Being Thankful at Work: The Impact of Gratitude in the Workplace

The growing field of positive psychology has brought with it a focus on gratitude; an emotion expressing appreciation for what one has (Psychology Today, 2014).

While many of us have been busy journaling about the things we’re grateful for, researchers have also been busy scientifically examining if, and how, expressing gratitude benefits us. They’ve been tackling questions like Does noticing and identifying the things we’re grateful for contribute to our well-being? And, perhaps not surprisingly, it does.

Gratitude is linked to life satisfaction, happiness, optimism, hope, more positive emotion and less negative emotion. Grateful people have been found to have better moods, feel more support from others, and give more support to others 1,2 (and, if you read my last blog, you’ll understand the importance of giving and receiving). Grateful people are also less likely to experience stress and depression. And, completing gratitude activities – like gratitude journals – can also benefit us; research has found that people who engage in gratitude journaling are more optimistic, feel better about their lives, exercise more regularly, and report fewer physical symptoms2.

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Clearly, practicing and expressing gratitude can greatly benefit us in life. Here at Plasticity Labs, we wondered what types of benefits might arise from practicing and expressing gratitude in the workplace.
Take a minute to think about your workplace. Is gratitude part of your workplace culture? At work, are people grateful for their co-workers or supervisor? Do they express their thanks to one another? Are employees grateful? Whether it be that the chairs are extremely comfortable, the benefit plan rocks or that Fridays mean long lunches, are employees thinking about what they’re grateful for at work?

Unfortunately, for many workplaces, gratitude isn’t a part of workplace culture. Few employees take time to reflect on the things they appreciate at work. According to a recent study only 30% of employees thank a co-workers multiple times a week and only 20% thank their boss several times a week. Shockingly, 29% never thank a co-worker and 35% of employees never thank their boss. In many companies, gratitude just isn’t a daily occurrence.

Only 30% of employees thank a co-worker more than once a week.

Vanessa blog 2It seems logical that gratitude would impact the workplace and how we feel about our jobs. If we’re more grateful for our job, workplace or co-workers, we’re likely to be more satisfied in our role. And, in fact, initial research into this area supports these ideas; employees who tend to be highly grateful are highly satisfied with their job. This tells us that those who are highly grateful experience benefits, but what about those who might be a little less grateful? We asked ourselves - If we encourage employees to express gratitude, is it possible that they will all reap the benefits of gratitude?

We set out to explore this idea.

We wondered if we could make employees feel more positive about their workplace by getting them to focus on workplace gratitude. We asked employees to list things they were grateful for at their workplace, and then measured their gratitude, how satisfied they are with their job, how satisfied they think they’ll be in six months, and the extent to which they feel a sense of community among their co-workers.

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Want to know what we discovered? You know you do – click above to download the details!


  • 1Watkins, P. C., Woodward, K., Stone, T. & Kolts, R. L. (2003). Gratitude and happiness: Development of a measure of gratitude, and relationships with subjective well-being. Behaviour and Personality, 31 (5), 431-452.
  • 2Emmons, R. A. & McCullough, M. E. (2003). Counting blessings versus burdens: An experimental investigation of gratitude and subjective well-being in daily life, Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 84, (2), 377-389.


Post By: Vanessa Buote

Vanessa BuoteVanessa Buote is a Post-doctoral fellow at Plasticity Labs and Wilfrid Laurier University. Her work focuses on workplace happiness, engagement, and performance.