Gratitude is often brought to the mainstream during the holiday season, but perhaps the biggest blind spot on this topic is how important it is in the workplace. Being thankful is an often-overlooked part of leadership, yet one that team members crave for satisfaction and retention.
Gratitude has the potential to build a better employee experience, make the workplace more humane, strengthen connections and build resilience.
Knowing the importance of gratitude, it is the role of the CEO to create a culture of such and express appreciation to everyone from entry-level employees to franchisees to C-suite peers.
While many agree with this point of view, leaders struggle with where to start. It truly is a cultural shift and requires a commitment to begin implementing. The below are three tried-and-true best practices to help leaders in their journey of instilling gratitude in the workplace.
1. Create understanding.
Everyone is built differently and require different types of appreciation and acknowledgement. Work to learn your employees and what makes them feel appreciated.
While some people enjoy public praise or gifts, others may prefer private acknowledgement and reassurance that the work they are doing is beneficial not only to the company but to their overall development.
Leaders must take the time to get to know the people supporting the business. This is a relationship. You want to know where they are coming from, where they want to go, and what may help or hinder them as they work toward their desired position. When you do this, the result is a relationship based on authenticity and trust; it is not transactional. Meet people where they are, care about them on and off the clock, and provide them with an environment where they can express themselves.
Building an understanding of your employee’s preferences is a vital first step before introducing gratitude practices that assume everyone wants the same thing.
2. Engage in acts of service.
Once you figure out what your employees appreciate and how they emotionally operate, the sky is the limit. Don’t wait for a big deal to happen before you start expressing gratitude. Bring the practice into everyday tasks and leave room for employee feedback.
Simple ways to include gratitude into the workday can look like creating thank you notes after an employee completes a task or admits a mistake. You can also make space for it at the beginning of meetings to set the tone and keep stress down. Other acts include small gifts, mental health breaks, and positive reinforcement on your company’s communication server.
For example, I’ve attempted to demonstrate gratitude in a variety of ways at Celebree, from small gestures like hand written cards, to office outings, and even tickets to sporting events. Don’t hesitate on the execution. There will certainly be some trial and error as to what resonates – just be sure to monitor response, impact, and be open to feedback.
3. Aim for quality, not quantity.
Forcing people to be grateful doesn’t work and can make the expression feel unauthentic. Try to create the time and space that foster the voluntary, spontaneous expression of gratitude.
You can do this by remaining authentic and present. When you are specific about the benefits of a person, action, or thing, it increases your own appreciation—and it tells a person that you are paying attention, rather than just going through the motions.
Be vulnerable and act in the moment. As the leader, you are modeling the way. By engaging in various and impactful acts of service, you are innately creating a culture that welcomes and encourages the expression of gratitude.
At the end of the day, the expression of gratitude costs nothing and only requires a commitment to do so. When a leader prioritizes sincere and consistent expressions of appreciation, they are creating a robust culture of gratitude in the workplace. In turn, you’ll see the direct impact on your bottom line, because your people know you care, they matter, and the work they are doing is having a real impact.