Really? Don't "jobs" mean working for an organization that breeds egocentrism and selfishness! Most of us would probably move out of our jobs and into the Gig Economy if we could. So, what's gratitude got to do with your job?
Quite a lot, according to Robert A. Emmons, Ph.D., the world’s leading scientific expert on gratitude. In fact, gratitude is actually proving profitable for companies. How?
Gratitude is a feeling of appreciation in response to an experience that is beneficial to us, but that is not directly caused by us. Unlike many other emotions, gratitude is highly social and oriented towards others.
In the workplace for example, you might experience gratitude when a coworker sacrifices her free time to help you meet a deadline, or when your manager spends an afternoon helping you develop a new skill.
Over the past decade, hundreds of studies have documented the social, physical, and psychological benefits of gratitude. The research suggests these benefits are available to most anyone who practices gratitude, even in the midst of adversity.
But what does this have to do with profitability?
In a paper published this month in the Academy of Management Review, the authors make the business case for gratitude. In organizations, they say, gratitude may be experienced as an event, something that happens once in a while. But gratitude may also emerge at the individual level in the form of persistent gratitude, and can also emerge at the organizational level as collective gratitude, in which individuals' own experiences of persistent gratitude converge to manifest as a shared organizational-level phenomenon.
The authors identify the following benefits of workplace gratitude:
- Event-based gratitude leads to an increase in organizational citizenship behaviours, which are behaviours that directly contribute to work performance but are less formally rewarded and more discretionary than job-related tasks. For example, filling in for a coworker during an emergency, or making new employees feel welcome.
- Persistent gratitude contributes to well-being, with positive implications for employee behavior and performance.
- Persistent gratitude fosters more communal-based norms of behaviour, characterized by trust and closeness.
- Collective gratitude contributes to a more resilient organization in which employees respond to new demands with optimism and persistence.
- Collective gratitude increases corporate social responsibility, defined as "actions that appear to further some social good, beyond the interests of the firm and that which is required by law".
- Plan formal employee appreciation programs, in which the organization holds formal events to endow individuals with expressions of positive affirmation.
- Foster contact with beneficiaries, to improve employees' feelings of social worth, prosocial motivation, and job persistence. For example, employees at a University call centre were connected directly with their beneficiaries, in this case scholarship recipients.
- Give accurate, regular developmental feedback, providing employees with useful information enabling them to learn and develop their skills.
- Cultivate benevolent attributions towards HR. When employees attribute gratitude initiatives to benevolent motives, they are likely to respond with enthusiasm and engagement.