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Don’t hate, appreciate! A look at the power of gratitude at work

September 13, 2022 - 14 min read


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Unlock the benefits of gratitude

How to foster gratitude in business

Showing gratitude as a leader

Gratitude as an individual act

Don’t hate, appreciate

Human beings have a bias toward negativity. Thanks to a mental process called “loss aversion,” pain affects us more strongly than pleasure. We pay more attention to painful experiences because we feel them more acutely.

It’s no wonder why Americans love to complain about work. We could have the best job in the world, but we’d still get hung up on the minor annoyances of the job.

You might be one of the complainers. Maybe a colleague is constantly interrupting your work, your boss is a micromanager, or one of your employees is constantly late. It’s easier to remember those moments over the good ones that may have occurred throughout the day.

It’s okay to vent once in a while. Sometimes you just need to let it out. But constantly complaining to your colleagues and loved ones can hurt your relationships, mental health, and reputation. What starts out as funny or a bonding between peers can quickly turn to negative energy that drags everyone down. You most of all. Focus on the negative too much and that's all you see.

It’s worth learning to express gratitude at work. If you’re an employee, your job probably isn’t perfect. And if you’re a leader, you can probably say the same about your team. But even so, there’s always something to appreciate about your current situation — you just have to pay attention. Looking at the world through the lens of gratitude has a proven impact.


Unlock the benefits of gratitude

Expressing gratitude doesn’t mean ignoring the bad parts of your job. A toxic work environment is a serious cause for concern. And it’s normal to have a rough day. But if you only focus on the negatives, you’re only getting half the story.

Gratitude is about seeing the full picture. Being thankful will help you return to the kindness of others and keep a positive mindset. It’s about taking the good with the bad to accurately assess your current situation.

It’s also about thanking others for their contributions to your life. Showing appreciation to your team and your colleagues, despite their occasional shortcomings, has many positive effects on health and well-being. 

That’s the power of gratitude at work. It can:

  • Build strong workplace relationships. Gratitude inspires authenticity among workers, leading to emotional vulnerability and closer relationships.


Developing an attitude of gratitude

Being grateful is a practice. And if you’re stuck in a cycle of negativity, it can be difficult to cultivate. Here are some challenges you’ll have to overcome if you want to live a more gracious life:

  • Let go of preconceived notions. Showing gratitude at work might sound simple, silly, or childish. But it’s not just a fad — it has measurable benefits on quality of life and mental health at work. If you let go of your initial discomfort, you’ll find gratitude can make your job easier and more fun.
  • Notice the small stuff. To show gratitude, you have to know what you’re grateful for. Otherwise, if you thank someone for nothing, it sounds like an empty platitude. You’ll have to listen to your colleagues to learn about their successes, motivators, and aptitudes to celebrate with them.
  • Keep it up year-round. It’s easy to save your gratitude for the holidays. And why not? There’s a reason we have Thanksgiving. But you have to remember to give thanks year-round. When gratitude becomes a habit, so do its benefits.
  • Try a gratitude journal. Using a gratitude journal, or a journal with gratitude prompts will help you practice gratitude on a daily basis. Writing down your expressions of gratitude also means you can look back on the wonderful things in your life when you’re feeling discouraged.  

If you need help cultivating a positive mental attitude, work with BetterUp. With one of our coaches, you can learn to appreciate the good things and live more graciously at work.

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How to foster gratitude in business

Everyone should learn to express gratitude at work — especially leaders. Gracious bosses set the tone for their team’s interactions with each other. 

If you rule your office with an iron fist, publicly chastising minor mistakes, you encourage similar behaviors among your employees. But if you lead with gratitude, you tell your team to behave with a similar positive mindset.

Here’s how to build a workplace with a culture of gratitude:

  • Foster a culture of trust. Employees need to know you’re keeping their best interests in mind. Your goal should be to provide a supportive, honest, and safe work environment — and you can do this through gratitude. It’ll foster respect and loyalty among your team.
  • Encourage innovation. Create frequent opportunities for your team to get together and share ideas. This kind of meaningful, open exchange sets the groundwork for creativity, teamwork, and innovation. Plus, it helps everyone feel like they’re pulling in the same direction.
  • Build support networks. Create a mentorship program, set up one-on-ones between random employees, or provide a digital channel where people can ask for support and cheer each other on. People will feel more grateful when they also feel supported.
  • Prevent worker burnout. Overworking a team is a surefire way to erode any sense of gratitude. Burnout causes irritability, chronic fatigue, and self-doubt — hardly the recipe for a safe, productive, and gracious work environment. Supporting employee well-being will help you in the long run.

Showing gratitude as a leader

As a leader, it’s your job to walk the walk if you want to build a more grateful team environment. Here are some ideas to show your appreciation:

  • Celebrate your team on social media. Public praise and shout-outs on the company socials will help your team feel valued for their contributions. Plus, when others see how you treat employees, it can help you attract top talent.
  • Spread the love with free food. Set up a monthly lunch day on the company dime. Full stomachs have a positive impact on morale and workplace culture.


  • Create an appreciation space. You can set up a regular meeting where team members get together and give kudos. This helps foster an atmosphere of appreciation, respect, and teamwork.
  • Give people time off. If your team’s been burning the candle at both ends, send them home early on Friday or give them the whole day off. This shows you noticed their hard work and appreciate it. The time off can also help stave off stress and improve work-life balance.
  • Put up a gratitude board. This acts as a physical reminder of positivity in your workspace. Place it somewhere visible and encourage your team to participate. Some gratitude board at work ideas include: inviting anonymous notes of kindness, asking people to share something they’re grateful for, or posting your team’s favorite workplace selfies. If your workplace is totally remote, you could try a Slack channel or email chain. 

Gratitude as an individual act


Outside of major appreciation projects, leaders and employees alike can express gratitude individually. Here are some examples of expressing gratitude at work:

  1. Model gratitude. Don't overlook the simple act of expressing gratitude as a habit in front of your team. It doesn't always have to be directed at them. Show them what it looks like to view the world through a grateful filter.
  2. Share some baked goods. There’s nothing like a batch of homemade brownies or muffins to build team spirit. Leave it in the kitchen with a special note. 
  3. Invite your colleagues to (virtual) happy hour. Planning a fun social event with your colleagues shows them you value their presence. This helps build closer relationships and makes everyone feel part of the team. You can easily host a virtual meeting where everyone can hang out and talk about things that aren’t working, too. 
  4. Send them an email. Sending your colleague a personalized “Thank you” message is a great way to express gratitude. People don’t do it enough. Even the smallest message of appreciation can make their day.
  5. Just say it. Verbal recognition is as powerful a tactic as any. Give positive feedback on someone’s work or thank them for their help. You’ll both feel better about it.

Don’t hate, appreciate


When the stresses of work and life get to you, it’s easy to get sucked into a spiral of negativity. That’s why it’s important to express gratitude at work.

Gratitude helps build positive emotions, let go of negative ones, and develop a company culture where people regularly express appreciation.  

Everyone has a role to play in spreading feelings of gratitude. And, when it’s done right, it’ll make everyone’s day a little brighter.

At BetterUp, we can help you take charge of your professional life. Our coaches will challenge you to find the positive in a tough situation, make a plan to advance in your career, and help you form meaningful relationships with your colleagues. Together, we can make your life better.

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Published September 13, 2022

Maggie Wooll

Managing Editor

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