What if thankfulness could transform your workplace?

As Thanksgiving approaches, I reflect on the transformational power of gratitude.


The Meaning of Thankfulness

Gratitude is a potent emotion that has a tremendous impact on employee health and well-being. It transcends personal beliefs, culture, and values.

Fabio, Palazzeschi, and Bucci explained that “the word ‘gratitude’ originated from the Latin term gratia, which means grace, graciousness, or thankfulness (Emmons and Shelton, 2002). All words that derive from this Latin root ‘have to do with kindness, generousness, gifts, the beauty of giving and receiving, or getting something for nothing’ (Pruysier, 1976, p. 69).”1


10 Signs of a Thankful Workplace

In their article for Frontiers in Psychology, “Gratitude in Organizations: A Contribution for Healthy Organizational Contexts,” Fabio, Palazzeschi, and Bucci (2017) summarized the research on gratitude conducted across more than two decades. From their review of the literature, I adapted the following 10 signs of a thankful workplace:

  1. Positive Atmosphere – Thankfulness improves the atmosphere of the workplace, promotes employee well-being, and reduces negative emotions such as resentment and envy. In a workplace where gratitude abides, you can feel it in the atmosphere.
  2. Eradication of Workplace Drama – Gratitude functions like an antivenom against the formation of a toxic environment driven by negative emotions. It’s especially potent against jealousy and the perception of unfairness, which squelches workplace drama.
  3. Safety – In a thankful workplace, people feel safe to share their thoughts and perspectives without the fear of consequences. They are more willing to be vulnerable, to ask for help, and to engage in healthy debate over ideas.
  4. Workplace Support – Thankfulness increases employee perception of workplace support, both from supervisors and co-workers.
  5. Going Above and Beyond – Thankful people cultivate positive emotions and see others with a favorable lens, which increases their desire to go above and beyond expectations.
  6. Appreciation and Recognition Grateful people appreciate and recognize others for the good things they do for their co-workers, their customers, and their workplace.
  7. Positive Working Relationships – Gratitude promotes satisfaction with the way working relationships are going.
  8. Elevated Teamwork – Thankfulness elevates teamwork and collaboration.
  9. Strong Organizational Performance – Thankfulness improves productivity levels, efficiency, loyalty, and organizational success.
  10. Social Responsibility – When employees are grateful, they are more inclined to cooperate freely, help others, share their resources, donate their money, volunteer their time, and share their talent.2

Three Simple Ways to Increase Your Thankfulness

The researchers also shared Watkins et al.’s three simple ways to be thankful:

  1. Focus on Abundance – Thankful people don’t focus on what they lack, but instead on what they have.3 Society tells us that we must pursue fame, fortune, and power, or we can’t possibly be happy. We must not only keep up with the Joneses; we must exceed them. But if that’s all we work for, we may end up with a bank full of money, our names in neon lights, and a life devoid of meaning. It’s not a bad thing to make money. Money, if used correctly, can certainly be an instrument that promotes well-being. However, when money is our only pursuit, our lives become meaningless. Instead, when we’re grateful for everything we already have, our cup is filled and overflows to others.
  1. Appreciate the Simple Things – Thankful people appreciate the simple things in life that bring pleasure.4 As life gets busier, it gets harder for us to enjoy the simple things — an uncontrollable bout of laughter, the cool breeze blowing on our faces, watching the sunrise with the ones we love, sharing a freshly brewed cup of coffee with a neighbor or a friend. These are all those simple little things that can easily get away from us if we don’t slow down long enough to enjoy them. They don’t cost money, but they do cost time, which today seems to be the most precious of currencies.
  1. Appreciate People – Thankful people appreciate what others do to promote their well-being.5 This can be a “hello” from a stranger, a hug from a grandchild, or a bowl of warm soup from someone who cares. All these acts of kindness promote wellness in our innermost being. Showing appreciation for these acts reciprocates the kindness.

The Positive Effects of Thankfulness

Thankfulness has a profound impact on our everyday lives. It promotes well-being, healthy relationships, hope, optimism, positive emotions, life satisfaction, and social support. It also counteracts depression, anxiety, and envy.6

These positive effects of thankfulness also play out in the workplace.  They nurture a positive and vibrant work environment that, in turn, fosters employee well-being and strong organizational performance.

SYLVIA MELENA is the Founder and CEO of Melena Consulting Group and the international award-winning author of Supportive Accountability: How to Inspire People and Improve Performance.

1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6 Fabio, Annamaria, Palazzeschi, Letizia, & Bucci, Ornella. “Gratitude in Organizations: A Contribution for Healthy Organizational Contexts.” Frontiers in Psychology 8 (2017): 1 – 6. https://doi.org/10.3389/fpsyg.2017.02025. Creative Commons License: https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/4.0/. 1

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