Leadership Tip: Cultivate an Attitude of Gratitude

For Dan, the Billing Clerk, who always keeps the coffee brewing, to IT Guy with a ready smile, to your supply chain manager who never panics, and Sarah, who keeps everyone working in the warehouse safe, gratitude is a sentiment that is always welcomed.  In fact, “Thank you.  I really appreciate your skill and great attitude!” rates highly as the one “perk” all employees want and need.  Multiple studies and surveys show that the act of expressing gratitude and recognition at work pays off in superior performance, productivity, engagement, and job satisfaction. In other words, happy people, happy CFO!  

If you are thinking results-reward orientation, not ‘touchy-feely’ expressions of kindness make workers happy, then consider a HealthStream Research study of over 200,000 interviews that found that 79% of employees quit their jobs, citing a lack of – not money – but appreciation!  Worse, 65% of people reported receiving no recognition at all in the past year.  In a high-employment economy like ours, companies starving for highly qualified and loyal workers would do well to evaluate the role that purposeful recognition plays in their management practices!    

Gratitude is Food for the Mind and Body

Feeling appreciated contributes to mental and physical wellness, so feed your employees a steady diet of targeted and specific recognition. The benefits are many:

  • Nurturing a culture that regularly expresses positivity and gratitude boosts serotonin and dopamine, powerful neurotransmitters, or “feel-good” chemicals.  These neurological gains result in the type of positive thinking critical to goal achievement, self-esteem, and enhanced feelings of wellbeing.1  
  • Physical advantages include stronger immune systems and fewer sick days, lowered blood pressure, and reduced stress.   
  • For the company, the pay-off is powerful.  Gallup’s study of nearly four million employees reveals that an increase in recognition and praise in an organization can lead to lower turnover, higher customer loyalty and satisfaction scores, and increases in overall productivity.  

Simply by cultivating a habit of praise and recognition and validating employee efforts consistently, workers have a better chance of achieving their full potential.  As Sam Walton said, “Outstanding leaders go out of their way to boost the self-esteem of their personnel.  If people believe in themselves, it’s amazing what they can accomplish.”  

Applied Appreciation 

What are some practical ways that you can show how much you value your employees?   

  • Practice on-the-spot recognition.  Spontaneous, informal, and positive feedback, or “catching someone doing something right,” is more authentic and meaningful.  Be sure to end each day with a “thank you!” to leaving employees.
  • Be specific.  For example, while thanking your team, communicate details that show you understand the impact of each individual contribution.
  • Boost your internal PR.  If you have a company news forum, publicizing accomplishments will encourage a culture of recognition.
  • Adopt a recognition program that focuses on more than meeting sales goals.  Include workplace behaviors and achievements that cross the spectrum of positions to supply a broader field for appreciation.  Even your facilities technician deserves praise for your clean office environment!
  • Bumps in salary are always appreciated, but less fun than pizza parties, Pub Fridays, spontaneous rewards like music gift cards accompanied by a personal, hand-written note of thanks.  Equally welcomed are days off for going the extra mile, a premium parking spot for a week, or sports or concert tickets for the music lover, and let the employee know that you care about them personally.  
  • Even bosses need recognition, so if you are an employee, manager, or CEO, thank your supervisor, executive, or board member, and let them know how outstanding their leadership example was to your success.  A written note of appreciation is a valuable keepsake for a leader when inspiration and renewed commitment is most needed.

Whatever you do to show appreciation, even if it seems awkward, practice authenticity.  Employees will resent it if they think your gift is simply a carrot to get them to work harder or stick around.  Expressing gratitude as a habit stays with you for a lifetime and reaps dividends with other relationships, whether business or personal.  

With Thanksgiving upon us, let an ‘attitude of gratitude’ permeate your communications with your staff and co-workers.  They will be forever grateful.

1Chowdhury, M.R. (2019, July 4). The Neuroscience of Gratitude and How It Affects Anxiety and Grief.  Positive Psychology.  Retrieved November 18, 2019, from https://positivepsychology.com/neuroscience-of-gratitude