The Psychology of Gratitude: 5 Ways to Make Employees Feel Appreciated

Friday, March 12, 2021

Showing your employees that you appreciate their contribution and efforts is a simple way to boost their self-esteem and keep productivity flowing.

Article 5 Minutes
The Psychology of Gratitude: 5 Ways to Make Employees Feel Appreciated

This isn’t just a nice idea either - an influential study by the University of Pennsylvania showed that conveying gratitude to employees improved their outreach efforts by 50%.

That makes it very simple - express gratitude and you’ll see the returns, right?

Spreading appreciation and gratitude isn’t merely a box-ticking exercise though - it’s ingrained into the DNA of a successful business.

In reality, conveying a genuine sense of gratitude takes care and attention, but going the extra mile for your employees is mutually beneficial and well worth the time.

Embrace the science of gratitude

Gratitude is the expression of appreciation. A Berkeley science review entitled The Science of Gratitude discusses how gratitude acts as the social glue behind harmonious workplaces and work cultures. Solidarity is crucial here and managers need to show that they know and understand the work they’re delegating.

Most workplaces are still traditionally hierarchical with top-down organization structures and in some sense, this is often unavoidable for the sake of management. But that doesn’t mean that managers can’t work with others or collaborate with them.

Elon Musk is an archetypal example, living, working and even sleeping in Tesla factories to meet deadlines and targets. He told CNBC that he once worked 120 hour weeks; “however hard it was for [the team], I would make it worse for me”.

Obviously, not every business is a Silicon Valley tech giant, and it’s a pretty extreme example. Regardless, it illustrates that solidarity is shown through hard teamwork.

When the going gets tough for your team and you’re sat there twiddling your thumbs, get stuck in - it’s the ultimate show of solidarity and gratitude.

The little things count

Please, thank you, smiling and any other form of recognition are all incredibly important and can have a real impact on someone’s day.

Berkeley research found that something as simple as a ‘thank you’ would create a ripple effect that didn’t just positively impact the benefactor, but also others who witnessed the exchange.

Gratitude is infectious and even small gestures have an impact.

The best thing? These types of gestures are free and take just seconds to exchange.

They can become forgotten and buried under the stress of work, but habitually keeping tabs on the day-to-day gratitude you express is important for making your employees feel appreciated.

Tokens of appreciation

The little things are often free, but you can take a step up and outright spoil your employees with tokens of appreciation.

Humans have been exchanging gifts for millennia, why? Because we’ve grown to really enjoy it.

Exchanging gifts with your employees is thoughtful and expresses deeper gratitude for accomplishing a difficult task, finding a creative way to solve a problem or in some other way going the extra mile.

It doesn’t even have to reward anything - it could just be spontaneous.

There are many options, from flowers to vouchers to cakes, sweets and chocolate to even bespoke gifts and treats. Miss Macaroon recently spoke about how HR managers ordered macarons to show their employees that they’re appreciated. Pastry Chef Jenny said:

"I heard that some HR managers wanted to purchase macaroons online to send out to their employees and I thought that this would be a great way to also help employees feel appreciated. I think in a bigger company it is harder to check in with everyone so this little gift would definitely do the trick!"


Let employees decompress

Deadlines are deadlines and most understand that these are important to uphold.

But there may be other times when you can let employees decompress or even have spontaneous time off if appropriate.

This is most important following a particularly stressful time of the year, such as the end of each quarter - Q4 especially.

When it’s time to take time off, make sure you genuinely allow your employees to chill. Cease work communication, don’t talk about anything business-related at all if possible - allow for full-on decompression and escapism.

This is particularly important with new work-from-home setups, as it becomes too easy to assume that your employees are always on the go - that they can dodge to a PC at any time.

When it’s time to work, it’s time to work, but show your employees you appreciate their time and privacy when it’s not time to work.

Be open

Business culture has traditionally been somewhat of a closed shop. People come, people go, there’s often little time for personal communication.

As a manager or business owner, it’s your responsibility to create that time.

Catching up with employees and talking about something personal to you can build rapport and show them that you appreciate their input on matters beyond business.

There are many ways to approach this, you can ask for advice on a personal matter, or discuss things you have in common, funny anecdotes, mistakes you made or silly things you’ve done.  All of these topics are humanizing and can build appreciation.

Finally, if there are any opportunities to add humor to the workplace, take them. It turns out business can indeed be a laughing matter - De Gruyter research found that humor in the workplace increased social support and wellbeing.

Employee appreciation is always important and not optional if you want to build a genuinely positive, harmonious and synergistic business place. It should be mutually beneficial, not a one-way street or means to tap into additional employee effort and contributions.

People see through that anyway - the only way is the genuine way!

Evelyn James


Evelyn James is an emerging freelance writer who's passionate about entrepreneurship and creative content campaigns. When she isn't writing, she can be found either out in the garden, scrolling through Pinterest, or curled up with a book.


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