By Jessica Hicks, Student Editorial Fellow
Of all the emotions we experience at work, gratitude doesn’t often appear at the top of the list. It is too easy to get caught up in the stressors of the workday — replying to emails, running from meeting to meeting — that we don’t take a step back to appreciate the good in our personal and professional lives. Research shows, however, that when employees feel gratitude in the workplace, they are more likely to experience increased productivity and well-being, and avoid dishonest behavior.
Building on his previous research, which showed that feelings of gratitude can enhance patience and self control, David DeSteno, Ph.D., a professor of psychology at Northeastern University, decided to test if gratitude would also reduce dishonesty.
The results of DeSteno’s study had clear findings about gratitude: The participants, participating in a coin flip, who were asked to recall a time they felt grateful cheated less than half that of those who did not.
Whether or not dishonest behavior is prevalent in your workplace, promoting feelings of gratitude can have benefits for both you and your colleagues that last far beyond the work day. Implementing a few simple steps into your routine can make all the difference.
Make gratitude a talking point
Workplace conversation often consists of complaints and negative comments: “I’m so tired,” “I’m so busy,” “How will I make it to Friday?” If we replace these phrases with a more positive practice — one that promotes feelings of gratitude — physical and psychological benefits can follow. Research has shown that after 10 weeks of writing about what they were grateful for, individuals were more optimistic, felt better about their lives, exercised more, and had fewer visits to the doctor compared to those who wrote down their daily frustrations. This shows that how we think, and ultimately what we say aloud and write down, has a tangible impact on how we feel. Try incorporating simple statements of gratitude every day at work, for things both big and small: “I’m so grateful that my manager showed patience with me,” or even “I’m thankful that the sun is out today.” Grateful statements can promote a positive workplace environment by replacing pessimistic small talk.
Say thank you and let others know they are appreciated
Although saying “thank you” might sound too simple to have an impact, it can actually do wonders for workplace performance. Research has also shown that employees who have managers who thank them for their work feel more motivated to work harder. Furthermore, giving compliments in the workplace or letting others know they are appreciated can also enhance performance and social interaction. Reinforce gratitude by letting others know they matter and the work they do matters, too.
Visualize your gratitude
People “who intentionally cultivate gratitude show greater neural sensitivity in the medial prefrontal cortex, a brain region associated with learning, rational thinking and decision making,” which can be especially helpful in the workplace, Ellie Cobb, Ph.D., told NBC News. Creating visual reminders of the things you are most thankful for is a great way to cultivate gratitude throughout the day. Try writing down three things you are grateful for on your way to work, and keep the note with you in your pocket or phone case to glance at throughout the day. Keep photos of family, friends, or your pet on your desk to experience a bit of gratitude when you look up from your computer. Small visual reminders can keep a steady stream of gratitude flowing throughout your day.
Although it might be challenging to channel feelings of gratitude during a stressful workday, it is possible with a shift in intention and perspective. What’s more, you will feel more motivated to practice honest behavior and be productive, even throughout the hardest parts of your day.