7 Simple Ways to Demonstrate, Create, and Practice Gratitude at Work

Gratitude at workIt feels good to hear about the positive impact of something you did – particularly something you worked hard on. Feeling acknowledged, receiving a “thank you,” and knowing something you did was genuinely valued and appreciated … these authentic gestures that demonstrate gratitude at work always lead to positive feelings for the person on the receiving end.

What’s less obvious is that giving and showing gratitude also benefits the giver. Studies performed at UC BerkeleyHarvard, and other universities have shown how feeling and expressing gratitude consistently changes your brain in positive ways. Gratitude practices actually create new neural pathways in the brain that ultimately lead to all kinds of benefits – everything from strengthening the immune system and lowering blood pressure to improved relationships, sleep, motivation, and overall physical and psychological health.

When you bring your gratitude practice to work as a leader, it can have profound ripple effects. When a leader consistently shows their employees that they are appreciated, it can improve employee morale, wellbeing, engagement, retention, and overall productivity. Organizational psychologist and professor at the Wharton School of Business, Adam Grant and behavioral scientist and Harvest Business professor Francesca Gino, collaborated on a study that found that when workers felt appreciated by their managers, they were able to get more work done. Researcher Perry Geue also found that teams perform better when fellow colleagues appreciate them.

Likewise, as leaders, when we fail to show appropriate appreciation to our employees, they tend to become disengaged and unhappy in their jobs. A 2016 Gallup study found that only one in three U.S. employees say they received recognition or praise in the last week, and those who do not feel appreciated are twice as likely to leave their jobs within 12 months. Your ability to demonstrate gratitude at work when you’re the leader creates tangible and impactful results.

In the spirit of the holiday season, there’s no better time to amp up your thankfulness game. And because we spend many hours each week at work and with those we work with, there are ample opportunities to practice and demonstrate gratitude at work.

The problem is, we get caught up in the laundry lists of to-do items and gratitude often falls off our radar. To keep it top of mind, here are seven ways to practice gratitude at work and celebrate the wins that go beyond the obvious thank you, fist bump, and high five. I’ve chosen these specifically because they make gratitude at work easier to do and harder to forget.

Team Gratitude Ritual

Ritualize gratitude in your team meetings by beginning each team meeting with wins and appreciation. This encourages the whole team to celebrate accomplishments and team player moments.

What does this look like at work? Whether a weekly, biweekly, or monthly team meeting, start by going around and having each team member share a win since the last meeting, as well as something or someone they are grateful for.

If you enjoy this one on your team, you can bring this ritual home with you and use it at the dinner table.

Power Up or Technical Glitch Gratitude Interlude

Use those annoying delays and times of empty waiting to practice gratitude.

What does this look like at work? In the morning, when you’re waiting those 15 slow seconds for your computer to power up, try to simply take those 15 seconds to call to mind three things that you are grateful for. These could be tiny or giant notions of appreciation.

Another similar useful cue for the exercise is anytime you see the spinning wheel of death or experience a technical glitch that has you waiting on your device – use that filler time to practice gratitude (rather than impatience.)

Gratitude Channel

Saying thank you to someone is a great sign of respect. Broadcasting a company-wide thank you is taking that acknowledgment to a whole new level.

What does this look like at work? Using whatever communication platform that your office uses, create a gratitude channel where employees can publicly acknowledge the efforts of others. I’ve seen some great examples of this using company-wide Slack, MS Messenger, Kudos, and WhatsApp messages thanking individuals and teams for everything from ordering the pizza for lunch to winning industry awards. As a leader, make sure you are a power user of the gratitude channel to encourage others to do the same

Thank You Notes

Why did good old-fashioned thank you notes go out of style? When you receive a handwritten, personal thank you note – what does it do for you? For me, it is such a warm gesture, it really moves me that someone took the time to notice something I did – so much that they went to the trouble of a thank you note. It always strengthens our relationship.

What does this look like at work?

Once a week, write a thank you note to a colleague and leave it on their desk or car – or send it in the mail if you don’t see them regularly. Make it a detailed note, accounting how the thing they did helped you. It will doubtlessly strengthen your relationship and give you a boost of energy – in addition to being the highlight of their day.

Acknowledge Positive Contributions Out Loud

Make a commitment to express positive feedback and appreciation anytime someone you work with does a good job, goes above and beyond, shows signs of improvement, or stepped in where needed (especially when it wasn’t their job.) Work often moves at a fast pace, and as a result, team players often go unnoticed for their efforts.

What does this look like at work? From gifts and team celebrations to sticky notes and social media shout-outs, there are countless ways to thank your coworkers. If you want to get more ideas of how to demonstrate gratitude at work, this article gives 10 examples of acknowledging colleagues out loud: Read More – Positive Feedback at Work.

15 Seconds to Savor

How often do the tiny magical moments go unnoticed while you are at work? The small moments of connection, the water cooler conversations, the team wins, the project milestones, the beautiful walk you took around the building, the run-in with that colleague you hadn’t seen in forever. This exercise is simply about noticing those tiny moments and appreciating them.

What does this look like at work? Any time something positive or beautiful happens, try to stay with it for an extra 15 seconds to gain the most positivity from the experience, however small.

The first step is noticing the positive things when they cross your path. The second step is to savor it, rather than rush through it and onto the next thing like we often do in our fast-paced culture. When you savor the positive things in your life, the gifts they give you grow.

This practice is what neuroscientist and author Rich Hanson calls the simple act of savoring or taking in the good, which he says is a helpful practice to balance out the brain’s negativity bias and can actually rewire the brain toward gratitude and positivity. His advice is to begin looking for positive experiences and whenever you notice one, savor whatever is good about it – really let it sink in – for 10 or 15 seconds. If you do this a few times a day, it is one minute well spent to rewire your brain toward gratitude and positivity.

3 Gifts Technique During Challenges and Crises

In moments of great challenge and stress, there is something called The Three Gifts Technique that could come in handy. The technique was created by Shirzad Chamine, the founder of Positive Intelligence (PQ). Chamine says that we too quickly label experiences as “good” or “bad,” yet every circumstance can be transformed into a gift or opportunity, whether the gift has to do with knowledge, power, or inspiration.

What does this look like at work? When you are up against a particularly challenging situation, take a step back and try to answer one or more of the following questions:

  • What gift or opportunity could come from this situation, that you would not have received had the challenging situation not arrived?
  • What knowledge would you need to gain so that the payoff in the future could be much larger than what this is costing you now?
  • What muscle, power, or skill must you grow in order to be able to step up and handle this situation with grace?
  • What inspiring action can you take that you wouldn’t have taken if this “bad” thing hadn’t happened?

In this way, the Three Gifts Technique helps you see that sometimes you have to take a step back in order to take a different step forward, and highlights that there is always some opportunity to extract gratitude from a situation.

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Melissa Eisler

Melissa Eisler, MA, PCC, is an ICF certified executive coach. She partners with leaders to develop their systems thinking, resilience, strategic communication skills, and executive presence in order to reach individual, team, and organizational goals. She blends more than 15 years of experience in leadership positions in the corporate world, with her master’s degree in organizational leadership and extensive background in mindfulness to help her clients master their leadership skills and steer their teams through challenges and change. Learn more about Melissa here.

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Melissa is the founder and executive coach at Wide Lens Leadership and a Partner at Evolution. As an ICF Certified Executive Coach with a Master's degree in organizational leadership, Melissa has coached hundreds of leaders ranging from C-suite to entrepreneur, from Fortune 500 companies to startups, and across diverse industries. Her work focuses on helping high-performing senior leaders and their teams magnify impact by building trust, collaboration, accountability, and healthy communication skills.