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Does Gratitude Belong in the Workplace?

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by Gilmara Vila Nova-Mitchell

Sometimes a gesture of gratitude finds you when you need it the most. Simple gestures can have a profound impact on well-being.

This past month I was feeling drained and trying to do everything I could to rebuild my emotional reserve, when I unexpectedly received an email that changed the course of my week. It changed my mood, my energy level, and it provided me with the push I so needed.  The message was from a colleague describing how an experience I had offered at work had impacted him personally and professionally. Although I had always felt a special sense of connection with this individual, I had no idea of how our collaboration had impacted him. The fact he took time to write me a note meant more than he will ever know. That note of gratitude was exactly what I needed…it restored me. There is no better feeling than being seen and appreciated. It does not cost anything to intentionally share gratitude for others. The time and energy commitment are minimal, and yet we tend to resist to practice gratitude at the workplace.

We tend to see workplaces as transactional environments, and oftentimes resist bringing gratitude, and compassion into professional settings. However, expressing and receiving gratitude at work is key to creating a positive employee experience. Grateful organizations typically see improvement in well-being, reduced stress, and greater resilience.

Gratitude is a unique emotion because it is not self-oriented, but other-oriented. When companies intentionally focus on practicing gratitude on the individual level, over time the practice starts translating to the collective level and slowly becomes woven into the fabric of the organization.

Workplace culture magic unleashes when employees know that the organization deeply cares about their well-being and happiness. In my professional experience, I oftentimes see levels of engagement increase greatly when people feel seen and valued on a personal level at work.

The most effective way I have found to make gratitude part of your culture is by modeling it. When a leader is grateful and consistently appreciates team members, overtime that practice has a domino effect and team members in turn start openly sharing appreciation for others. Ten years ago, I started devoting one hour weekly to intentionally share gratitude for my colleagues. I am proud of the fact I have been able to sustain this practice. But I wish I had started much earlier in my career. This practice has been transformational for me. It has provided me with a chance to reflect on my week and identify lessons learned as well as those who had an impact on me. I have felt happier at work, closer to my colleagues, and able to navigate challenging moments better.

It is important to cultivate a holistic positive human experience in the workplace. Gratitude is a basic human requirement. People need interpersonal connection, community, and validation to thrive at work.

How are you sharing gratitude at work?


Gilmara Vila Nova-Mitchell
Leadership Coach at Sarah Noll WIlson, Inc. | Website | + posts

Gilmara Vila Nova-Mitchell has been helping organizations and leaders become more effective and inclusive through her engaging diversity and inclusion professional learning sessions, leadership development programs, and equity & cultural proficiency coaching for almost two decades.

Gilmara has worked with HR managers, chief diversity officers, and other leaders to create more inclusive work environments. Gilmara has collaborated with organizations from the private and public sectors in various industries. Gilmara has supported organizations to develop strategic plans, create equity-driven monitoring tools, create inclusive cultures, and learn about equity-driven leadership.

Born in Brazil, Gilmara moved to the United States in 2001. She holds a Bachelor of Multicultural Education from FUMEC University (Brazil) and an MSE in School Counseling from Drake University. Gilmara has focused on her doctoral studies in Organizational Behavior with a focus on trust in the workplace.

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