You know those relationships that are sustained by gossip and negativity? Yeah, um, those are killing your work culture. Gossip is one of the fastest routes to connection with coworkers, but is gossip really authentic connection? Or cheap connection? And what about negativity? So many workplaces are consumed by toxic positivity that employees confuse unnecessary negativity with sharing something honest, painful, and vulnerable. Unnecessary negativity, especially about our coworkers and especially the kind that breaks trust,  can be just as devastating to a culture as toxic positivity and lack of vulnerability. So how do we change things?


Encouraging your employees to share something they are grateful for at the start ofa meeting will have incomparable benefits. According to researcher Nataly Kogan, there is a biological basis for bringing more gratitude into our lives. She says:

Feeling good is not the first desire of our brain. Its primary function is to protect us from danger. That’s why we’re much more sensitive to negative stimuli because they are typically signs of danger, and our brain is trying to notice those to protect us. Gratitude is the most powerful antidote because it quite literally asks the brain to come off its auto-pilot of looking for what’s wrong and register even the small positive moments in a day. When you share gratitude with someone, you remind yourself that you have people in your life who you appreciate, who you want to be kind to…and 11,000-plus studies connect gratitude to greater well-being and productivity. 

(Mosely, Eric, Derek, Irvine. Making Work Human: How Human-Centered Companies are Changing the Future of Work and the World. McGraw Hill, 2021.)

Robert A. Emmons, author of Gratitude Works!, also shared the importance of gratitude’s work on Workhuman Radio:

In 20 years of research I’ve learned that gratitude brings benefits in all spheres of life–relational, physical, and psychological. Gratitude has the power to heal, energize, and change lives. It’s not surprising that research proves gratitude makes us feel better psychologically–for centuries people observed that the royal road to happiness is counting your blessings. Now, science is discovering that gratitude works literally under the skin, that is physiologically. People recover more quickly from illness when they practice gratitude. You can gradually lower blood pressure and improve immune function. Gratitude can facilitate better sleep. And now some of the most recent research is looking at hard measures–what we call clinical biomarkers for things like inflammation for heart disease, stress hormones, and even something as complex as biomarkers on chromosomes. When people practice gratitude, they’re more likely to take care of their health–eat a healthy diet, not smoke and abuse alcohol, in general exhibit overall better health-protective behaviors and less risky behaviors. Gratitude is good medicine.

(Mosely, Eric, Derek, Irvine. Making Work Human: How Human-Centered Companies are Changing the Future of Work and the World. McGraw Hill, 2021.)

Gratitude is more expansive than just saying thanks. Gratitude is a moment of personal reflection. Sharing gratitude calls individuals to a deeper sense of where they were vulnerable and who stepped in to help. Gratitude calls us to authentic connection, belonging, and trust and puts us in a calmer, more grounded mindset. Encourage your team to practice gratitude in meetings, and the rest of the day will flow smoothly. Managers who implement consistent gratitude in their social recognition practice will see positive behavioral changes and more joy among their teams. In a gratitude immersed work environment, you will begin to see employees and managers expressing gratitude to each other. This creates a positive ripple effect that is hard to quantify. Workhuman offers a beautiful example of this:

An employee turns in a bit of great performance, and a manager or peer says, “Thank you” or “Great job!” The receiver feels amazing about that kind of appreciation and goes on to repeat that positive behavior in some way. The employee’s performance goes up. The employee’s morale goes up. The employee’s energy and engagement go up. Positive reinforcement has the power to do that.

Gratitude also changes the giver:

When you give an award or when you write a special message describing how it impacted you, you expose yourself a little more. You are just a bit vulnerable at that moment. You’re authentic. There’s really no room in your head for cynicism at that moment when you write that special message describing how impressed you were with that piece of performance. 

(Mosely, Eric, Derek, Irvine. Making Work Human: How Human-Centered Companies are Changing the Future of Work and the World. McGraw Hill, 2021.)

Gratitude doesn’t have to come in extravagant ways. We suggest you start with authentic moments of genuine expressions once a month at a team meeting. Investing even 1% of payroll into gratitude practices can launch tremendous success for your business and rid your culture of unnecessary negativity. Smiles for days…

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