Making gratitude a career soft skill

Let colleagues and employees know they’re appreciated

Home Career blog posts Making gratitude a career soft skill
Coffee appreciation

With the holiday season upon us, the message of gratitude and thanks is once again being promoted and communicated everywhere we look.

Yet in all the ways we can express appreciation and recognize goodness, the one place we neglect is the workplace. Most of us are not likely to thank coworkers, supervisors and managers—even those we like and respect.

Perhaps we think it’s unnecessary, that people are just doing their job. Some of us may feel uncomfortable expressing gratitude, or believe it doesn’t matter. We may fear showing weakness or incompetence. According to organizational psychologist and Wharton professor Adam Grant,

“Often times, expressing gratitude suggests that I was in need, or I am putting myself in a vulnerable situation where I didn’t have the expertise or the confidence to solve my own problem.”

Grant and Francesca Gino, behavioral scientist and Harvard Business School professor, discussed their research on gratitude and generosity in a podcast interview with an accompanying article for Harvard Business Review. The gist of it is reflected in the title: The Big Benefits of a Little Thanks.

They say people are surprised to hear how powerful it is to give and receive a little thanks and appreciation. Yet of all the higher needs of human beings, our yearning for acknowledgment and recognition is at the top of the list, and it’s not a coat we remove and check at the workplace door. Grant and Gino mention various studies, along with their own, backing this up. In a 2017 survey done by the American Psychological Association, the top determinant of employee satisfaction and trust in their employer was supervisor support.

Other findings from this report:

  • Employees who feel supported by their supervisors were more than twice as likely to report job satisfaction and to recommend their company as a good place to work.
  • Nearly 80% of those who said they feel supported also indicated trust in their employer.
  • Employees with college degrees (in higher-level positions and more opportunities for growth) seem to fare better, with nearly 75% reporting supervisor support compared to only 55% of those without a college degree.

All we need to do is think about the last time our efforts were recognized. Even a simple thank you and good job sent via email or posted to an internal communication network makes us feel better. Conversely, when our efforts are ignored and unappreciated, we have one less incentive to excel and one more reason to consider leaving.

About one-third of our time is devoted to work, which means we spend as much time (or more) with coworkers as we spend time with family and friends. This holiday season, let’s include our colleagues and supervisors by expressing our appreciation for all they do to make our work lives better.

Related links:

The Big Benefits of a Little Thanks (Harvard Business Review)

How managers can double employee satisfaction and trust

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