“Feeling gratitude and not expressing it is like wrapping a present and not giving it.” William Arthur Ward
Today (21st September) is world gratitude day so I thought it appropriate to write a post about the role of gratitude in the workplace and why it’s one of those ‘soft’ things that’s really hard in that it’s validating, meaningful and can make a difference to the bottom line.
From advancements in brain imaging technology we are discovering more about what activates the reward centres of the brain and the neurological, physical and emotional benefits of practising gratitude.
Gratitude and Resilience
Gratitude underpins resilience and our life satisfaction levels (happiness). When we are faced with setbacks and disappointments, a focus on what’s going well in other parts of our work and life and being able to connect with a feeling of being thankful for that, helps get us back on an upward trajectory.
From a work-based perspective this is of particular importance when teams go through change and a simple focus on what’s still going well at the start of each day or meeting can help increase energy and boost resilience.
Gratitude, The Brain and The Ripple Effect
When we actively practise gratitude it stimulates the production of dopamine from a number of reward centres in the brain including the hypothalamus. This ‘relay station’ controls many bodily functions such as eating, drinking and sleeping and has an influence on metabolism and stress levels.
Research conducted by Ng (2012) linked higher levels of gratitude to improved sleep, increased exercise and lowered depression, so it makes sense to foster a culture of gratitude if you want happy, healthy, engaged employees.
Gratitude Led Leadership and The Power of Recognition
The Gallup organisation surveyed over 1 million employees and came up with the Q12 – a series of questions that, if employees can answer “I strongly agree” leaves you with a high performing business.
Almost half of the Q12 questions link directly to recognition, number 4 in particular. In another engagement survey from BlessingWhite, employees want one on one time with a leader and want to feel valued and appreciated for what they do, regardless of their role.
Food for Thought
- Is gratitude viewed in your organisation as a key leadership skill to be fostered and developed? When we give, the reward centres of our brain are activated twice as much as when we receive, so encouraging your people managers to focus on specific praise and recognition is a win:win strategy
- If your people were asked “Do you receive enough recognition and praise for the contribution you make?” – what might they answer? A simple “Thank you for X (what you did) today because it meant that Y (benefit) could happen and that made a difference” might be all that is needed
- Where might gratitude rank on your list of corporate values and in your culture? How does it manifest in employee and leader behaviour?
- How do you incentivise your people? Praise and recognition activate exactly the same parts of the brain as financial reward with one major difference – the former lasts longer
- Are you potentially wasting money where personalised incentives could mean more and also you don’t risk a ‘sense of entitlement’ when financial bonuses can’t be paid because targets aren’t met?
THANK YOU for reading this post, for connecting with me on this post and I shall reflect on any positive comments when I go through my 3 blessings exercise* before I sleep tonight 🙂
*Devised by Martin Seligman, founder of the Positive Psychology movement. At the end of each day reflect on 3 things that you would consider to be good and WHY they were good. Seligman’s work with the US military and in particular on this exercise is resulting in reduced levels of PTSD, depression and suicide.
Gratitude is one of the strategies of highly resilient people and covered in our BrainSmart ‘Dealing with Change and Building Resilience’ program. For more details please visit our website