot to do today, but if we work together we can do it!” and “Our company may be struggling, but we should be proud of the quality and care we put into our work.”
3. Work Your Gratitude Like Your Abs
It’s hard to be grateful or share gratitude if you don’t know what to be grateful for. We’re conditioned to stay busy and productive at work, with little time for reflection, so it’s understandable if you initially draw a blank for gratitude. Meaningful gratitude takes time for reflection.
Take a few minutes each day to reflect and write down your gratitude. This could be in a private journal, a smartphone app, a tweet, a Facebook update or an email to a friend or coworker. Our recent Mother’s Day post on how to give thanks every day has more tips for discovering your gratitude. Being thankful is like a muscle: the more you exercise it, the stronger and quicker it becomes.
4. Pass It On, Top Down
Now that you’re remembering gratitude every day and keeping track of it, it’s time to share. You’ll be ready for it, too. Keeping a “thank you” to yourself is no fun!
Gratitude should start from the top, according to researchers at the Greater Good Science Center at the University of California at Berkeley: “Employees need to hear ‘thank you’ from the boss first. That’s because expressing gratitude can make some people feel unsafe, particularly in a workplace with a history of ingratitude. It’s up to the people with power to clearly, consistently and authentically say ‘thank you’ in both public and private settings.”
Culture of Gratitude: A "Wall of Gratitude" (via Flickr.com/klkay)

A “Wall of Gratitude” (via Flickr.com/klkay)


5. Help Others Find Their Gratitude
Now that you’re sharing your gratitude, help others do the same. The Greater Good Science Center recommends starting a “Gratitude Wall” in a workplace common area or a “Kudos” webpage that is accessible to all employees. But remember, this is about people: “This kind of project will work best if it encourages the ‘thank you’ to target actual human beings instead of things. We are all thankful for coffee, for example, but the gratitude should go to Mary, the administrative assistant who makes the coffee every morning.”
6. Recognize Employees with Gratitude First, Gifts Second
Giving employees a bonus or a small gift, such as a gThankYou Certificate of Gratitude, is a great way to recognize and celebrate hard work and a job well done. But such gifts are meaningless when they aren’t accompanied by a personalized acknowledgement of gratitude.
Meghan M. Biro, founder and CEO of TalentCulture Consulting Group, recommends creating a holistic rewards program with a built-in social component. “This approach brings the department or larger organization into the celebration of an employee’s accomplishments, resulting in the most powerful path to building a culture of recognition tied to accomplishments and employee growth,” she writes in an article for Entrepreneur.
She concludes, “Money isn’t everything. […] Financial rewards put a price on doing the right thing; recognition gives the same action value. I’ll take value every day. In a healthy work culture, value should be the yardstick used to measure accomplishment and determine appropriate recognition.”
Anytime you share a gift of gratitude, accompany it with a heartfelt message of thanks. If that isn’t possible due to timing or management availability, a thoughtful note or heartfelt handshake can be just as meaningful.
7. Don’t Procrastinate Your Gratitude
Don’t ever find yourself saying to an employee, “Hey, remember that time six months ago when you did a great job meeting our monthly sales goal? Thank you.”
Better late than never, right? Well, not exactly. Gratitude is best shared right when you think of it, or very soon after. Your ‘thanks’ needs to be specific and timely to be meaningful. This will become easier the more you and your coworkers flex your gratitude muscles. Ultimately, sharing gratitude should become reflexive, a habit.
Habits eventually build culture, so start creating a culture of gratitude today by choosing good habits.  And remember, you have the power to  “Inspire Employee Happiness: One Good Habit at a Time”!
For more on fostering a lasting culture of gratitude in your workplace, download our FREE Guide to Workplace Gratitude.
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Turkey Gift Certificates and Turkey Or Ham Gift Certificates by gThankYou! are two of America’s favorite employee gifts and can be redeemed for any Brand (Turkey or Turkey Or Ham), at virtually any Grocery Store in the U.S.
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