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Big Ideas

The Secret to an Efficient Team? Gratitude.

Feel like you’re not getting enough appreciation at work? You’re probably right (and you’re probably guilty of it too).

In 2013, a study from the John Templeton Foundation found that offices are the least common place to either hear or express gratitude.

At first glance, the workplace—where we devote long hours, develop important relationships, and regularly participate in teamwork—seems an unlikely candidate for the title of World’s Least Appreciative Environment. But in reality, the speed at which we move through our daily motions, a lack of understanding around individual talents and contributions (read: what your colleague is actually doing over there), and a bad tendency to attribute the bulk of credit to people at the top puts gratitude in meager supply. In short, everyone loves to be thanked, but no one really prioritizes it.

It’s normal to give gratitude a backseat when your brain’s full of to-dos, but a growing body of science suggests forgetting your thank you’s might be to blame for unhappiness at work. According to Harvard Health, research in positive psychology shows that “gratitude helps people feel more positive emotions, relish good experiences, improve their health, deal with adversity, and build strong relationships.” Even more studies, old and new, show significant and concrete correlations between increased gratitude and improved happiness—in work and in life.

Studies, old and new, show significant and concrete correlations between increased gratitude and improved happiness—in work and in life.

So how can you boost your outlook and improve workplace morale with gratitude? The key is making thankfulness a habit, which you can do in just a few minutes a day. Here are our three favorite gratitude exercises, backed by research, for getting it done.

1. Make a gratitude list

A popular piece of research by Robert Emmons of UC Davis and Michael McCollough of SMU evaluated the impacts of gratitude by studying three groups of people; instructing one group to write daily about anything, one to write daily about bad or negative experiences, and the last to make a daily list of things for which they were grateful. Results showed that participants in the last group experienced higher levels of enthusiasm, alertness, optimism, determination and energy, made greater progress towards achieving personal goals, and even exercised more regularly.

A daily exercise of listing several things you’re grateful for can increase happiness by 25 percent, and only takes a few minutes. Your lists can include anything you’re grateful for, but regularly including a few work-related items will support a more positive outlook on the job.

2. Create an environment of thankfulness

In 2010, a study by Adam Grant and Francesca Gino explored how gratitude motivated pro-social behavior—or in other words, how thanking someone for something motivated future acts of support. After being thanked for their personal contributions, participants in the study experienced increased feelings of value and worth, which in turn more than doubled their likelihood of repeating that helpful behavior. 

For everyone, this study unveils an easy way to support the self-esteem of your colleagues. For people at the management level, it also suggests just how much support and productivity you could be losing by not expressing gratitude. To make sure you’re taking advantage of the benefits of appreciation and acknowledgment, try building intentional and genuine thanking into your team meetings or one-on-ones. 

3. Acknowledge every contribution

Like this article by Berkeley’s Greater Good Science Center points out, every organization has its glory hogs. Founders get most of the credit at startups, performers get most of the credit for great Broadway shows (and so on), but neither of these roles can be successfully performed without immeasurable support from others.

Every organization has its glory hogs.

Groups or individuals in highly visible, oft-thanked positions aren’t necessarily at fault, they just absorb the bulk of the limelight due to human laziness. While it’s much easier to high-five a leader in your organization for her or his teams’ accomplishments, acknowledging the whole team with a warm email will highlight the critical support of each individual, and boost the happiness of an entire group of individuals instead of just one.

How about you?

How has gratitude shaped your workplace?

More Posts by Carmel Hagen

Carmel Hagen is the founder and CEO of Sweet Revenge Sugar Co., a company developing mindfully delicious alternatives to refined sugar. For creative kitchen inspiration and mixologist tips, follow Sweet Revenge on Instagram at @enjoyrevenge or visit

Comments (8)
  • anonymous admirer

    Thank you, Carmel 🙂

  • Yami Sen

    l was without work for 6 munths when my former Co-worker finally recommended me to start freelancing from home,,, It was only after I earned $5000 in my first month when I actually believed I could do this for a living! Now I am happier than ever… I work from home and I am my own boss now like l always wanted… l see a lot of unhappy people around me, working the same old boring job that’s sucking the Iife out of them day by day… Everytime I see someone like that I say START FREELANCING MAN! This is where I started

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  • Web Outsourcing Gateway

    This is nice Carmel. I agree with your thoughts. Being thankful for what you have and what you are help you to boost positive attitude and make every working day an opportunity to be efficient in your team and in your entire workplace.


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  • Paul Daveril Dabuco

    Appreciation is really the best way to show gratitude for a job well done. It promotes the well-being and boosts morale of the person. Nice! 🙂

  • Gina Davis

    Gratitude is one of the cornerstones of how I do business. A couple times of year I do a Gratitude challenge, where everyday for 30 days I send a heartfelt message to a client, business associate, friend or family. The result is relationship with these people get stronger. Why I do this: because people do business with people they know, like & trust.

  • hidrees

    I completely agree! The power of gratitude is highly underrated.

    I work at an early-stage startup and we have 3 check-in meetings per week. The meetings are a place to discuss any roadblocks or important feedback and we were noticing that they were real downers most of the time. So we started ending the meetings with a “kudos” that goes out to one team member every week. The receiver of kudos that week gets to give kudos the week after and so on. This has left the entire team in higher spirits after our meetings, with kudos going to more than just team leads/the most visible people, and has resulted in a happier work environment!

  • serjant
  • Mark Wayland

    My Mother taught me that the opposite to love is not hate…. it’s indifference. And that’s true, and highly likely, in most teams.

    In a corporate setting, gratitude seems an easy (less new-age connotations) substitute for love.

  • Tim Ryan

    But wait Carmel…there’s more!

    We’re learning more every day about the impact gratitude/appreciation/recognition/pats on the back/virtual high fives/group hugs can have on both employee happiness AND business drivers like employee engagement, retention, increased performance = profits.

    In partnership with I/O Psychology researchers at San Francisco State University, we looked at two years of employee performance data at an award-winning digital advertising agency that has created a culture of appreciation. What we found was pretty cool and in support of your piece. Here’s a summary of the study if you or your readers are curious:

    Thanks for spreading the gratitude love Carmel!

    Tim Ryan

  • Violeta Nedkova

    Bless you. This attitude is so important not only in self-improvement but in working relationships as well. I might sometimes forget to thank everyone, but I try to give myself reminders, there are apps for that. Wonderful world we live in. 🙂

  • silentwish1628

    Appreciation is really the best way to show gratitude for a job well done. It promotes the well-being and boosts morale of the person. Nice! 🙂
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  • Rayan Umer

    Appreciation is really the best way to show gratitude for a job well done. It promotes the well-being and boosts morale of the person. Nice! 🙂

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