Gratitude at Work


The benefits of practicing gratitude are well-documented; simply google the term “gratitude” and you will read about how it changes your brain, improves your mental health, boosts relationships with others, makes you happier and helps you sleep better.

Some of us may have adopted gratitude in our personal lives as a proven method to boost our mental health through activities like meditation, writing in a gratitude journal, or simply being more aware of saying thanks to those around us. 

But how often do we practice gratitude in the workplace, and is it worth turning our attention to utilising gratitude as a tool to boost productivity and engagement?

Why it matters

We don’t need a great deal of convincing to know that an unthankful boss is a sure-fire way to have employees resigning en masse. In fact, according to a Hays article titled “How to Motivate Employees” 1 saying thank you is listed as the top strategy to drive engagement. This begs the question; why does giving and receiving gratitude have such a profound effect on people?

It is all thanks to our brain.

According to an article published by Positive Psychology2 “when we express gratitude and receive the same, our brain releases dopamine and serotonin, the two crucial neurotransmitters responsible for our emotions, and they make us feel ‘good’. They enhance our mood immediately, making us feel happy from the inside.”

That’s right; there is a science-backed, and FREE way, to boost morale. Sign me up!

How to practice gratitude

  • Check in with your own mindset; are you quick to point out mistakes or identify areas that need to be improved? Is this balanced with praising your team for their contributions?
  • Observe your current culture; is praise given openly and freely in meetings, over email or at town halls? Do you have systems in place to recognise and reward colleagues such as noticeboards or a peer-to-peer reward program?
  • Give genuine and meaningful praise to your team; be specific when praising your team by explaining exactly what they did and make sure you do it in a way that makes them feel comfortable. For example, some people like to be recognised in a public forum whilst others would prefer to be given praise in a private setting.
  • Don’t overcomplicate it; if you see or hear something that makes you feel grateful towards someone, tell them! If you can’t tell them in person, write a quick email or a handwritten note to let them know their actions didn’t go unnoticed.
  • Be a role model; the more you flex your gratitude muscles, the more it will become second nature to you. Positivity breeds positivity so if you consistently practice gratitude, it will be emulated by those around you.

What not to do

  • Be mindful not to treat gratitude as a tick-box exercise; praise that is given “just because” or lacks authenticity can have a harmful effect as it erodes trust and may cause scepticism.
  • Give recognition fairly and avoid playing favourites; gratitude that is given exclusively can cause friction and make everyone feel uncomfortable, including those who are receiving the positive feedback.
  • Don’t over-engineer gratitude; whilst having structured programs around giving and receiving thanks at work is recommended, over-engineering genuine moments of praise can be awkward for everybody. Let gratitude come from the heart and it will rarely, if ever, go wrong.

Gratitude is a powerful tool to drive engagement in your business if given with genuine intent. It requires a cultural mindset from yourself and your leaders to be truly effective. If you would like assistance in improving the culture in your organisation feel free to contact us.

Nick Hedges is the founder of Resolve HR, a Sydney-based HR consultancy specialising in providing workplace advice to managers and business owners. He recently published his first book, “Is Your Team Failing Or Kicking Goals – Take control of your people and their performance”. It is a practical Response to the most pressing HR challenges, which can be found at

Disclaimer: The contents do not constitute legal advice and does not cater for individual circumstances.   The information contained herein is not intended to be a substitute for legal advice and should not be relied upon as such.

1 Reference: Advice & Insights > Management Advice: How to Motivate Employees. Available at:  (Accessed: 11 August 2022)

2 Reference: Chowdhury, M.R. (2019) The Neuroscience of Gratitude and How It Affects Anxiety & Grief”. Available at: (Accessed: 11 August 2022)

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