Reading about keeping a weekly gratitude journal, and how this leads to increased optimism, got me thinking about the role of gratitude in business.
“Thank you.” Two words that not only have the power to transform our performance, health and happiness. But they’re also essential for a healthy, happy working environment.
Did you know the number one reason why people leave their jobs is they don’t feel appreciated? Saying a simple thank you and showing your appreciation for a job well done can make all the difference to employee morale. This is why it’s important not only to practice gratitude yourself, but also to foster a culture of gratitude within your business.
Years ago I worked for a manager who rarely shared her appreciation. I’d write a policy paper to the very best of my ability, but when I showed her the final draft, I was met with a wall of negativity. She wrote her comments in red ink, just like a teacher at school, picking out everything she didn’t like about my work. I don’t recall her showing any appreciation for the hard work I’d put in, and as a result I felt demoralised with a capital D.
I vowed I’d be a very different kind of boss when my turn came.
A Psychology Today article helps to explain why I became so demoralised. It turns out that looking at brain activity during moments when we experience gratitude yields some interesting insights.
- Researchers at the National Institute of Health examined blood flow in various brain regions while subjects summoned up feelings of gratitude (Zahn et al, 2009). They found that subjects who showed more gratitude overall had higher levels of activity in the hypothalamus, a part of the brain that plays a vital role in regulating many bodily functions.
- Feelings of gratitude also directly activate brain regions associated with the neurotransmitter dopamine. Considered the “reward” neurotransmitter, an increase in dopamine makes us far more likely to take action and do the thing we were just doing. It gets the brain to say, “Go on, do that again.”
- According to a Positive Psychology Program article, people who participated in gratitude exercises were found to be more prosocial than others. (Prosocial is a voluntary, altruistic behaviour such as helping, sharing, donating, co-operating and volunteering). Where gratitude is embedded in company culture, employees are more willing to share their positive feelings with others, whether that’s helping out with a project, taking time to recognise those that have gone the extra mile or coaching a colleague who’s struggling.
Here Are 9 Ideas To Get You Started
1. Say ‘Thank You.’ Doug Conant, CEO of Campbell Soup, wrote approximately 30,000 thank you notes to his employees and energised a company in the doldrums in the process. It’s the best and cheapest recognition programme of all. (And of course, don’t forget to say thank you to your clients and customers too). Cost – the paper.
2. Catch Your Employees Doing Things Right. The best way to do this is by ‘management by walking around.’ Take a few minutes to walk around the workplace with the aim of catching your staff doing things right. Cost – free.
3. Celebrate Successes. Use 1 to 1s and team meetings to celebrate successes and achievements. Get your team to each share one thing they’re particularly proud of. Cost – free.
4. Create The Best Working Environment You Can. You may not have the budget, or indeed space, to create an onsite gym. But that doesn’t have to stop you from creating the best working environment you can. That could be finishing work at 4pm on a Friday so everybody can get home to their family. Mid-week afternoon tea and cakes. A beer at the end of a Thursday. Talk to your staff and find out what they value. Cost – the price of a few beers upwards.
5. Provide The Best Benefits You Can. I’m a great believer in paying top of market, and having the most generous terms and conditions your company can afford. Benefits like healthcare insurance can be surprisingly affordable here in the UK. Cost – variable.
6. Offer Flexibility. Don’t feel you have to stick to the traditional 9 to 5. Employees value flexibility, whether that’s starting at 8am or 10am, working compressed hours or booking doctor’s appointments during the working day. Cost – free.
7. Encourage Work-Life Balance. Michael Hyatt & Co is a great example of a company that positively encourages work-life balance. From not working on the weekend to a paid sabbatical every three years, the company offers top of the range benefits to its salaried employees. Cost – mostly free.
8. Company Activities. We all prefer to work with people we like, and we’re more likely to accomplish great goals with people we know how to communicate and collaborate with particularly well. Company activities – from a game of netball to a dog walk to a running group – are a great way of encouraging communication between everybody who works for the company.
9. Individual Growth. Offer reimbursement for classes at night school or university, or pay for an industry conference or event. The best employees value learning, and you want to hire and foster the kind of employees who want to learn more.
Research shows that 65% of employees would rather have a better boss than a raise. More than compensation and benefits, it’s unprompted words of genuine appreciation which inspire employees most.
How can you take the time to be present for your employees, and thank them appropriately and even publicly for their loyalty to your company and for their outstanding efforts?
Finally, thank you as always for reading my articles.
Question: How do you show gratitude in your business? I love reading your feedback so please do take a moment to share let me know in the comments box below.
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Bonus Reading: TouchPoints: Creating Powerful Leadership Connections in the Smallest of Moments. By Douglas Conant and Nette Norgaard
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