Four Ways Gratitude Makes For A Better Workday


Feeling gratitude and not expressing it is like wrapping a present and not giving it.
-William Arthur Ward

If you live in the US, you'll probably hear the words "Thank You" a little more often this week. As Thanksgiving approaches, we tend to recognize the blessings of family and friends a little more and that causes us to think and act differently toward others.

Hopefully. that same sense of gratitude will permeate thoughts about our jobs and those with whom we work. And while we think of expressing gratitude being good for the receiver (as Ward's quote above suggests), there is mounting evidence that having an "attitude of gratitude" is beneficial for the giver too. Some key findings include: 

Gratitude helps your brain be more successful with difficult tasks.
According to an article at, "When we are stressed or upset at work, the limbic system of the brain basically takes over, suppressing activity in the prefrontal cortex which is the part of the brain responsible for 'executive functions' and creative thinking. What does all that mean? In simple terms, when you express gratitude, it creates a calm and safe environment in the brain, which not only makes you feel happier but can result in your brain, and the brains of those you work most closely with, doing better work."

Gratitude improves your team's ability to work together.
Robert Emmons, author of The Little Book Of Gratitude, writes, "Gratitude takes people outside of themselves and to a place that is part of a larger, more intricate network of sustaining relationships." In short, it increases our positive emotional energy. We have a more cooperative spirit as we work together. I find that working with others becomes more relational and less of a transaction just to get something done.

Gratitude is more powerful than most other forms of motivation in the workplace.
According to a study by Glassdoor, 81% of employees are motivated to work harder when their boss shows appreciation for their work, and 70% said they would feel better about themselves and their efforts if their boss thanked them more regularly. I know that gratitude gives me that positive energy to push through those times when it seems like the "elephants" are getting bigger and bigger. I'm reminded that I am making a difference.

Gratitude makes you physically feel more like doing your job.
Want to start a simple wellness program in your organization? Teach people to give (and receive) gratitude. As Amy Morin writes in, How An Authentic Thank You Can Change Your Workplace Culture, "Grateful people tend to have lower blood pressure, improved immunity, and healthier hearts." 

So before you dive into that turkey (tofu or traditional) this week, take five minutes and reflect on what you're grateful for at your workplace. Make a list, and commit to taking one action each week to express that gratitude to someone. Based on what we're learning about gratitude, expressing it isn't just a benefit to others... it's a gift to yourself.

Where do you need to express more gratitude at work?

For more on this topic:
The Science Of Gratitude And Why It's Important In Your Workplace
How To Improve Expressions Of Gratitude