Gratitude In the Workplace

Gratitude In the Workplace

This episode of Workplace Matters looks at gratitude in the workplace. Gratitude can be a low-cost solution to many workplace issues today, ranging from productivity to mental health.

We talked with Dr. Nicole Del Castillo from the University of Iowa Carver College of Medicine about the positive effects gratitude can have on a workplace, and different ways to ingrain it into a workplace.

Michael: You’re listening to Workplace Matters. Each year comes with its challenges and hardships for any workplace, but there are always things to be grateful for. In this episode we are looking at gratitude in the workplace and how it can benefit not only individuals but whole organizations.


Nicole: So, gratitude overall…

Michael: Dr. Nicole del Castillo is the director of the Office of Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion at the Carver College of Medicine at the University of Iowa. She completed her psychiatry residency training at the University of Iowa, and played a key role in its Grateful Hawks program which sought to teach and inspire gratitude.

Nicole: …can help you with a wide range of things such as it helps you with stress, helps you cope with stress, build more resilience. It also has been found to build stronger interpersonal relationships for individuals who infuse gratitude into their life. Also tend to sleep better. There’s been research has found that gratitude can help improve your physical and psychological health, as well as help you to be more empathetic and more patient and overall, just really improve self-care and self-esteem.

Michael: There are many wide-reaching benefits to gratitude including benefits to mental and physical health, but also work performance and satisfaction. Gratitude in the workplace functions at its best when leadership is on board, and gratitude’s ability to motivate and inspire employees make it a key trait for a good leader.

Nicole: I think it starts with a leader being able to infuse it in their own life and show that they are practicing gratitude. And by really doing it and practicing it, I think it shows. And by continuing to do it, it continues to show and then trickle down to the whole environment of the workplace. Really those efforts to make people feel valued and that the things that they’re doing are valued and that they are being seen helps to create significant rewards in work performance, productivity, satisfaction, reduces burnout. The leader is doing it then then others who are within the organization tend to follow.

Michael: Leadership that believes in gratitude can better motivate employees and have a positive impact on the daily lives of employees. So, what are strategies to become more grateful?

Nicole: So some ways that you can work to infuse or cultivate gratitude can include really trying to set aside time on a regular basis, if possible, to focus on what you’re grateful for. Thanking somebody in person for something that they’ve done, writing a thank you note or a note of appreciation or gratitude letter to someone. Actually, having a gratitude jar could be helpful. So, a gratitude jar is if you write down something that you’re thankful for happens or that you’re grateful for trying to write those things down and then put it in a jar so that if you’re having a day where you’re feeling not as happy, you can maybe take something out of that jar. Pick it out. Read that slip of paper that can help you to remind you something that’s good in your life. Another example is a gratitude journal. Writing those things down, and then you could always open up your journal and try and reflect on some of those things. Also, try to express self-gratitude. Prayer and mindfulness meditation are also some ways that work to help to reflect on gratitude as well as volunteering. Sometimes giving back to others is another way to really infuse gratitude, as well as trying to change your perspective.

Michael: Beyond cultivating it in one’s self, the other half is expressing gratitude to others. This can become difficult because every employee has different levels to which they are willing to express and receive gratitude. Dr. Del Castillo suggests variety.

Nicole: Trying to learn how an individual might appreciate that, especially when you’re in a workplace environment, maybe trying to find different variety of ways to bring in gratitude within that workplace. Trying to find ways that are more subtle or less, broadly, you know, letting folks know that you’re expressing it and then also finding ways for folks who do appreciate it more broadly.

Michael: Gratitude expression is often a case-by-case bases and some workplaces even ask their employees how they would like to be appreciated. Gratitude can also be expressed with more than words.

Nicole: Saying that, I value you, I appreciate you. I’m grateful for you. Not just publicly, but also financially. Having that monetary bonus is really important for folks. There’s no denying that people are always appreciative of that. And that is always helpful. But also, those public recognitions are also important to do. And having that variety of public recognitions of gratitude, if that’s an individual or group, having the parties, having the lunches.

Michael: Employers should definitely focus on infusing gratitude in their organization, but preferably it should become something felt throughout the workplace. It does not only work well from the top down, but from bottom up and side to side as well.

Nicole: Ideally, I feel like it should be something that’s throughout the organization. Trying to find a place where individuals can post positive affirmations or positive things or things that they’re grateful for, that can be shared within the physical space, physical office space. And also, this could be not only done physically, but also maybe virtually. Online some people use Microsoft Teams, for example, and maybe trying to find a place through that where individuals can share positive affirmations. Also trying to bring it into meetings, you know, try to find a space, maybe during team meetings when you come together, where there’s allowed for time for people to share gratitude throughout their meeting time. Those thankful notes those thank you notes those gratitude letters I think can be shared across the board, not just top down, but top up to just say, you know, I’m grateful for having a leader like you within this organization for X, Y and Z reasons. I think leaders appreciate it to know that yes, what I’m doing is helpful and impactful for folks. So, it motivates not only individuals within their organization who are doing the work, but also the leadership too, who are also doing their work to know that they are making an impact on others’ lives.

Michael: When gratitude is throughout the organization, the benefits extend throughout it as well.

Nicole: Everyone wants to be seen, heard, appreciated. So, when you think about like workplace retention and showing gratitude as ways that really improve this culture and environment within the workforce, it really helps improve all those things. And also, gratitude has been found to improve work and group satisfaction and improve social relationships within the workplace, which overall just improves workplace culture and environment and a place where people want to be and want to work. It’s like the gratitude is a simple thing that people can do that really has these long-term benefits over time.

Michael: Gratitude can be a relatively cost-free way to improve a workplace for all employees. It has numerous benefits and numerous forms of expression. It’s often thought of around holidays or performance reviews, but a workplace that can make it a regular part of their culture throughout the year will experience these benefits ten-fold.

Nicole: Overall, I think that gratitude in the form of infusing it in your life and using it into the workplace creates a place where folks want to be at work. They want to help the workplace be more productive and more engaged in their work that they’re doing it in. That not only works for improving resiliency, reducing burnout. Retention so people stay at their workplace for longer because they feel like this is a place where they’re valued and where they want to be.

Michael: Workplace Matters is supported by the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health. To listen to more podcasts, view our ongoing video series, or for more information about us, visit Healthier Workforce Center (dot) org. Thank You.

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