It’s human nature to place a greater emphasis on negative outcomes than positive ones. It was an evolutionary trait that helped our species survive. Think about it, if a Neanderthal ate a berry that made them violently ill, they would not only remember to avoid that berry, but they would pass that information along to all the members of their tribe. But on the flip side, passing a tree and eating a handful of berries that didn’t make them sick, might not be a memorable experience, or one that they told others about.
In fact, there are studies that show we need three positives to outweigh the impact of one negative. In other words, negative experiences are three times stronger than positive experiences. If we take this problem one step further, as a culture, we tend to give 10 times more negative feedback than positive feedback. That means, while we need a ratio of 3:1 positive to negative, we are getting 1:10. We as a society are feeling emotionally drained, and that is why gratitude has become so important not only in your personal life, but in your professional life as well.
Gratitude has the power to strengthen relationships. Employees seek that gratitude and appreciation from their boss. In fact, a recent survey showed that 50% of employees said they’d leave a job if their bosses didn’t show them enough appreciation. So how do you incorporate gratitude into your organization?
Make Gratitude a part of the Culture.
This doesn’t mean that you can simply say gratitude is important to your organization. Leaders have to actively show gratitude. When leadership teams are able to lead with gratitude there are long term benefits for the organization. These include higher productivity, higher employee retention, and a better overall work environment.
The gratitude needs to extend past thank you’s in emails. Leaders need to find time to speak face to face. While phone calls and instant messaging apps have their time and place, they can’t replace non-verbal language. Putting time aside to meet face-to-face shows care and appreciation. Expressions of gratitude have greater impact when shown through physical gestures, body positioning, and tone of voice.
Additionally, gratitude needs to be an ongoing practice, not just something that’s expressed during an employee’s review. It’s importantly to regularly to a look around and reflect on how your people are contributing to the organization’s overall success. Acknowledge your people for working longer hours than usual, for helping team members accomplish a difficult task, for going above and beyond to service a client. It’s gratitude for the every day, sometimes seemingly small tasks, that can make the biggest difference.
Leading with gratitude will not only give your employees a greater sense of satisfaction, it will have lasting benefits throughout the organization as well.