How to Transform Your Company’s Culture with Gratitude

Showing appreciation at work can be as simple as a thoughtful hand-written note.

From upper management to the most junior member of the team, people are transforming their workplace and company’s culture with a very simple concept–gratitude. According to research referenced in an article by Greater Good Magazine, appreciation at work is linked to higher satisfaction with our jobs and coworkers, a higher sense that we can achieve our goals, fewer sick days, less stress and health complaints, and more positive emotions–benefits that are not only transformative for individuals, but organizations where they’re employed as well. Transforming a company’s culture in a meaningful way can be done by anyone–regardless of their status or title within the organization using very little resources. Here’s how to transform your company’s culture with gratitude.


Be the Change You Wish to See

Creating a culture of appreciation can be done in any company regardless of its size and driven by anyone, even if they’re not a manager. It shouldn’t interfere with your performance and if starting small, only take 5-15 minutes (or less). Think about how you show friends, family, and even strangers appreciation for the things that they’ve done for you that required their time. How do you express your gratitude?

Now think about your work. How do you express your appreciation or show gratitude there? If you’ve paused because you view work as a strictly transactional affair (compensation in some form or other for work/efforts done in exchange for services rendered) as most people do, therein lies the opportunity for transformation. By calling out something that usually goes unnoticed that others might deem as insignificant, it can create an environment where others do the same and build habit.


Create a Commons for Gratitude Expression

Commons are places where people gather. Creating a commons for gratitude expression that is accessible to all in say, a particular department, division, or business unit, online and/or offline is simple enough. Where/how do people share information now? Tap into that thread to share your recognition and thanks. Perhaps it’s a Slack channel or internal messaging board dedicated to accolades? There are also offline avenues for sharing your message–break rooms, bulletin boards, and the like.

Or perhaps you want to keep it small to build consistency first. In this case, a simple hand-written thank-you note goes a long way in the age where digital communication reigns supreme. No matter how you choose to start, the important thing is to START and develop a consistent habit and branch out from there.


Strive for Specificity, Both Big & Small

Making a blanketed “thank-you” statement for every last little thing that is done, or path it took to accomplish, will seem less than genuine. Think about something specific that a person did or accomplishment and recognize that. It’s important to acknowledge both the big and the small. One way to share your acknowledgement is according to proximity. Consider acknowledging smaller actions at a team level and larger ones at a company level.

For example, a small action could be thanking the developer who took on extra work during a code sprint while another team member was out sick, while a bigger action could be recognizing the sales person with a new client win that enabled the company to grow revenue. Both deserve accolades and to be shared. Being specific with your gratitude makes it that much more authentic and appreciated by the recipient.

While you may not know what everyone else is up to in the company, chances are you know about those closest to you and can find out about other happenings as well. Appreciation is welcomed everywhere. It’s even more special when it’s given unexpectedly and specifically acknowledges individual contributions.


Open the Door for Conversation & Expansion

Now that you’ve developed a consistent habit for expressing your gratitude, participation from others, and have at least 3-6 months vested, now is the time to take these efforts to the next level. The best place to start is with your direct manager or boss. Start the conversation with them and bring focus to the shift in culture that you’re trying to develop and why (share with them the Greater Good article listed above). You’ll want to be prepared for this conversation by having an outline prepared in advance.

Things to include in your document and/or presentation:

The “Why” (pull data from the Greater good article listed above)

 Date you started

 Documentation on any tools & processes used for implementation (Smartdraw has a great free tool to easily document processes)

 Breakdown of investment of your time (weekly/monthly) or estimation

 Feedback from team members who have participated or been on receiving end (obtain permission to use their testimonies first)

 Specific examples of ways to improve the program (gift cards for coffee, quarterly recognition, group activity, etc.)

 Proposed/actual budget allocation with numbers

 The Ask–state your desire to include other teams/departments


Good managers and bosses will recognize the benefits of what you’re trying to achieve and will want to contribute to improving and expanding the program within the company. However, should it become a dead-end conversation with your supervisor, that does not have to prevent you from continuing to express your gratitude at work. Anything that brings you and others joy is worth doing. With time, word will definitely get around to others within the company that morale and culture has improved (if it hasn’t already) and you’ll be prepared to spread the word farther, faster.

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