Lead with Gratitude...To Increase Employee Appreciation, Engagement and Productivity

By Scott Addis, CEO

When leading Beyond Insurance coaching and training workshops, we often begin with an exercise on gratitude through which each participant works through the following three questions:

  • What is an issue that is consuming my energy?
  • How do I feel as I think about this problem?
  • What is something that I am grateful for surrounding this issue?

So, what is gratitude and why is it so important?  Gratitude is an internally generated capability that empowers you to create and discover unlimited meaning and value in every situation and relationship in your life.  In simplistic terms, gratitude shifts your focus from what your life lacks to the abundance that is present. And, in the midst of the Coronavirus, it has never been needed more.

Research on Gratitude in the Workplace

Research reminds business leaders that there is more to creating a great workplace than just healthcare plans, 401k programs, and paid time off.  Employee appreciation and recognition leads to engagement and impacts operational performance.   The Work Institute (www.workinstitute.com) -- an organization that helps employers better understand how and why employees act and respond -- states that "organizations with high employee engagement have 22% higher profitability, 21% higher productivity, 10% higher customer engagement, 37% lower absenteeism, 28% lower shrinkage (theft), 48% fewer safety related accidents, and 25-65% lower turnover.”

David DeSteno, a psychology professor at Northwestern University, examined the impact that praise, pride, and gratitude have on people’s lives ... both at home and at work. The study revealed that a feeling of pride or compassion increases perseverance on difficult tasks by over 30%.  His work uncovered that people will spend more time helping others who need assistance, show greater loyalty, and work longer and harder to resolve difficult problems when they feel grateful.

Two psychologists, Dr. Robert A. Emmons of the University of California, Davis and Dr. Michael E. McCullough of the University of Miami have been pioneers in the research of gratitude.  In one study, they asked all participants to write a few sentences each week, focusing on particular topics.  One group wrote about things for which they were grateful and had occurred during the week. A second group wrote about daily irritations or things that had displeased them, and a third group wrote about things that had affected them (with no emphasis on being positive or negative).  After 10 weeks, those who wrote about gratitude were more optimistic and felt better about their lives.  Additionally, the gratitude group also had exercised more and had fewer visits to physicians than those who focused on aggravation.

Dr. Martin E. P. Seligman, a psychologist at the University of Pennsylvania, tested the impact of positive psychological interventions on 411 people, each compared with a control assignment of writing about early memories. When their week's assignment was to write and personally deliver a letter of gratitude to someone who had never been properly thanked for his or her kindness, participants immediately exhibited a huge increase in their happiness score. 

A research study at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) uncovered that those firms that work diligently to improve the "employee experience" show twice the innovation, double the customer satisfaction, and 25% higher profits than organizations at the bottom quartile of the employee experience. 

5 Strategies to Practice an Attitude of Gratitude

While there are numerous ways to practice an attitude of gratitude personally and professionally, I would like to suggest the following five:

  1. Morning Kick-Off:  Every morning, begin the day with one thought of gratitude.  No matter how challenging your day ahead may be, think about one thing for which you are grateful.  Then, take a few minutes to visualize and absorb the positivity vibes.  This simple exercise with get your day off to a great start.
  2. Gratitude Journal:  Make it a habit to journal your positive experiences each and every day.  Your journal will serve as your commitment to appreciate all that you have.
  3. Gratitude Exercise at Work:  As mentioned above, have each business associate pick an issue that is consuming their energy and have them build a "gratitude box" around the issue.
  4. Thank You Notes:  Get in the habit of sending thank you notes regularly to the people for whom you are grateful.  This ritual will not only positively impact your life, but it will impact others in a positive way, as well.
  5. Share with Others:  Share your gratitude for your team with your team!  Whether in weekly meetings or individually, sharing your feelings of gratitude with the people around you will make the world a happier and more meaningful place.

Lead with gratitude...to increase employee appreciation, engagement, and productivity!

Learn more about the author, Scott Addis.