Danke Schön, Gracias, Merci, Arigato, Takk: Closing the Gratitude Gap
Danke Schön, Gracias, Merci, Arigato, Takk: Closing the Gratitude Gap By Marielle MacMinn
Studies show that taking the time to thank a coworker or employee for a job well done will not only make them feel better about their work, but it will make you feel better as well. As Google’s Larry Page (a business mind hard to argue with) says: “appreciation is the best motivation.”
These days, Americans seem to be having a problem expressing gratitude at work for their coworkers. This could be a symptom – or a cause – of not having friends in the workplace, but according to a study done by the John Templeton Foundation in 2013, 80% of the 2,000 Americans surveyed agreed that receiving praise and feedback makes them work harder. Yet for whatever reason, only 10% of respondents express their own gratitude to coworkers every day.
Templeton’s survey identifies this as “the Gratitude Gap” and explains the strong connection between gratitude and fulfillment. “59% of women and 51% of men strongly agree that ‘people who are grateful are more fulfilled.’” The chart below (taken directly from the Templeton study) lists the most common reasons people give for expressing their appreciation. Interestingly, people do it to make themselves feel good more than to benefit others.
Grateful people are also believed to lead a more fulfilling life, and have more friends than those who don’t express their gratitude. According to The Greater Good (a publication out of the UC Berkeley Science Center), the study’s results further indicate that people think their own level of gratitude is increasing, while the gratitude of everyone else is decreasing. Luckily, this is an impossibility, likely explained by the fact that people are generally more aware of their personal habits than of the habits of those around them. Whatever the reason, the lack of “thank you’s” flying around offices is noticed and felt on a deeper level – an issue that more managers need to be aware of to get the best performance out of their employees.
One argument is: why thank somebody just for doing their job? After all, they’re rewarded every week when they get their paycheck (or their direct deposit for those of us living in the 21st century). Yet as many studies note, including the one referenced above, showing gratitude can be a powerful, intrinsic motivation for employees in the workplace. As stated by Janice Kaplan in The Wall Street Journal, extrinsic motivators, like financial incentives for example, “can actually have a negative impact” on employee work performance by undermining “the intrinsic and personal motivations that make us want to give our all.” Connecting on a human level and thanking someone for a job well done can increase the chances that the next time you need a task completed, that employee will respond to the next request for help. Employees stay more engaged at work when they feel their work is being acknowledged and appreciated.
Kaplan also references a study (one in a series of four) by Dr. Adam Grant of the Wharton School of Business and Professor Francesca Gina of the Harvard Business School in which they studied the effect of gratitude on the willingness of people to provide help again in the future. The study had people ask a supervisor for help with a project. After receiving help, those participants had to ask the same supervisors for help with another, similar assignment. At first, only 32% of supervisors agreed to help a second time. Then the participants added a line of thanks – “Thank you so much! I am really grateful!” – and the response of those willing to help a second time increased to 66%. More than double the response with just one simple line of gratitude is an impressive statistic that makes the science hard to ignore.
One common concern heard from managers is that expressing gratitude could make them look weak. Dr. Grant describes it as thinking they are putting themselves “in a vulnerable situation where they don’t have the expertise or the confidence to solve their own problem.” But 94% of women and 96% of men (referring back to the Templeton survey) think that a grateful boss is more likely to be successful. In fact, less than 20% of respondents felt that a boss that shows gratitude would be seen as weak. Grant and Gino’s studies show that “thank you” from a supervisor gives people a strong sense of both self-worth and self-efficacy. These expressions of gratitude caused individuals to become more trusting with each other and more likely to provide assistance to one another.
Saying “thank you” doesn’t cost a dime; and the substantial beneficial effects just make it good business ‘cents.’
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