Choosing to incorporate workplace gratitude into your company culture isn’t a difficult choice between bottom line and happy employees. It’s one of those rare instances in business of having your cake and eating it, too. Whether you’re the giver or recipient of workplace gratitude, it makes us all feel good. It feeds itself — and makes good business “cents.”
That’s one reason business experts are now recommending that entrepreneurs and companies, small to large, think of gratitude as a strategy that goes beyond the traditional Thanksgiving-Christmas-New Year’s season. When it comes to growing and maintaining a healthy business, the power of gratitude can’t be underestimated.
In a CNN article by Vickie Elmer, “Why gratitude is good for business, year round,” Washington, D.C. business owner Kristina Bouweiri shares how she boosted a friend’s lagging company — and her own — by hosting what she thought would be a one-time customer appreciation lunch. She did it as a favor to her friend. But it grew: the lunches became a regular tradition and ended up helping both of their companies. Within a couple of years, Bouweiri saw her revenues go up 27 percent, which she credits mostly to her increased efforts toward customer appreciation.
“Instead of going after new business, we decided to go back to old clients and thank them, and develop relationships,” she says. For almost 20 years, her company Reston Limousine had done little or nothing to thank its almost 20,000 clients. Now, says Bouweiri, “I consider it the most important initiative that I have.”
As businesses build workplace gratitude into daily and weekly plans and policies, Elmer reports that they’re seeing marked results. Workers are more engaged, and customers are more likely to come back and give referrals. Why? In short, because it makes people want to pass along the good vibes. Or, as Randy Raggio, a marketing professor at the University of Richmond, puts it: “Gratitude motivates positive reciprocal behavior.”
There is a catch. Gratitude works by building trust, so it has to be genuine. How do you know your gratitude is genuine? Jay Steinfeld, founder and CEO of Blinds.com, describes it as an overall attitude toward life. In an article for Inc., he draws the distinction between recognition and gratitude. Recognition is specific; gratitude is holistic. Recognizing good work is important, of course, but it doesn’t always require the thoughtful approach of gratitude.
“Gratitude is both an experience and an attitude — a way of looking at the world around you to see the parts greater than yourself that have helped make your world and business success a reality,” Steinfeld writes.
Conveying genuine gratitude also means letting go of your petty ulterior motives, as Harvey Deutschendorf writes for Fast Company.
I once had a manager that had a habit of waiting until a meeting where his superior was present before giving out recognition gifts. Instead of feeling recognized, we all felt we were being used by him to gain favor with his boss. Sincere praise happens even when no one is looking.
Think about that, and do an experiment: share gratitude with someone at your workplace today, in private — whether it’s a short note to a client or stopping by a coworker’s desk to say thanks for help on a project — then pay attention to what happens next.
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