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How Much Does Gratitude Matter?

by MYB, on November 27, 2019


Tomorrow is Thanksgiving, a time for us to take a deep breath, relax, and spend time with loved ones. The great thing about the holiday is how it gives us an opportunity to take stock of where we are, and express our gratitude for the people who helped us get there.

There’s no reason why that feeling needs to stop at the office doors.

Indeed, there’s ample evidence that expressing gratitude and kindness in professional settings can go a long way toward improving engagement and productivity. A few examples:

In 2017, the company Evernote pointed to a study showing that “managers who expressed gratitude to their employees generated 50 percent higher productivity. These findings upend the idea that people are motivated to work or change as a way to move away from a negative emotion, like the fear of being reprimanded by a boss or criticized by their partner.”

Moreover, UC Berkeley’s Greater Good Science Center points to a stack of research showing that gratitude is linked to “more positive emotions, less stress and fewer health complaints, a greater sense that we can achieve our goals, fewer sick days, and higher satisfaction with our jobs and our coworkers.

According to a survey by the website Glassdoor, “four in five (81%) employees report they are motivated to work harder when their boss shows appreciation for their work.”

Unfortunately, too few organizations recognize impact that this kind of feedback can have. According to a Harvard Business Review study, a fifth of direct reports avoid giving any feedback, and 37 percent say they avoid giving positive reinforcement.

But gratitude plainly matters, and that’s just as true---if not more true---for your board members and volunteers, who are dedicating a lot of time and energy to your association, often without compensation. (Guidestar has some advice about how to show appreciation for that particular group.) And it’s just as true for your members, who make an often sizable investment in you via dues, conferences, and products.

There’s no one right way to show gratitude to the various stakeholders in your association’s ranks. Last week on this blog, we shared a handful of ideas that association leaders have used to help the people they serve feel respected and seen. But there are plenty of other ideas you can try. No two Thanksgiving tables are alike, after all. What’s meaningful is what brings everybody to the table, and the spirit of thanks that surrounds it.