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Tips for Fostering Gratitude at Work

The Collective Results team has been thinking a lot about gratitude this week. Of course, this is a natural time of the year to think about being thankful for our friends, family, the food we have on the table, and the other privileges we have. Might we also make this a time to think and talk about gratitude in the workplace?

I have been working with a client that is experiencing staff retention issues. As part of that work, I conducted surveys with current and past staff, facilitated focus groups to dive deeper into the findings, and facilitated an action planning committee to develop a solution-focused, customized action plan for their workplace. I also conducted and shared the findings of a literature review to help ground the solutions in evidence. In both the literature findings and the findings from the staff engagement methods, gratitude and appreciation emerged as major themes.

Gratitude and appreciation activities are often low-cost activities that can help you create a positive workplace culture which is more likely to retain employees and foster high performing teams. Did I need to tell you this? Probably not. You already know in your gut that gratitude and appreciation are incredibly important. If this is a given, why does gratitude sometimes fall off the radar? And how can we keep gratitude top of mind in our work?

I connected with each of our Collective Results dream team members to find out their best tips and strategies for embedding gratitude into the workplace. Check out our tips below!


15% Solutions with a Twist by Ishan

A few years ago I attended a workshop on group facilitation. The workshop focused on an approach to facilitation called ‘Liberating Structures’ and was centered around using simple, semi-structured activities when working with small groups. The premise is that these ‘Liberating Structures’ are easy for participants to understand, and because the activities foster opportunities for all participants to engage in the conversations regardless of comfort levels or personality traits (introverts vs extroverts), everyone is engaged and included.

One of my favourite Liberating Structures activities is called ‘15% Solutions’. This activity focuses on shifting thinking on what can be done (however small) without more resources, authority or outside help. Using similar thinking, I have modified ‘15% Solutions’ to a gratitude sharing activity for teams working on projects together. Sometimes when the end goal or final deliverable is far away or the project journey has been full of obstacles, it can become difficult to stay motivated and feel appreciated. But regardless of how far away that outcome is, there are small accomplishments and contributions that need to happen for you to get even a little bit closer to that goal. This gratitude focused spin creates an opportunity to acknowledge the amazing (big or small) contributions of team members as they work their way through the various milestones of their projects. Here are the steps to take to implement this activity with your team.

To start: A potential venue for this activity would be team meetings. This activity can be done virtually or in person. It could be made into a standing agenda item to embed the practice into how the team operates, or done as a one-off activity. Ask the group to focus on their current project(s), and reflect on the following questions:

  • What is your 15 percent? What contribution(s) however small have you worked on since we last met as a group to move us closer to our goal?

  • The intention is to focus on what COULD be accomplished regardless of obstacles, outside influences.

Sequence and steps:

  • The participants reflect on the questions first alone, then in pairs and finally as a larger group.

  • The amount of time allocated to each step will depend on how often the group has been working on this type of activity, but here is a potential time breakdown:

    • Alone - Reflect alone to create a list contributions and accomplishments (keep in mind that any contribution or activity should be listed e.g. meetings with clients, attending a workshop, completing an infographic or report) - 5 mins

    • Pair - Individuals share their list with one other group member - 3-5 mins (1 minute each to share each and 2-3 minutes to discuss and begin showing gratitude)

    • All - This step can be facilitated by the ‘project/team lead’ or with the group sharing organically. The goal is to share all of the individual contributions with the entire group and communicate gratitude to all team members for their work. - 5 mins

Potential roadblocks and common challenges with this type of activity:

  • The inability to shift thinking from the roadblocks to the positive contributions/accomplishments.

  • The challenge with acknowledging the small contributions that lead to bigger outcomes, which again is all part of a shift in thinking.

Adding a debrief step after all sharing has taken place can provide an opportunity to dig deeper into the challenges that some group members are encountering with the activity or their work and to problem solve together as a group.


Sincerity and Specificity by Jennifer

I take time to think carefully about how I want to express a message of gratitude. I always want to convey sincerity and I also know that it’s important to be specific. I think I’ve learned this over the years by considering how I’ve felt in different situations where people have expressed gratitude towards me. There are some messages that I still clearly remember (and feel good about) that I received years ago. I think that if you are sincere about your message of gratitude it comes across. Specificity is easy too. It just takes a little time to think about why I’m grateful. I recognize the ways in which the other person’s actions have benefited others, I acknowledge the extra effort it took, and I show respect for the wisdom that was displayed.

A wise colleague once gave me a strategy to use when I’m feeling put out about doing someone else’s work (this applies to the office and the home). She suggested that as I am putting their dishes into the dishwasher, or finishing their report, I think about all of the things they have done that have been helpful to me. I’ve tried it and instead of feeling disgruntled I feel gratitude. It works for me every time.


Warm Fuzzies by Liz

I recently completed a large project with one of our clients. This work, as most work is these days, was conducted virtually. As we were approaching our last meeting and the conclusion of the project, I wanted to do something different to celebrate and appreciate all of the unique contributions that each team member brought to the project. I decided to do a “Warm Fuzzies” activity. If you have never done this before I strongly urge you to try it! It is so easy to do and it succeeds in personally and meaningfully recognizing everybody on a project team - basically it will fill your heart (and who doesn’t like that every once in a while?!). Here is how you do it:

  1. Circulate a document or a survey link to everybody on the team. The document or survey will simply have the name of everybody that participated in the project with a blank space next to it.

  2. Each member of the project team will open the document (or survey) and fill in one or two works of recognition and appreciation for each member of the team. Participants in the activity say that this step does not take long to complete and it makes them feel good to think about the unique contributions of each team member.

  3. The project manager/lead will receive all of the warm fuzzies that have been submitted.

  4. The project manager/lead will create customized wordles of appreciation for each member of the team and send it to them directly.

  5. When individuals receive their wordles they feel appreciated and recognized in a personalized way. The other benefit of this activity is that it allows it to happen more behind the scenes which can be welcome for individuals that don’t like to be recognized in a very public way.

  6. Some individuals like to print their wordles and hang them by their desk for an ongoing reminder of appreciation.


Thank You Notes by Amy

A friend and past mentor of mine, Blake Fleischacker, has an inspiring gratitude practice. He taught me the simplicity and importance of writing personal thank you notes regularly. This practice is great for building personal relationships and is also a thoughtful and innovative way to connect with all kinds of people for business. Blake teaches this method wherever he goes. I think Blake does this daily, but you could set a pace that works for you. Me? I like to do them at least once a week on Fridays. And to hold myself accountable, I get Siri to remind me weekly. You can write these on beautiful stationary, in an email, by text, or on a post-it. The format is not important, but the content is. Be specific about what the person did and the positive impact it had for you. That’s it. It’s that simple. And it gets easier every time you do it. I promise.


Let us know - Do any of the above strategies resonate with you? What tips can you share about how you like to incorporate gratitude into your work-life?

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