How to maximise your teams’ culture of positivity with gratitude

From specialised journals to morning meditation courses, gratitude – as a practice – has become well known and many of your employees will have been exposed to this concept in the context of their personal lives. But what happens when you apply the principles (and benefits) of gratitude within the workplace? Read on to discover how you can utilise the science and psychology behind gratitude to boost employee engagement.

What are the benefits of introducing gratitude practices within the workplace?

Studies have consistently shown that integrating concerted and planned for moments of gratitude into daily life has a massive impact on personal wellbeing and happiness. Scientists believe that by consciously focusing on the good things it retrains the brain to detect positives more than negatives (1).

With additional benefits such as improved sleep, more resilience in the face of stress and lower risk of heart disease, it’s easy to see why introducing gratitude in the workplace is a simple and effective way to support your people.

Applying the benefits of gratitude to employee engagement, you will likely find amongst your own teams that:

1.      Employees become more resilient in the face of stress

According to this Labour Force Survey, 17.9 million working days were lost due to work-related stress, depression or anxiety in 2019/20.

Both you and your team members will have a vision of what your ‘best self’ would look like in the workplace but, with pressures and negativity within that workplace, it can be challenging to redirect energy to embody that best self – instead of jumping from one emergency to the next. You and your people have an incredible amount to offer the world and being less reactive in stressful situations could enable potential to be fulfilled.

Research from 2000 by P.C. Watkins (2), presented to the American Psychological Association, suggests that people who have their own ‘bank’ of positive thoughts to draw from each day are better able to reduce the impact of stressful situations; choosing to focus on good things helps us to overcome challenges.

This could be incredibly empowering for your teams; reminding them that they are in control of their response to situations and are able – with the right tools – to dig into their own ‘well’ of resilience to cope with adversity.

2.      There are better interpersonal relationships within teams

Conflict is very much a part of organisational life, and a common occurrence at work according to a significant proportion of both employees (26%) and employers (20%), according to research by cipd.

No one wants to spend most of their days and energy managing disputes between toxic teams. Having team members who can effectively communicate and collaborate with minimal input from people like you, improves effectiveness and frees up your energy to truly lead from the front.

Research by Algoe et al in 2008 (3) demonstrates that people who experience gratitude often develop more positive social interactions, such as demonstrating reciprocity, building trust with people, and taking time to strengthen their relationships. This can also apply to strangers in the form of acts of kindness to others – great news for your CSR activities and for relationships with people outside of your organisation such as potential clients.

3.      Your people become more active in the realm of goals

According to CIPD’s 2019 UK Working Lives report, 37% of respondents were over-skilled for their current job, while 12% were under-skilled.

Performance reviews are the bane of many a HR professionals’ activities; getting employees to engage with the process, set their own goals and consistently strive to achieve them requires a powerful approach. Gratitude may, in fact, be the missing link as it is a highly active and motivational practice.

You may consider that gratitude is a more passive state, however, research by Emmons and McCullough in 2003 (4) found that participants recording their daily gratitude for two months achieved more of their goals than those who recorded daily hassles. Focusing on positives helps maintain motivation and ambition. With this tool, your employees could become goal setters and goal-getters.

Three ways you can easily introduce gratitude in your workplace

You don’t need to go out and procure a bulk order of bespoke gratitude diaries for your employees or contract a mindfulness teacher to run sessions with them (although these are great additions to workplace wellbeing) to integrate gratitude in your workplace. There are three remarkably simple ways you can get started RIGHT NOW with introducing gratitude:

1.      Encourage gratitude focused questioning

Making a subtle shift to open ended questions that provoke a more gratitude focused response could make a big difference in terms of employee engagement and the culture of positivity you are looking to engender. This approach to questioning expands the space for employee conversation; prompting people to consider the positives first, whilst still enabling them to speak their truth.

2.      Lead the way by opening and closing meetings gratefully

Starting and ending meetings on a positive note is great way to embed a culture of gratitude and can even aid connection between people. This technique can slowly build a culture of optimism in the workplace to help people feel less stressed and more resilient.

3.      Nurture a ‘thank you’ culture

Whether it be a quick phone call or a sentence at the end of an email, encourage your teams to take time to acknowledge what someone has done for them and how it made them feel or how it helped. This can help boost people’s moods, build trust, and even create stronger client relationships.

Introducing gratitude in the workplace is one simple and highly effective way of boosting engagement and nurturing a culture of positivity within teams. With a regular gratitude practice, employees could be more resilient in the face of stress, have stronger relationships and be more active in striving for goals; making your job much easier and the environment you are working in far more inspiring.

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References

Work-related stress, anxiety or depression statistics in Great Britain, 2019 (hse.gov.uk)

managing-conflict-in-the-workplace-1_tcm18-70655.pdf (cipd.co.uk)

2019 UK Working Lives

(1) Seligman, M. E., Steen, T. A., Park, N., & Peterson, C. (2005). Positive psychology progress: Empirical validation of interventions. American Psychologist, 60(5), 410.

(2) Watkins, P. C. (2000, Aug). Gratitude and depression: How a human strength might mitigate human adversity. Paper presented at the 109th Annual Convention of the American Psychological Association, San Francisco, CA.

(3) Algoe, S. B., Haidt , J. , & Gable , S. L. (2008 ). Beyond reciprocity: Gratitude and relationships in every-day life. Emotion, 8, 425 – 429.

(4) Emmons, R. A., & McCullough, M. E. (2003). Counting blessings versus burdens: An experimental investigation of gratitude and subjective well-being in daily life. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 84, 377 – 389.

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