Most managers know that when they talk to an employee about performance — in a scheduled review or something less formal — they ought to find at least a couple of things to thank the person for. In this schema, showing gratitude is a way to boost employees’ morale and motivate them to repeat productive behaviors. An obvious benefit for you, the manager.
But has it occurred to you that you also benefit personally from expressing gratitude?
According to research by psychologists at the University of California-Davis and the University of Miami, people who show gratitude on a regular basis are not only happier, they tend to enjoy greater physical well-being!
A question of focus
To avoid the correlation/causation trap, the researchers designed an experiment to find out whether and how specific expressions of gratitude affected the participants. All of the participants were asked to write a few sentences each week focusing on either:
- events during the week for which they were grateful
- events that irritated them, or
- noteworthy events, with neither a positive nor a negative spin
After 10 weeks of this, the researchers administered questionnaires asking the participants about their mental and physical state. And there was a big, positive difference between the gratitude group and the others.
Mental and physical well-being
Those who had regularly expressed gratitude felt better about their lives and were more optimistic about the coming week. Moreover, they reported exercising more and making fewer visits to doctors than those who focused on things that irritated them.
Other research, notably from the University of Pennsylvania, supports the idea that there is a close association between showing gratitude and feeling good about life.
So what, specifically, can you do to cultivate gratitude in your life?
What you can do
The writers at Harvard Health Publications came up a list of useful techniques. They include the following:
- Write a letter — even a short hand-written one is more personal than an e-mail — expressing your appreciation of someone’s impact on your life. If possible, deliver it and read it in person. Try to send at least one gratitude letter a month. And every so often, write one to yourself.
Mental thank-yous. If you don’t have the time or inclination to write, it helps you (although not the other person) just to mentally thank someone who has helped you.
Gratitude journaling. Make it a habit to write down thoughts about the things for which you’re thankful each day or each week. (And there’s an app for this, so you can do it on your smart device!)
Prayer and/or meditation. Depending on your spiritual orientation, praying or meditating — or both — can be used to cultivate gratitude. If you choose the latter, focus on something you’re grateful for in the present moment: the odor of flowers, the coolness of a shade tree, a beautiful melody, and so forth.
Finally, next time you’re interacting with an employee, remember that telling him/her Thank You — sincerely, and for specific actions, of course — will benefit not only the person but also you yourself.
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