Do You Know More About Gratitude at Work Than a Fifth Grader?

I learned about the power of gratitude at work from a bunch of ten-year-olds.

A strange thing happened at the beginning of what became my final year teaching middle school music.

The new fifth graders thanked me.

After every class.

Sincerely and authentically.

Thank you for teaching us. Thanks for a fun class. Thank you.

Not every kid, every class. Enough, though, to have a significant impact on me during that otherwise difficult school year and on my understanding of the power of gratitude at work ever since.

If they were adults, it would have been easier to brush them off.

No big deal, just doing my job. 

Wanting to set a good example, though, as well as being truly grateful for their positive interactions, it was natural to respond with thanks of my own.

Their expressions of gratitude boosted both their positivity and mine.

We didn’t waste energy trying to pretend away sadness, fear, or anger, allowing the upward spiral of renewable personal energy we created to fuel us to better manage life’s inevitable challenges.

Those kids were onto something about gratitude at work, and researchers are catching on to its power.

Benefits of Gratitude at Work

University of Kentucky researchers (http://Thank you for teaching us NULL. Thanks for a fun class NULL. Thank you NULL.) found that study participants who practiced gratitude were more sensitive toward others and less likely to retaliate in response to negative feedback.

UC Davis psychology professor Robert Emmons (http://emmons NULL.faculty NULL.ucdavis NULL.pdf) writes that expressing thanks is a remedy against exploitation, compliance, entitlement, gossip, and negativity – all too common symptoms in many workplaces – and that grateful individuals leader to the kind of workplace environment that human beings long for.

Gratitude has even been shown to be a better motivator than money. In one study (https://www NULL.glassdoor, 80% of employees said they would work harder for an appreciative boss and 70% would feel better about themselves and their work if they were thanked more consistently.

But I’m Not the Boss

Neither were those fifth graders.

Like them, you can still contribute to a positive workplace culture.

Those kids didn’t have much control over their “work” lives. The School Board sets the calendar and working conditions. Building administrators decide which kids have which teachers, teachers follow state-mandated curricula, and my students had little say over which activities we’d do on a certain day.

Instead of complaining about what they couldn’t control, they changed what they could, in part through their expressions of gratitude.

Be More Like a Fifth Grader

Sometimes, I wish it were more complicated, because then it might sound more profound, but at the heart of the matter, it’s really pretty simple.

  • Look for the good.
  • When someone else has a role in it, thank them.
  • Repeat often.

Instead of burning energy trying to pretend away the negative, practice gratitude to fuel yourself and others to tackle the challenges you can meet and the problems you can solve.



Begin with Thanks is the perfect way to renew or revitalize your gratitude practice.

Starts soon. Enroll now.



image: Pixabay; used with permission

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