Chief Executive Insights

Gratitude- the new strategy to retain talent and create a connective culture

For most of the pandemic, literally patting a co-worker on the back to say thank you was impossible. Working in insolation and now re-entering the office in staggered droves has created a decrease in the practice of gratitude in real-time. 

Gratitude, praise, and recognition are all interlinked and can come in many forms. From positive feedback, a pat on the back, a thank you note to a verbal thank you or a token of appreciation such as a lunch or coffee.

When people feel appreciated there are many benefits and research is showing that people with strong relationships at work are 61% less likely to want to switch jobs.

Gratitude is free and should I believe should be given genuinely without an agenda. 

We can be grateful for many things in our lives such as certain people and situations, although most benefits come from others – hence gratitude is known as ‘other-oriented’. It can mean different things to different people, depending on the context. Is gratitude an emotion?

A behavior or virtue? Research suggests that gratitude is not simply a cultural construct but is instead rooted in our evolutionary history, our DNA, and in child development. 

The experience of gratitude in the workplace encourages us to appreciate who and what is good, and this compels us to pay this goodness forward. 

Three main conduits to gratitude include: 

  1. through our actions, such as sending a gift or saying thank you 
  2. through our feelings, where we feel grateful for something or someone 
  3. by adopting a grateful mindset, where we can see a positive experience within a challenge

Gratitude is like the social glue that can fortify the relationships we have in the workplace. It serves as a backbone to the culture we want to create, one of connection and collaboration. Where I see organizations practice gratitude regularly by creating activities and forums to share, I observe people who are more generous, kind, and want to build strong relationships. 

We need to ‘feel into’ gratitude – something often missed in today’s busy world. The pace at which we live and workplaces fostering a ‘performance culture’ can stifle the Gift of Gratitude. 

Many clients are facing what I call a “back to office resistance.” People who were bursting at the seams to come out of isolation and be back with their team are now missing the flexibility of working from home, dodging the commute time and some openly saying they miss a better quality of life.

Now is the time to look at what people are really missing and ensure this is part of the everyday in your team and organization. This could include things like; physical team catch-ups, walking meetings, corridor talks, cross-divisional interaction, and the practice of regular authentic feedback and gratitude.

If you are a leader who wants to encourage your employees to go beyond the contractual obligation of their roles, expressing gratitude should be part of your leadership. Gratefully acknowledging the thoughts and efforts of your people shows them that they matter, and this can also build a vital culture around gratitude. Finding out how your people like to express and receive gratitude works is key.

In any role we should practice gratitude – this is the best way to ingrain it in your organizational culture. Research led by Lea Waters at the University of Melbourne found a positive relationship between expressing gratitude and increased productivity and job satisfaction. Gratitude can lower stress and reduce absenteeism. 

Benefits of gratitude 

There are many benefits of gratitude. Robert Emmons, the world’s leading scientific expert on gratitude, studied more than 1000 people from ages eight to 80, and found that people who practice gratitude consistently report a host of benefits: 

Physical: 

  • Stronger immune systems & lower blood pressure
  • Exercise more and take better care of their health 
  • Sleep longer and feel more refreshed upon waking 

Psychological: 

  • Higher levels of positive emotions 
  • More alert, awake & joyful
  • More optimism and happiness 

Social: 

  • More helpful, generous, and compassionate 
  • More forgiving & outgoing
  • Feel less lonely and isolated 

The social benefits are especially significant here because, after all, gratitude is a social emotion. I see it as a relationship-strengthening emotion because it requires us to see how we’ve been supported and affirmed by other people and lets us repay the favour.

Both being grateful and thankful are triggered by a situation, event, or person and both are linked. I believe gratitude is usually directed outwardly, while thankfulness is generated within us. 

It only takes a moment to be thankful or grateful.

Ideas to unwrap the Gift of Gratitude:

  • Compliment work colleagues on the fly, don’t always wait until the time is right
  • Let a colleague know what they mean to you
  • Be thankful for the growth opportunity challenges bring
  • Be grateful for learning something new and share this with others
  • Invest in moments to be thankful for – this will ensure you create a consistent loop of building, expressing, and living the Gift of Gratitude
  • Individually or as a team; kick of team catch-ups with the question “who and what are you grateful?”
  • For every negative that comes up in conversations or in your thoughts, come up with 3 positives, this is called the 3:1 ratio
  • Introduce “Win Wednesdays” where each team member shares a win, big or small and who and what helped them achieve this
  • Acknowledge the silver lining or the Gift in all situations and what it has taught you

With the Great Resignation in play, or what I call the Great Rejuvenation now is the time to act. Now is the time to amplify practices in the workplace that may have been taken for granted, the simple act of gratitude and appreciation. The conduit to strong and connected relationships and a collaborative culture people want to be a part of. 


Written by Renée Giarrusso.

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Renée Giarrusso
Renée Giarrusso, author of Gift Mindset and Limitless leadership is a communication and leadership expert. She is a speaker, trainer, mentor and a professional coach (PCC) and works with leaders, teams and organisations to energise mindset and accelerate leadership and communication to lift performance and create collaborative and connected cultures.


Renée Giarrusso is an opinion columnist for the CEOWORLD magazine. You can follow Renée on LinkedIn. For more information, visit the author’s websites GIFT MINDSET® and website.