Mindsets for Success: Gratitude
How Thankfulness Transforms Individuals and Organizations
In the fast-paced and often competitive world of the modern workplace, adopting a practice of gratitude might not be the first strategy that comes to mind when aiming for success. However, research and real-world examples suggest that gratitude can be a superpower, creating an alchemical transformation in the brain that not only elevates individuals but also motivates cooperative and altruistic behaviors. The mindsets we practice and absorb into our psyche shape not only our individual perspectives but also the atmosphere of our workplaces.
The Science of Gratitude
“Gratitude is not only the greatest of virtues but the parent of all others.” — Marcus Tullius Cicero
Scientific research has uncovered the profound impact of gratitude on the brain and overall wellbeing. A study conducted by the National Institute of Health (NIH) revealed that practicing gratitude activates brain regions associated with the release of dopamine, a neurotransmitter associated with pleasure and reward. This neurological response explains why expressing gratitude often leads to increased feelings of happiness and contentment.
Furthermore, gratitude has been linked to the release of oxytocin, the “bonding hormone.” This hormone strengthens social connections and trust, making individuals more inclined to collaborate and cooperate with others. Consequently, gratitude not only benefits an individual’s mental state but also lays the foundation for positive workplace dynamics.
The Contagious Nature of Gratitude
When a person feels happier and more at ease due to a gratitude practice, this positive energy tends to be contagious. The phenomenon is known as emotional contagion, where one person’s emotions and behaviors influence those around them. In a workplace setting, a single individual’s shift towards gratitude can have a ripple effect, positively impacting colleagues, teams, and even the entire organization.
For example, consider a team leader who regularly expresses gratitude for their team’s hard work and contributions. This leader’s positive attitude can inspire team members to feel valued and appreciated. As a result, team members are more likely to go the extra mile, collaborate effectively, and support each other, ultimately leading to improved productivity and job satisfaction.
Shifting into a Grateful Mindset
Gratitude begins with a conscious effort to cultivate this practice. When individuals consciously practice gratitude, they become more attuned to the positive aspects of their lives, even in the face of challenges. As a result, they are more likely to perceive opportunities for growth and positivity. Here are some techniques and practices that help:
- Gratitude Journaling: Start a daily or weekly journal where you write down things you are grateful for. This practice encourages you to focus on the positive aspects of your life and approach hardships in a healthy way.
- Mindfulness: When individuals practice mindfulness, they are intentional in their words and actions. They become more aware of their thoughts and emotions, including how they navigate relationships and tackle tasks. Gratitude and mindfulness go hand in hand.
- Express Appreciation: Don’t hesitate to express your gratitude to colleagues, superiors, or subordinates. A simple “thank you” can go a long way in fostering positive relationships.
- Respond to Adversity: Sometimes, reflecting on challenging situations and the lessons learned from them can lead to a greater sense of gratitude for personal growth and resilience. When a challenge or negative situation arises, responding with a mindset of gratefulness results in a more positive response.
Companies Leading the Way
“In our work and in our living, we must recognize that difference is a reason for celebration and growth, rather than a reason for destruction.” — Audre Lorde
Many forward-thinking organizations have recognized the importance of gratitude in their workplace cultures. These initiatives are often small gestures and expressions of thanks that create ripple effects of bonding between people. “Thank you” helps foster the feeling of belonging. For example,
Google encourages employees to express gratitude through initiatives like “gThankYou,” where employees can send each other thank-you notes with small rewards attached. The aim is to create a culture of appreciation that boosts morale and teamwork.
Zappos, an online retailer known for its exceptional customer service and unique corporate culture, places a significant emphasis on gratitude and employee happiness. The company has a dedicated “Zappos Culture Book,” where employees share their thoughts and expressions of gratitude for their coworkers.
Buffer and Asana both utilized Slack, with channels dedicated to colleague appreciation. Executives lead the way by incorporating the expression of gratitude into regular meetings.
Equiliem’s VP of Human Resources, Joe Scotto, implemented the THNKS program earlier this year. Managers and leaders can send a token of thanks to deserving team members in the form of coffee, lunch, or gift cards. He said, “It’s a way to share success stories and applaud the above-and-beyond efforts of our teams. The person giving the gratitude gift can include a personalized message noting why they are showing appreciation. Giving THNKS helps reinforce the great work by our teams!”
A Moment of Gratitude Creates Ripple Benefits
“Gratitude makes sense of our past, brings peace for today, and creates a vision for tomorrow.” — Melody Beattie
Incorporating a practice of gratitude into the workplace is not just a feel-good concept; it’s a powerful tool for individual and organizational success. The science behind gratitude, its contagious nature, and practical techniques for cultivating it make it a workplace superpower that can transform attitudes, relationships, and productivity. By fostering a culture of gratitude, organizations can inspire their employees to thrive and create a more harmonious and productive work environment. As Cicero wisely noted, gratitude is the parent of all virtues, and when nurtured, it can lead to remarkable results.
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