Show your gratitude as a leader, it pays off

The many homeworks in recent years have already put communication in companies to the test. In these vulnerable relationships, it is all the more important to be aware of the other’s position and set a good example. In addition, it does no one any harm – from director to employee – to look critically at one’s own role.

As many as 59 percent of employees say they have never had a boss who truly appreciates his or her performance. And 53 percent would have stayed longer with an employer if there had been more appreciation.

Organizations can often do much more to make their employees feel that they are truly valued. Yet little is known about the circumstances under which expressions of gratitude take place and the effect it has on the organization.

Three researchers from New York and Los Angeles therefore dived in gratitude matter.

Wikipedia authors and letter writers

Among other things, the studies have looked at the amount of acknowledgments that authors of articles in scientific journals have expressed over the past forty years. The higher the status, the shorter the thanks in the published articles, it turned out.

The same pattern emerged from an analysis by a software program of 136,000 comments from 12,681 Wikipedia authors of varying status in the digital encyclopedia world: administrators with more influence and power showed less gratitude than authors with fewer rights to edit Wikipedia pages.

The higher the prestige, the less worries there are about relationships with others

In a simulation, the researchers themselves played the role of subordinates with low income or as a boss with a lot of power. During the simulation, participants unexpectedly received a favor from one of the other participants who was presented as their boss or subordinate. In reality, one of the researchers took on that role according to a fixed script.

After receiving this favor, participants had the opportunity to interact with the ‘undercover scientist’ through a chat window. Again, participants in a higher position showed less gratitude than participants in more subordinate roles.

In another test, participants had to write letters to express their gratitude and predict how surprised, happy and uncomfortable the recipients would be. These recipients then shared how they felt when they received expressions of gratitude. The letter writers were found to significantly underestimate the positive reactions of the recipients. And they overestimate the inconvenience of receiving such an expression of gratitude.

Hierarchical differences

The research shows that people take services more for granted the higher up the ladder they are. The higher the prestige, the less worries there are about relationships with others. People of lower status seem to want to emphasize their strong connection with influential people by showing gratitude.

People seem to be more helpful to colleagues who regularly express their gratitude

The importance of gratitude is not limited to the relationship between manager and employee. For example, intensive care unit teams automatically shared more information when mothers of newborn babies showed their gratitude. And it improved the team’s performance. Another test shows that gratitude increases the willingness to integrate ideas from others – a big boost for creativity.

The recognitions can act as an oil spill in an organization; you actually reap what you sow. People seem to be more helpful to colleagues who regularly express their gratitude. In this way, a ‘culture of gratitude’ can arise in a company. This not only improves the working atmosphere, it will also improve performance.

Also read: Giving a compliment is the foundation of a positive organizational culture

Grateful next step

The good news is that showing gratitude can be learned. Those now working ‘in the office’ again must take better advantage of direct contact with colleagues and express one-on-one appreciation as much as possible. And for home workers: Use all available communication options to maintain positive ties with colleagues.

It is not only ignorance that often causes too little gratitude. Sometimes there are strategic reasons for choosing a more distant stance. The negative effects of this are accepted, but they are justified to achieve the desired goal. The researchers believe that it is all the more important to continue to emphasize the positive effects of showing gratitude in future research.

To understand and improve communication patterns, psychologists and other behavioral scientists would be wise to also consider these expressions of gratitude: where do they come from and what are their effects? The very existence of the ‘gratitude consultant’ profession shows that the subject really appeals to the imagination.

How do you ensure that gratitude is used optimally?

  • For people who (in their position) attach little importance to a good relationship with colleagues, it is good to keep an eye on the beneficial effects of gratitude on the whole organization;
  • Keep an eye on the collective (company) interest and set aside individual short-term interests for a working atmosphere where there is plenty of room to show gratitude;
  • Increase awareness of gratitude and recognition in the organization. Often it is ignorance that keeps people from expressing their gratitude;

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