The Necessity of Giving Gratitude at Work

My friend Rob told me that his co-worker complained about every little thing. It dragged him down. If someone left work early he would chime in. If someone didn’t send him the right format on a report he would grumble. No one went the extra mile for him because he would always find a way to complain about something.

Do you know anyone like this?

People complain at work because they focus on the “lack” instead of the “joy” that they get from their job. They do this for a number of reasons:

  • They don’t feel appreciated by their boss.
  • They’ve skewed their expectations of what they really want out of their job.
  • They don’t feel appreciated by their co-workers.
  • They aren’t happy with the work they are doing.

Instead of trying to change these feelings, people perpetuate them through complaining. However, we have the ability to change this way of thinking.

Give Gratitude

It can be as simple as a “thank you” to a co-worker who helped you on a project or gave you good advice. Those two words can increase your happiness because they trigger two parts of your brain: the nucleus accumbens and the caudate nucleus, which are both associated with being rewarded. Furthermore, by giving a thank you to someone else you will also send good feelings throughout yourself.

You don’t necessarily need to hear a “thank you” or “you rock” from a co-worker first before giving a compliment to them. When you give the gratitude first, you can start a chain reaction. You will feel good, the person who gets the compliment will feel great and the people who work close to both of you will also feel happier because work happiness is contagious.

Anita Fontana wrote an article titled, “How to Cultivate Gratitude in the Workplace.” She talks about the importance of fostering an attitude of giving appreciation freely.

“With the power of gratitude and appreciation at your disposal, you can transform a negative atmosphere into a new spirit of appreciation in your office, empowering people, bringing enthusiasm and satisfaction back into their work and building strong bonds between employees.”

That’s a recipe for success. It works because we create an abundant mindset that focuses on the good things in our working lives instead of complaining about what we wish we had.

I’ve been guilty of complaining at work and I actually challenged myself to stop complaining at work (and at home) for 30 days. I watched how negative I could be and how it affected my work. I realized that I needed to become more thankful for my co-workers and my ability to accomplish good work.

We all need to cultivate gratitude in the office in order to create an enjoyable atmosphere.

The benefits go beyond feeling good. When we feel grateful we also:

  1. Strengthen Our Immune System – It naturally increases our antibodies.
  2. Improve Brain Functions – We stay more focused and are less likely to slip into a depression.
  3. Relax – Our heart rate lowers which helps regulate blood pressure.
  4. Become More Productive – People who are grateful toward others are actually better at their jobs. 

Stephen Post, PHD wrote about the importance of feeling grateful for all the good people and work in our lives. Check out his article and learn about the importance of being more grateful at work and at home.

What can you do to feel more grateful?

1. Create a Compliment Schedule

Most of the time we get too caught up in our own work and forget to thank our co-workers for all their hard work. You may want to create a schedule and put it on your calendar. Most computer calendars allow for reminders. I used to set mine to ping me at 3:00 every afternoon. If I haven’t complimented someone by that time I make sure that I find someone and give them a compliment. This has become a habit that’s improved my work relationships.

2. Ask Someone If They Could Use Some Help

There’s nothing like bringing a little appreciation into your life by offering to help someone. I love the looks I get from co-workers. The funny thing is they usually say no, but they always appreciate my offer.

3. Give a Compliment and Really Watch What Happens

I’ve seen a co-worker give another co-worker a compliment and they were too embarrassed to watch the results. I always enjoy the person’s expression. Every time I give a compliment I watch the results and try to make mental notes. It’s a way for me to revel in the goodness. Sometimes I’ll get such a surprised reaction that they just don’t know what do do with the words that just came out of my mouth (see photo above). The experience of gratitude is just so much fun.

4. Make a Co-Worker Appreciation List

Some of us don’t like to throw around compliments. I understand. I hate when I get a disingenuous compliment. I would prefer if they hadn’t said anything at all. But that doesn’t mean we can’t give silent thanks to the co-workers in our lives. Take ten minutes and write a compliment for every person in your department or your whole company. Even if you don’t deliver it, this exercise will pick up your spirits.

What do you do to show appreciation? Do you prefer to give a gift or maybe a pat on the shoulder? I would also like to know what was your favorite compliment form a boss or a co-worker?

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15 thoughts on “The Necessity of Giving Gratitude at Work”

  1. Stephen - Rat Race Trap

    Karl, these are good ideas. A few years ago I would have said they were psycho-babble crap. However, I have seen the difference in both myself and how I feel, as well as the motivation of those around me, since I have started doing these kinds of things. Your article inspires me to do even better by making it more rigorous, rather than just whenever I think about it.

  2. Tom Volkar / Delightful Work

    Good advice here. We cannot recommend gratitude too much. It’s a powerful causative energy that creates an expansion of what’s working well in our lives. Who wouldn’t want more of that?

  3. Indeed, Gratitude is life-changing. I show appreciation by creating a routine to make a list of all the things I am grateful for in that moment(No matter how busy you get, I do it everyday), it helps to bring more things in my life to be grateful about.

    This is what leads to seeing life through the eyes of ‘the soul’. In this, there is no complaining, only opportunity for seeing gratefulness in all things.

    Being in a state of gratitude attracts blissful experience for a life-time. Every goal you could ever want to achieve will natural flow to you through this gratitude state of being and that is what life is all about.

  4. I’m a fan of gratitude in practice.

    I find the more specific I can make it, the better the results. It’s one thing to say good job … it’s another to give the full weight behind the impact and why it’s so valued.

  5. Although I am now self employed, I have many years of experience in the private sector. In my view, gratitude is an import psyco-social driver, but as someone who has had the misfortune of working in environments where the attitude is less than positive, I have come to the conclusion that some occupations are more welcoming of this mindset than others.

  6. Hi Karl: There are few things more pleasant than getting a heartfelt compliment. It’s nice to know that other people notice the good that you do.

  7. Hi Stephen, it’s amazing how a little gratitude can turn a whole department around.

    Hi Nicholas, we attract what we create in our lives. If we bring nothing but gratitude to our work then it’s going to permeate into our soul. Excellent way of looking at life.

    Hi J.D., specifics is so much better than just a generic thank you.

    Hi Matt, every work place is different, but it’s up to each individual to try to bring gratitude into the workplace.

    Hi Marelisa, when people notice that I’m working hard and they acknowledge it I get such a boost.

    Hi Alik, everyone should watch your youtube link. Best YouTube movie ever!

  8. I just spent my whole weekend (and then some) running a basketball tournament. And there were many hands to make this whole thing come to fruition. Money we earned is for our basketball club – so I can’t really take money we earned to give back to those who helped – and where to draw the line would be another question. So, I’m simply going to send out thank-you notes, personally written, to those who were most instrumental in the whole weekend – probably a handful of people. I know this is directly related to my day job – still, though, the concept of a hand-written note can mean much – especially in today’s age of email/text messaging – taking the time to write something out on paper – I think is a powerful statement of caring. This is a great topic to discuss!

  9. Garry - thisimprovedlife

    One of the things that I like about the place where I currently work is that the manager gives us complements. Not in a way that is cheesy or over the top, but a proper thanks for just doing what we are getting paid for. And it really makes us feel appreciated. A bit of gratitude can certainly go a long way.

  10. Hi Karl, I am absolutely agree with you. Giving compliment seems like a small thing, but it can bring a strong impact to our co workers and to the team work climate as well.
    I also like when you described about ‘when we feel grateful we also: …’
    Thanks for sharing, Karl.

  11. This is a great guide to lifechange. I find that when people complain at work, you can bet they are overall complainers. I have great compassion for them, as I’m a recovering complainer. I felt like if I didnt’ have something negative going on in my life, then I had no value. It seemed to me that people paid more attention to problems, than to happy people. I had surrounded myself with negative people, so of course we could commiserate daily on everything and everything. I want to help people feel valued, simply for just being them, not for the “things” that do or don’t happen in their lives. Finding the genuine good in people and sharing that with them, is a great way to do that.

  12. Saying thank you takes so little and means so much. At the last corporate job I had there was no such thing as gratitude. And in fact, top performers were often pulled into the CEO’s office (a 35 person start up and the CEO was very hands on) and told they weren’t doing a good enough job or that he could fire them. I was at the receiving end of these words. Hence the reason I up and left for good.

    I think this holds true for any organization, really. People want to feel validated, like they are making a difference and are being noticed for their efforts. A thank you once in a while is really not much to ask.

  13. Hi Lance, hand written notes are maybe my favorite form of gratitude. I’ll bet they’ll love them and want to help out again next year.

    Hi Gary, a simple acknowledgment doesn’t seem like much when you give it, but the waves carry on between many people. The person that receives the first “thank you” passes those good vibes on to their co-workers.

    Hi Arswino, life is all about the little things. Because if we can enjoy them then the other stuff is easier to handle.

    Hi Audra, I’m a recovering complainer too. It is about letting go of all these pent of feelings and just figuring out how to enjoy what we have in the here and now.

    Hi Stacey, it sounds like it might have been a compliment to be called into the CEO’s office. That means you are a top performer. He definitely didn’t go about it the right way, but maybe it’s just a little bit of solace.

    Hi BOH, Damn straight. Happy people rock!

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