Gratitude Is A Part of Employee Recognition Too

by Kylee Stone Nov 25,2019

The People Strategy Leaders Podcast

with Srikant Chellappa, CEO

The holiday season is upon us.

And in most parts of the world, gratitude and the holiday season go hand in hand. But while we are comfortable with gratitude on the outside, in most organizations, there tends to be an ingrained attitude where we wonder, why express gratitude for something a person is being paid to do? Isn’t a monthly salary, a yearly raise, a few perks, etc enough thanks?

This reasoning does make sense. We are all getting paid to do what we do, so there is a benefit to being employed. However, there is one thing that a lot of us fail to consider. We do come to work with the intention to get paid, but also so that we feel fulfilled. A lot of us find meaning through work and invest our time and resources in working hard because we want to make meaningful contributions. We also want to build meaningful relationships with like-minded people and enjoy being a part of a greater purpose. Some of us even go on to take all that we have learned, and the relationships we have built and transform them into some big and great or even small and impactful. In short, work does have meaning for a lot of us and often times, we work because we are interested in the field in which we work and we want to contribute in one way or the other.

But self-motivation can only take us so far. We want to be recognized and thanked as well.

According to this study by Adam Grant and Francesca Gino:

“It was found that “thank you” from a supervisor gave people a strong sense of both self-worth and self-efficacy. The Grant and Gino study also reveals that the expression of gratitude has a spillover effect: Individuals become more trusting with each other, and more likely to help each other out.”

While this study only accounts for small sample size, it does highlight a good point. Something as simple as a “thank you” gave people an increased sense of self-worth.

Being sincerely and genuinely thanked for doing good work not only helps an employee’s sense of self-worth, but it also creates a positive feedback loop. It feels good to know that you helped make someone’s day and it feels good to know that someone thinks highly enough of you that they appreciate your work. And what is more, people who receive gratitude are far more likely to pay it forward than those who don’t.

In essence, the writing on the wall says that organizations benefit from a deeply-ingrained culture of gratitude. But how do you build a culture of gratitude in an organization where there is none?

Rid the stigma

Being grateful is not weak/pointless and neither should it be seen that way. Yet, many employees, even managers, and CEOs shy away from expressing gratitude to one and other, because the gesture seems to break some sort of social rule or may come across as too emotional. Either way, there’s no harm in thanking or appreciating someone’s work. It’s one of those things where if someone with enough social clout does it, everyone else begins to do it. It is as simple as that. Which brings me to my next point.

Gratitude begins with you

You cannot exhort your employees to be grateful and not do anything about it yourself. Gratitude begins with you (you being a senior executive or the CEO). Take time out of your day to thank people for doing their jobs and doing them well. Your organization’s success does depend on the hard work of so many people who might be going above and beyond the call of duty to fulfill their responsibilities. As a senior leader or executive, you leading the way and showing the way is going to have a lot more impact than an HR administrator asking employees to express gratitude.

Everyone deserves gratitude

Gratitude is not reserved only for certain people. There’s no job in an organization that is more important than the other. And no employee is better than the other or lesser than the other. Therefore, when expressing gratitude to employees, it is important to express it to every employee equally, be they big or small. They all deserve it equally. From the janitor to the CEO, everyone plays a big role in an organization’s success. In order to build a culture of gratitude, start from the very bottom. Often it’s the unseen employees who make it possible for others to work. Without them, we would be sitting in empty offices that look nowhere as near as awesome as they do every morning when we come in for work.

You don’t need to have a gala to show you care

There’s a common misconception that gestures of gratitude only matter when they are big and grand. But in actuality, it’s not the size of the gesture that matters, but the sincerity of it. A few grateful words, straight from the heart carry a lot more weight than a big, impersonal spectacle. Most people just want their work to be acknowledged. The bells and whistles that come along with recognition are just an added bonus.



Engagedly has a social recognition module that allows you to express thanks to colleagues, peers, managers, etc.

To find out how we can help you spread gratitude at your organization, request a demo!

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Kylee Stone

Kylee Stone supports the professional services team as a CX intern and psychology SME. She leverages her innate creativity with extensive background in psychology to support client experience and organizational functions. Kylee is completing her master’s degree in Industrial-Organizational psychology at the University of Missouri Science and Technology emphasizing in Applied workplace psychology and Statistical Methods.

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