Historically, gratitude has always been studied with people facing each other. But over the last 15 months or so, in the midst of a pandemic that may be fading but refuses to go away, we have had little or limited direct contact.

Article published on the PwC Luxembourg blog

Then, the fief of digital communication —videoconferences, voice messaging, live streaming, long and short videos, social media stories, voice-based chat rooms— came, conquered, and still reigns, who knows until when.  Few expected that our digital workplace would take such an important place in our lives that quickly, and many things have changed with it.

We are all living the new normal. Yes, already, we don’t need to wait for it. At a first glance, it looks like our previous lives, but with a mask covering makeup and beards, and gel dispensers scattered in offices and malls. However, some measures and habits that came with the COVID-10 pandemic will get entrenched in our future, if they haven’t already.

In the meantime, an increasingly overlooked value, gratitude, can play an important role in our personal and professional lives, digital and physical, by fostering well-being, focusing on the good and even helping us (re)build the relationships weakened by the pandemic.

The George Bailey effect —a psychological condition that borrows the name of the iconic “It’s a Wonderful Life” movie’s main character (1946)— is about the sudden realisation of truth. The ancient Greeks named this experience anagnorisis. 

It is about focusing on the good things you have in your life that you take for granted. This effect is an excellent example of how to foster gratitude into your life. In Dr Robert Emmons’ study, an expert in gratitude worldwide, some couples wrote about the ways their lives would have been different if they had never met their spouse. This exercise had a greater impact on their happiness than when they reflected on what they really liked about their husband or wife.

We invite you to read this article through. It will help you to understand gratitude better and be mindful of the positive things of your workplace. Also, it gives you tips on how to cultivate gratitude with your colleagues or how to improve it if you have already started.

What is gratitude and why does it matter in life?

The definition of gratitude is surprisingly simple: it’s the state of being grateful for something or someone. Although, as when defining love, any further explanation could invalidate it, let’s try a more dissected definition:  It’s a feeling of appreciation that the recipient of kindness, help, favours, or presents feels towards the giver. The latter, however, can be yourself!

Gratitude has always been around us. We find it referenced in ancient scriptures and books all over the world through centuries, from Buddhas’ Dhammapada—“You have no cause for anything but gratitude and joy” and the Quran—“If you give thanks, I will give you more” to the Bible, Confucianism or even Stoic writings—“Gratitude is not only the greatest of the virtues but the parent of all others” (Cicero).

In the present, some of the main gratitude promoters are Brother David Steindl-Rast, Dr. Robert Emmons, the Greater Good Science Center in California or some positive leadership theorists such as Kim Cameron, Robert Quinn or the Center for Positive Organizations.

Gratitude matters in life because studies show that it improves physical, psychological and social development. According to research, including the influential book The Gratitude Project, grateful people will exercise more, sleep longer, experience more positive emotions, make more progress towards their goal, are more helpful and feel less isolated than a non-grateful group of people.

Also, being grateful enables individuals to savour positive experiences, cope with stressful circumstances, have higher resilience to stress, and strengthen social relationships. Besides, the greater the number of gratitude experiences people have on a given day, the better they feel overall with a greater feeling of satisfaction with life.

If gratitude is that good, why is it underused at work?

The first thing to acknowledge is that we’re less likely to feel or express gratitude at work than anywhere else. On the other hand, people are ranking their jobs last on a list of things they are grateful for, according to Jeremy Adam Smith and Kira Newman from University of California, Berkeley’s Greater Good Science Center.

Many more reasons can be identified to explain why gratitude is underused:

–We usually believe that expressing gratitude could lead coworkers to take advantage of us because it makes ourselves vulnerable.

–We tend to think that a paycheck is enough as a thank you for our work.

–We can also see the workplace as contractual and monetary (or financial), therefore not leaving space for the human.

–We’re also prone to think that nothing is free at work, that no one gives away anything without expecting something in return.

–Another common idea is that “we do what we do at work because we are paid for it” otherwise someone else will take our spot. Could, then, there be any room for gratitude in the office?

–We have the wrong beliefs about gratitude and its effects. We believe that people know why we are grateful for them without stating it clearly. That’s not the case though. Some feelings, especially the ones linked to interpersonal relationships need reaffirmation. People you work (or live) with need to know about your gratitude.

–We don’t pay attention to gratitude in our daily lives and fail to consider expressing gratitude when felt.

–However, according to Bernard de Villepin, Data Strategist and Business Coach at PwC Luxembourg, one of the professionals at PwC who knows best about this matter, the most important reason to underuse gratitude at the workplace is “the gratitude gap”. We can see that people desire a grateful workplace but don’t act on it.


The gratitude gap

Yes, we are missing out or not noticing grateful opportunities. The gratitude gap happens when we don’t express gratitude as much as we should, diminishing the powerful effect it has on others —both for the giver and the receiver.

Humans have the natural tendency to focus more on bad things. Yes, that obnoxious negativity bias! The Templeton Survey mentioned above shows that people have expectations about gratitude, however, they don’t act for numerous and acceptable reasons.

As long as the gratitude gap isn’t closed, people suppress gratitude demonstrations in the workplace, sometimes actively, neglecting themselves a dose of happiness.

How to go about this, then? How to close this gap? Read through, you will find the answer some paragraphs later.

“We tend to think of organisations as transactional places where you’re supposed to be professional. We may think that it’s unprofessional to bring things like forgiveness or gratitude or compassion into the workplace”, Ryan Fehr, professor of management – University of Washington.

Why foster gratitude at work?

Kim Cameron, founding member of the Center for Positive Organizations at the University of Michigan, has identified numerous reasons. According to over 20 years of research, virtuous practices including gratitude help to improve organisations’ profitability, productivity, innovation, customer satisfaction, employee engagement, among others.

Read full article HERE

Publié le 12 juillet 2021