We all know the frustrating feeling of our good work going unrecognised. In business, this lack of gratitude can prove damaging, even terminal, as employees move on to greener pastures.
Numerous studies in occupational psychology attest to the positive benefits of gratitude. In the workplace, gratitude may be present (or not) in all our interactions with clients, staff and managers. Recent studies have shifted the focus away from mere reciprocity.
Gratitude can be more than a perfunctory acknowledgement of indebtedness: it can improve personal and relational wellbeing.
Should gratitude training play a role in coaching strategies for leaders and managers? Absolutely!
Researcher Crystalee Webb Beck surveyed almost 900 full-time professionals from various industries and asked their opinions on different types of gratitude they experience in the workplace.
Of the employees surveyed in the study, 80% of respondents said that expressions of gratitude (or lack thereof) changed their opinion of management. A huge majority rated gratitude as important.
Of the surveyed participants, only half were satisfied with their current level of workplace gratitude.
But how best to practise gratitude?
The ‘how’ is important. Verbal one-on-one thanks were the most appreciated by those surveyed, beating even monetary rewards as the preferred medium of gratitude. Crucially, being thanked in a public setting ranked low, even though many managers (24.2%) choose this medium to credit their employees.
Sincerity was found to be a very important factor. Over-communication, the effusive giving of thanks, can begin to seem like insincerity.
Of course, we want thanks, but we want to feel like we earned it. Gratitude that is thought to be undeserved can be an issue too. On an individual level, being thanked for something that we haven’t done or done well can lead to dissatisfaction.
In a group setting, undeserved thanks (or the perception of undeserved thanks) can lead to resentment — another point in favour of one-on-one displays of gratitude.
Turning gratitude into a strategy
In our coaching, gratitude is something to raise with every senior-level client. How is their gratitude communicated to staff? How timely, specific and personalised is it?
Not every person is the same — some prefer tangible items like a gift card to one-on-one thanks. Age, gender, even ethnicity are all factors in how we interpret gratitude.
Bearing these in mind, turning gratitude into a strategy as well as a feeling, can lead to better and more productive workplaces.
Beck, C. W. (2016). Perceptions of thanks in the workplace: Use, effectiveness, and dark sides of managerial gratitude Corporate Communications: An International Journal, 21 (3), pp.333-351. DOI: 10.1108/CCIJ-07-2014-0048