Why we should all express more gratitude in the workplace

Posted by
Moya Crockett
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How does better sleep, fewer headaches and healthier eating sound to you?

Even if you love your job, it’s easy to fall into a pattern of griping about work. And a side-effect of that can be that you start to take your colleagues for granted. You know that you work hard, obviously. But when you’re up to your eyeballs in deadlines, you sometimes forget that everyone around you is grafting, too.

According to new research, however, we should all pay more attention to our colleagues’ efforts, and remember to thank them for their hard work. Because gratitude is a powerful force in the workplace – and it has the ability to genuinely improve people’s lives.

Researchers at Portland State University and Clemson State University in the US examined a group of nurses to see how being thanked for their work affected their physical and mental wellbeing. What they discovered was remarkable. When nurses were thanked more often at work, their sense of workplace satisfaction increased significantly.

This, in turn, led to the nurses experiencing better sleep, fewer headaches and healthier eating. In other words, it looks as though being on the receiving end of gratitude in the workplace can genuinely improve people’s mental and physical wellbeing. 

Hearing this more could genuinely improve your colleagues’ wellbeing

The researchers chose to look at nursing because it’s a high-pressured, often thankless job with a high risk of burnout. “Nurses strongly align their profession with their identity and often look out for patients more than themselves,” says David Cadiz, a business professor at Portland State University and a co-author on the study, which was published in the Journal of Positive Psychology.

“The gratitude matches up with their identity, gives them satisfaction in a job well done and ultimately increases self-care.”

However, the researchers say their findings could also be applied to other professions. After all, many people connect their identity to their job and how much they feel they’re appreciated within their role. Cadiz says that employers should create formal and informal opportunities for people to thank their colleagues for their work, as this will help create a feedback loop of positivity.

He also notes that including gratitude in a business plan could even help businesses financially. “Employees that receive positive feedback are healthier, and that can impact the bottom line,” he says.

“Preventing headaches and other stress-related symptoms means fewer sick days, and, in this case, cuts down the cost of replacement nurses and overtime pay.”

So next time a colleague helps you out on a project, or a junior co-worker does a good job on a task you’ve asked them to do, thank them generously and sincerely. Chances are, it will mean much more to them than you think

Images: Getty Images