Research on the physical and emotional benefits of gratitude is so pervasive that by now you’ve probably tried a gratitude journal, affirmation or meditation. But it’s possible that demonstrating gratitude in the workplace can even help position you for greater advancement.
We are naturally more attracted to people with a positive attitude and tend to see them as can-do leaders who are more likely to get to work than waste time complaining. If improving your personal wellbeing hasn’t been enough to spur you to implement a sustained gratitude practice, consider how expressing gratitude at work can inspire others, enhance your reputation, improve productivity in your team and provide a reservoir of goodwill you can call on as needed.
Work can get frustrating at times, especially if you recently missed out on a promotion, had a disappointing performance review or experienced a setback. Applying the gratitude journal concept to the workplace can help you see the larger arc of your career, the progress you have made and how pivoting and trying again has paid off for you in the past. These insights can help you avoid becoming disillusioned and enable you to spur positive conversations with your boss around expanding your skills.
Make a positive impression
While the research connecting gratitude to the workplace is not as extensive as that related to personal wellbeing, there are indications linking it to lower stress levels on the job, higher job satisfaction and even a greater sense of being able to achieve your goals. While it can feel unsettling at first to demonstrate gratitude in an environment that involves a certain degree of hierarchy and competition, the evidence suggests it can help you create collaborative relationships where people really want to work with you and build your reputation as a positive and proactive force within your organization.
The Director of Career Education and Strategy at Boston College, Rachel Greenberg, points to the potential benefits of gratitude to help you stand out from others both on the job and in a job search process as someone who cares enough to offer thanks and contributes to a positive working environment. “Demonstrating gratitude tells others that you are a positive person,” she advises. “Positive people spread their positive thoughts and create a work environment that is enjoyable for all.”
Be seen as a team player
Gratitude researchers consistently point to how feelings of gratitude contribute to prosocial behaviors or what are often called “organizational citizenship behaviors” such as welcoming new employees, filling in for someone who is sick or mentoring a junior team member. Research on “The Grateful Workplace” published in The Academy of Management Review points to how feelings of gratitude make people more willing to associate with colleagues, invest more time in strengthening workplace relationships and even helps us see positive qualities in others. The practice of gratitude can help create the sort of positive workplace environments that have long been connected to greater collaboration and productivity.
Highlight what you do well
Executive Coach, Peter Bregman, makes the point that the things you are grateful for in terms of skills and experiences are often tied to things you also want to improve — because you want even more of them. He suggests pondering the times when you have felt most grateful in a professional context and then exploring exactly what you were doing, how you showed up and how you were behaving with yourself and others. Reminding yourself of what you have already done well in the past can tap into feelings of gratitude that can help you build even more positive behaviors in the future — the kind that supervisors tend to notice.
Retain and build your team
If you manage others, showing them how much you value their contributions can help you create a more effective team and keep your top performers. A report from PayScale on employee engagement and retention shows that underappreciated employees are much more likely to leave the organization. A study by Office Team put the number at 66% of employees who would leave their job if they didn’t feel appreciated. That number jumps to 76% among millennials. By demonstrating gratitude for the contributions of others, you can also demonstrate your effectiveness as a leader.
Build goodwill for times of need
When you’re facing a significant challenge and don’t know where to turn next, are trying to recover from a mistake or need an extra set of hands to get a project over the finish line, you need people you can turn to in a hurry. The best place to look for that help is among those with whom you’ve built up a reservoir of goodwill. How well you’ve recognized the contributions of others and demonstrated your appreciation in the past will help determine who is willing to come to your aid when you need them most.
Cultivating your own sense of gratitude is strongly connected to mental and emotional wellbeing, decreased stress and greater feelings of connection. Expressing gratitude at work can also help position you as a positive, proactive leader who knows how to build on her strengths, tackle a challenge and cultivate collaboration with others.