While recognizing and celebrating the contributions that others make to our work is not a new idea, the science of gratitude has been highlighting new reasons to take this idea seriously. While some of these reasons—stronger relationships, more happiness—have long been documented by studies, research is also pointing to more ways in which gratitude works at work.
Here are three surprising ways that gratitude pays off at work:
1. Gratitude facilitates better sleep
Lost sleep quantity and quality is also linked with poor job satisfaction, worse executive functioning, less innovative thinking, lower occupational performance, more safety errors and work injuries, and even death.
How does gratitude facilitate better sleep? Research suggests that grateful people have more positive “pre-sleep cognitions” and fewer negative pre-sleep cognitions. Negative, critical thoughts (e.g., about bad things happening in the world) tend to induce sleeplessness. But grateful people’s minds are awash in pleasant thoughts (e.g., about enjoyable things that happened to them during the day), and this promotes sleepiness.
Grateful people enjoy more restful, restorative, and refreshing sleep and reap the benefits at work the next day.
2. Gratitude reduces excessive entitlement
“Excessive entitlement” is characterized by a person who feels they deserve more than others, a disproportionately greater amount of a particular good beyond what would be considered appropriate. They are dissatisfied with whatever they receive—pay, promotions, or praise. A person who feels entitled to everything will be grateful for nothing; gratitude is the antidote to entitlement. Research has shown that gratitude is linked to lower levels of hostility and aggression and produces higher levels of positive emotions that are beneficial in the workplace, such as joy, enthusiasm, and optimism.
3. Gratitude drives us to contribute more to our organization
Grateful people practice behaviors that fall in the category of being a good citizen. Gratitude inspires employees to be helpful and deters them from engaging in behaviors that are harmful. They are more likely to volunteer for extra work assignments, take time to mentor coworkers, be compassionate when someone has problem, and encourage and praise others. Grateful people are more likely to be creative at work. Gratitude promotes innovative thinking, flexibility, openness, curiosity, and love of learning.
Takeaway: The grateful mind reaps massive benefits in every domain of life that has been examined so far. There are countless ways in which gratitude could pay off in the workplace…gratitude is “the ultimate performance-enhancing substance.”
Adapted from “Three Surprising Ways That Gratitude Works at Work” by Robert Emmons.
Greater Good Magazine, The Greater Good Science Center at the University of California, Berkeley, https://greatergood.berkeley.edu/article/item/three_surprising_ways_that_gratitude_works_at_work