There is a tight bond between recognition, praise, and gratitude. Gratitude is about feeling thankful. It is about emotions. Praise is about acknowledging the value or achievement of someone. Recognition is then the act of expressing gratitude and appreciation. It is about behavior.
According to the Oxford dictionary, “Gratitude is the quality of being thankful; readiness to show appreciation for and to return kindness.” Gratitude helps to wire positivity in your brain and build better relationships with others.
Benefits of gratitude
Gratitude impacts many areas of our lives. It makes us more optimistic, less materialistic, and less self-centered. It increases our self-esteem and makes us more resilient, less envious, and more relaxed. It brings deeper relationships and more friendships. It has a positive impact on our social life and our marriages. It makes us more productive and better and leading others. Ultimately, it has a positive effect on our health and longevity.
“Gratitude makes us more optimistic, less materialistic, and less self-centered. It increases our self-esteem and makes us more resilient.”
Gratitude and simple thank you are essential tools to retain your top talent. A workplace survey by American Psychological Association found that those who feel valued at the workplace are more likely to be motivated to do their best for the employer and more likely to recommend the place of work to others. 50% of those who don’t feel valued are more likely to search for a job outside their current company, compared to 21% of those who feel valued.
“Those who are recognized are more likely to feel that their work has meaning and purpose and are happier.”
Similarly, in the fall of 2021, Workhuman ran a survey of 3,580 employees in the U.S., U.K., Ireland, and Canada to see if there is a correlation between being thanked for excellent work and retention. Those who were thanked for their work are less likely to be looking for another job (26% versus 49% of those who were ignored). They were also more likely to be engaged (60% versus 32% of those not thanked). The most significant difference was in general happiness at work and a feeling of purpose. Those who were recognized were more likely to feel that their work has meaning and purpose (53% versus 18% of those not recognized), were happier (47% versus a mere 11% of those now thanked), and more likely to see leadership team as appreciative (59% versus 13%). What is equally important is that if you show gratitude towards others and say thank you frequently, you are twice as likely to be highly engaged (54% versus 21%), three times as likely to say that your work has meaning and purpose (46% versus 16%), and three times as likely to be happy at work (38% versus 16%).
“If you show gratitude towards others and say thank you frequently, you are twice as likely to be highly engaged and three times as likely to say that your work has meaning and purpose.”
The more recently someone thanks you for a job well done, the less stressed out you will be. Regular and frequent check-ins between manager and employee lead to more opportunities to show gratitude, which leads to bigger trust, a feeling of belonging, and an understanding of purpose.
Gratitude even has the power to reduce impatience when waiting for economic rewards. It can help us to accept short-term costs in exchange for more significant future rewards. In fact, gratitude works better than forceful self-regulation. Willpower often fails. Gratitude prevails.
“Gratitude has the power to reduce impatience when waiting for economic rewards. Willpower often fails. Gratitude prevails.”
Adam Grant and Francesca Gino ran experiments showing that expression of gratitude can enhance prosocial behavior. Those who were shown gratitude and thanked for their efforts experienced stronger feelings of self-efficacy and social worth. This then motivated them to engage in prosocial behavior. By getting recognition, people are more likely to assist not only the person who recognized them but also others. What’s more, the expression of gratitude from a manager leads to higher productivity among the employees.
“By getting recognition, people are more likely to assist not only the person who recognized them but also others.”
Gratitude helps even in unlikely places. Peter Bregman suggests that the path to improvement is not through discontent but gratitude. Consider the things you want to improve and how they relate to something you are grateful for. Let’s say you want to improve your listening skills. What are the things you are grateful for that impact your ability to listen? Maybe you are grateful that you have good friends you enjoy being with and listening to their stories. Maybe you are grateful that you could participate in training on a topic you are curious about. Maybe you are grateful that you were able to pass a test at school. In all these situations, you listened attentively. You listened to your friend and thus built a better relationship. You listened to training as it satisfied your curiosity. You listened during the class so you could pass the test. When you consider these past moments, you realize that you can be a good listener. In fact, you are in some situations. Take these successes and use them to fuel your motivation to listen in other parts of your life.
And, of course, gratitude helps in building strong teams. Successful teams are those that work well together and have the drive to get things done. This requires trustworthy leaders who have the necessary skills to connect with others. David DeSteno proposes that the best way to instill grit and grace in the team is to cultivate gratitude, compassion, and pride. These emotions build strong social bonds. When people feel grateful, they are willing to help others, and they are loyal. When they feel compassion, they are ready to aid others, and donate time, effort, and money even when inconvenient. When they feel proud of their abilities, they work harder and help others who don’t have the same skills. All this is being seen positively by those around us. People want to cooperate with us.
How to show gratitude
Not all gratitude is created equal. When you fake gratitude, employees can feel it. If your words of praise don’t feel like you mean them, they are meaningless. They can even be offensive. The employee will feel that you don’t have a clue and may believe you consider them too stupid to realize it.
Ron Carucci mentions several ways how you can mess up recognition. Carucci talks about the drive-by praise, the “great job” type of praise that the busy manager drops in your laps as they scurry about their business. It feels like an afterthought. Pretty common is what Carucci calls guilt gratitude. It is done by a manager who knows they are asking you for something they shouldn’t. They feel guilty and therefore try to overcompensate with extreme praise. It might be that the boss forgot about something he or she needed and woke you up in the middle of the night, so you prepare a presentation that could have been easily done during the previous day if the boss wasn’t disorganized. What follows is then recognition in front of the team, praising you for preparing the best presentation ever. Even though the presentation was simple and the real pain was the midnight wake-up call. Your work is indeed recognized but with a bitter aftertaste. Instead of feeling good, you are feeling uncomfortable.
“The best approach to showing gratitude is authenticity. Your words need to be heartfelt.”
The best approaches to showing gratitude involve authenticity. The employee feels that you mean what you say. Your words are heartfelt. Be as specific as possible, as it shows you know the details and truly understand what you are praising. If you don’t have the facts, it is great to sit with the employee and with the words, “this result is amazing. Can you tell me how you did it?” Attentively listening to the employee about the details acknowledges the results and the actual work that went into it. It gives the employee a chance to talk about their accomplishment. It also allows you to learn what the employee highlights and what is important to them. It is the knowledge that can help in the future when you can assign work that will allow the person to do what they are passionate about.
Mark Goulston describes what he calls a Power Thank You. It comprises of three parts. First, the thank you need to be specific. Second, it needs to acknowledge the effort and personal sacrifice. Third, it should include what their effort means to you personally as it connects their work to meaning.
Putting it all together
Gratitude is a powerful emotion that can significantly increase the quality of your life and the lives of those around you. It makes us more optimistic, less materialistic, and less self-centered. It increases our self-esteem and makes us more resilient.
Those who are recognized are more likely to feel that their work has meaning and purpose and are happier. By getting recognition, people are more likely to assist not only the person who recognized them but also others.
By recognizing others by praising their efforts and accomplishments and doing it authentically and without ulterior motives, you become a better leader and a better human being.
What is your take on the topic? Do you believe that gratitude is important? What are the things you are grateful for? How often do you practice gratitude? How often do you show gratitude to those around you?
Photo: wagnercvilela / Pixabay.com
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