Why is Showing Gratitude at Work So Tricky?

Thankyou

As you sit around on Thanksgiving saying what you're thankful for, will you save some of those thank yous for people at work?

Let’s face it, showing gratitude is rare in most workplaces. Even while there have been numerous studies on the positive relationship between gratitude and work engagement, the concept isn’t often embraced by the people in charge. When is the last time your boss said thank you?

Some bosses fear saying thank you to staff will weaken their authority, while others worry employees will take advantage of them if they show gratitude. There are also some managers who believe they already thank their staff by giving them a paying job, and some who will argue that because they don’t receive appreciation, there is no need to dole it out.

It is no surprise that people are less likely to feel or express gratitude at work than anyplace else, according to a 2012 survey of 2,000 Americans by the John Templeton Foundation. “It’s the habit that people bring to the workplace,” says Emiliana Simon-Thomas, science director at the Greater Good Science Center at the University of California, Berkeley. “They feel reluctant at work to say thank you but those bosses who do actually tend to be more respected.”

Clearly, creating a culture of gratitude can be tricky. For one corporate leader, finding the right approach was a learning process. When Criag Ceccanti, CEO of Pinot’s Palette (based in Houston; it has seven studios in Florida) gave his employees high-fives and thanked them often for their work building his paint and sip concept into a national franchise, the show of gratitude backfired: “They began not working as hard and not striving for the next level.”
 
Now he thanks employees during staff meetings, when they do something that deserves recognition. 

 

Dr. Jason Pirozzolo approaches gratitude at the office the way his mother taught him as a kid — through handwritten thank you notes to his employees for going above and beyond their routine job descriptions. 

It's not just bosses that can show gratitude. Thirty-year-old Jimmy Sinis says he thanks his co-workers when they put in extra effort on team projects. They do the same for him: “Because we have situations where it gets stressful, when we get to finish line together it’s gratifying. Saying thank you is part of the routine.” Sinis says if a co-worker pitches in to alleviate a few late nights, he reciprocates beyond verbal of gratitude: “I’ll say, let me take you to lunch, you really got me out of a jam.”

 
If someone deserves gratitude, Bob Preziosi, a professor of management at the H. Wayne Huizenga College of Business at Nova Southeastern University, believes saying thank you is best done publicly so that it is observed and can permeate the culture. However, Preziosi sees nothing wrong with employees giving the boss a push. “An employee may need to do a reversal and shoot a gratitude bomb at their boss,” he says. “Hopefully, their boss will pick up on it and respond.”

 

 
What are your thoughts on gratitude in the workplace? Do you want to be thanked for a job well done? Do you think a boss that shows too much gratitude is going to be stepped all over? 

 

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