Self-development

How to Cultivate Gratitude Within a Team

by Intelligent Change — 6 min read

How to Cultivate Gratitude Within a Team

Whether you’re a team leader, a manager or an entrepreneur, would you like your team to be more productive, cooperative, innovative? To communicate more openly?

Modern times require modern solutions. Thinking outside the box. Getting creative.

That’s why we've prepared this short and straightforward team gratitude guide for all the leaders out there who’d like to make a positive change among their team.

Before we dive into the practical tips, check out one of our previous articles on why gratitude is important in business to find out how the gratitude practice can change the way people communicate at the workplace and why it is so important.

Team Gratitude Guide

Whether you’re a “problem-solving” or “relationship-focused” type of leader, the tips on how to implement gratitude in your team will surely change the way your team functions.

So far, research has revealed only positive things about practicing gratitude. People tend to be happier, healthier, engage more often in physical activity, have better sleep, and improve their relationships. When it comes to workplace benefits of practicing gratitude, research shows that grateful employees have an enhanced feeling of belonging at work, tend to engage more, have lower turnover risk, and perform better compared to those who don’t feel grateful.

If this is what you want to achieve, read on.


Tip #1: Model Thankfulness

gratitude in business

Be the change you want to see.

People look up to their leaders. The way your team behaves at work vastly reflects your behavior towards them. If your employees fear you, or sense that you’re untouchable, or cold, their relationship towards work will be somewhere between stressed out and completely uninterested. But how do you get them to the positive side of the scale?

The occasional “thank you”, or “keep up the good work”, or even “this job you did truly made a change”, can truly make a change in your team dynamics. They should also see you being polite and thankful towards your supervisors, clients, and other business-related roles. People won’t start expressing gratitude at work on their own. It can seem intimidating and exposing. That’s why they need a leader who models this type of behavior.

Tip #2: Keep a Gratitude Journal

One way of becoming a grateful leader and model is by keeping a gratitude journal. We’ve designed The Five Minute Journal to help you gain the most out of this practice.

All you need is:

  • The Five Minute Journal;
  • A pen;
  • Five minutes in the morning;
  • Five minutes in the evening;
  • Consistency and desire to stop and notice the good things in day to day life.

How is this possible? Doesn’t journaling take a lot of your time?

Well, The Five Minute Journal is designed to make gratitude journaling as time-economic as possible. All you need to do is answer three prompts in the morning and then again in the evening, and you’re good to go. The benefits? Invaluable. Your every day begins with a shot of positivity and ends the same way – with the reflection on the good things. Instead of focusing on the negativity and being grumpy after waking up, you shift to thinking about the good things: what will make today great? This way you train your mind to think in a more positive way and that’s the mindset you bring to work every day.

You can also use The Five Minute Journal app if you're more of the digital type.

The Five Minute Journal
The Five Minute Journal $24.95 USD

Tip #3: Give Positive Reinforcements

Did somebody clean up after a company lunch? Remembered to make a phone call to an office supplier that everyone keeps forgetting to do? Helped another colleague complete a task?

Thank them in front of everyone. Make these actions of care count, don’t take them for granted.

When you use positive reinforcements at the workplace, your focus shifts from what people are doing wrong, to what they’re doing right. You can use them to deliver criticism as well: “you’re a great worker and always deliver high-quality results. I also admire you taking evening classes in marketing. However, I also need you to start delivering assignments on time, as I simply believe you can.”

What you need to keep in mind regarding positive reinforcements is to avoid favoritism. If you only reinforce certain people, while others feel unnoticed, they will feel discouraged and probably become less productive and engaged.

Tip #4: Offer Personal Development

gratitude in business

When you show a willingness to invest in the personal development of your team, that says “I appreciate you”, “I want to keep you here”, “you’re doing a great job”.

Work-related personal development helps the employees feel more motivated at work, set clearer goals for themselves, develop a more positive attitude at work, and be more confident. Consequently, they’ll also feel more grateful as a response to your gratitude and faith in them.

You can offer them soft-skills training, such as communicational skills, stress management, critical thinking, leadership, time management, organization, problem-solving, etc. if that’s what they need. However, you should also consider improving their hard-skills, depending on their position at the company. This could be learning a new foreign language, or a new programming language, acquiring a certificate in digital marketing, or web design.

You can also pay memberships in professional organizations to give your employees a chance to connect with their peers from the industry and build a reputation.

Tip #5: Provide Opportunities for Gratitude

If you thank your team members for the great work they’re doing, you’re increasing the odds for them to become more grateful themselves, and provide help to other people on the team.

However, keep in mind that expressing gratitude is exposing. Not everyone enjoys attention in public. So how do you provide opportunities for expressing gratitude for the more modest employees?

Here are a few suggestions.

Keep an Office Journal

One option is to have an anonymous gratitude journal, online or hard copy. Anyone who wants can fill it out and leave their name by the entry, or not.

Then, you can organize weekly or monthly reading and find out what your team members are grateful for the most.

The other option is to provide all of your employees with a gift copy of The Five Minute Journal, and it will be their choice to fill it out or not.

Create a Kudos Webpage or Gratitude Wall

This is somewhat similar to the company’s gratitude journal, only it can be publicly visible.

A successful example of such a project can be seen on the appreciation platform of the Administration and Finance office of the University of California, Berkeley, where employees can recognize each other’s contributions and successes. All this feeds into a public “kudos” webpage, where other people can find out more about these contributions.

If building a website seems like too much, you can create an office bulletin board: a “gratitude wall”. Alternatively, you can take team gratitude online: create a dedicated gratitude channel on Slack.

Gratitude Workshops

Practicing gratitude can be a part of your team building activities. For example, you can start or finish your (online) meetings with some appreciation that targets a specific person and their good deeds; . Or, once a month, you can organize a “gratitude Tuesday” (or whichever day works for you), where you and all the employees practice expressing gratitude. Here are a few recommendations on what to do:

  • Have a lunch together and reflect on the good things that happened the past month;
  • Exchange gifts. The act of giving has numerous intrinsic benefits for the gift giver. It also represents a recognition between coworkers.
  • Set up a Thankful Tree and a bunch of colorful papers and writing utensils, for people to write thankful notes on them and place them on the tree. You can also do it online.
  • Volunteer in the local community as a company. Giving back is a positive experience for a team, it creates stronger bonds between people, and naturally boosts gratitude. You can pick up trash in the park, organize a charity event, or visit a nursing home.

    Tip #6: Give Them a Well-deserved Relaxing Break

    As business psychologist Tom Freeman pointed out on his blog, taking breaks is a vital part of taking care of ourselves, both our minds and bodies. People who take regular breaks stay energized and more engaged throughout the day. If you and your team members use The Productivity Planner, you know how important short breaks in Focus Time sessions are.

    Nurturing your employees sends a message of care. Here’s a couple of things you can do:

    • Don’t schedule anything at certain times in the morning and afternoon for one hour (for example 11 am and 3 pm), so your employees can use that time to meditate or take a walk outside.
    • Provide them with a break space: a break room, meditation room, or proximity of a nice and calming park or walking trail.
    • Keep the kitchen stocked with all the necessities for healthy snacks, or even meals. Encourage them to eat together, as that’s how people often bond.
    • Pay attention to their workload. If you overwhelm them, they won’t feel appreciated nor appreciative.

      Tip #7: Get Them Involved

      What we mean by this is getting your employees involved in the decision-making processes. Ask them if they want to work for a certain client, what their opinions on some certain plansthe five-year plan are, or anything else that the company and them can benefit from.

      People feel appreciated and grateful when they’re given the opportunity to use their skills or participate in the company’s important decisions.

      A 2012 study revealed that 63% of the examined employees listed the ability to use their skills as the most important aspect of job satisfaction.

      Tip #8: Practice Active Listening

      Did you know that people spend more than 70% of their days communicating, up to 55% of which is just listening? But how much do we really listen?

      Active listening means being completely aware and focused on what’s being shared in a conversation, compared to passively hearing the speaker and allowing their words to disappear in the ether.

      When you actively and mindfully listen to people, you show them respect and appreciation. Active listening is a conscious decision that requires energy, focus, as well as being non-judgemental, understanding, and curious.

      What type of listening do you use in your office? Are you a conscious and active listener? Start practicing this with your team members in order to create a grateful team.


      gratitude in business

      Final Word

      Cultivating gratitude at work is a new and progressive approach to building a stable, consistent, happy and highly engaged team of employees.

      We know – it’s challenging. But there is nothing impossible.

      Read more articles and literature. Model the behavior yourself and offer your team members opportunities for growth, development, and gratitude. Get them involved, reinforce the behaviors you want to see and listen to their needs.

      This is a sure way toward creating a more grateful and connected team.

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