Human Resources and Benefits

Gratitude – A Powerful Workplace Motivator

Employee achievement

“Whatever else each of us derives from our work, there may be nothing more precious than the feeling that we truly matter—that we contribute unique value to the whole, and that we’re recognized for it.”  ~ Tony Schwartz

Appreciation is a powerful motivator, particularly in the workplace. Employees who feel appreciated by their employers are more likely to put forth their best effort at work. In addition, feeling cared for and valued are core emotional needs for individuals. However, according to a study by the Templeton Foundation, people are less likely to express gratitude at work than anyplace else.

Why We Fail to Express Appreciation

If appreciation is so important, why is it so often neglected? There are a variety of reasons.

Too busy or forgetful.

Employers may simply be too busy focusing on other aspects of managing their organization that they fail to make appreciation a priority and they simply forget about it. It is easy to get caught up in the strategy of “the squeaky wheel gets the grease.” Employees who are doing a good job aren’t often a “squeaky wheel” so it can be easy to neglect them.


An employer’s attitude towards appreciation has a big impact on where expressing gratitude falls on their priority list. Negative attitudes toward appreciation may include the following:

  • “It’s not my job.” It is your job – they are your employees and one of the most valuable resources to your business.
  • “No one thanks me, so why should I thank them.” Teach by example. By expressing appreciation to your employees, you will establish a culture of gratitude, and it will come back to you full circle.
  • “They should be glad they have a job” or “a paycheck should be sufficient.” While having a job and a regular paycheck are definitely important, remember the statement at the beginning of the article “feeling cared for and valued are core emotional needs for individuals.” When our core emotional needs are not being met, our performance and productivity will ultimately suffer.

Lack of creativity or unsure of appropriate ways to express appreciation.

Many employers may agree that showing gratitude is important, but they may be unsure of ways to show it and might even think they aren’t creative enough to come up with good ideas. The good news is that showing appreciation doesn’t have to be complicated. There are a lot of simple ways to show your employees that you care, and we’ve compiled a few here in this article to help you get started. In addition, there are plenty of resources online to give additional ideas and support behind your employee appreciation strategy.

Ideas for Showing Appreciation to Employees

There are a variety of ways you can show appreciation toward your employees. Understanding what motivates your employees will make a huge difference in what strategies you choose. Keep in mind, unexpected rewards go a long way – you don’t have to have a routine or formal rewards program to make an impact. Here are a few ideas to help you get started.

  • Say “thank you.” Though this can be done in person or by email, a hand-written note can be even more effective. We rely so much on electronic communications, that a hand-written note shows extra effort and is something tangible the employee can leave on their desk as a visual reminder.
  • Be specific. Indicate what you are expressing gratitude for, including positive characteristics they have exhibited and valuable contributions they have made.
  • Build a company culture that is driven by mutual respect for each other’s abilities and contributions. Create a process that allows employees to recognize their peers for a job well done.
  • Take time during department meetings or company-wide events to recognize specific employee achievements. When appropriate, utilize social media and press releases to announce significant employee accomplishments.
  • Host off-site events and activities outside of work hours. This could include wellness activities, service projects, or seasonal gatherings (i.e. summer BBQ or holiday dinner). Tickets to community events are also a great idea.
  • Involve employees in decision making, particularly when it directly affects them and their work. Ask them for ideas and suggestions. Keep them up to date on what is going on with the company.
  • When an employee completes a special assignment or project, take time to thoroughly review and discuss the project with them.
  • Allow and encourage employees to pursue their ideas. Give them opportunities to grow and develop through new assignments, continuing education, training, etc.
  • If someone makes a mistake, don’t embarrass them in front of their peers. Focus on what they can learn from the error rather than blaming and fault finding.
  • Surprise employees with something unexpected, such as a group lunch or a shortened work day.
  • Consider special perks such as raises, bonuses, or extra vacation time. When appropriate and feasible, let employees choose their award – a plaque, certificate, cash bonus, or gift card may not appeal to everyone.

Effects of Showing Gratitude

Helping your employees know they are appreciated and that the work they are doing is important will have a positive impact on your organization. Here are a few effects of showing gratitude:

  • Employees will be more happy and productive.
  • Provides validation for employees that they have something of value to offer.
  • Helps boost self-confidence and self-esteem.
  • Encourages employee to further develop their skills.
  • Shows employees they are worth the investment you are making in them.

Showing gratitude doesn’t have to be complicated. Start building a culture of appreciation in your workplace today. Choose one action item you can implement now, and see what a difference it can make among your employees.

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1 Comment

  1. I agree that showing gratitude makes me feel appreciated. My favorite part of the article is the section that makes suggestions on how to show appreciation to your employees. What hit home for me is suggesting a process be made that allow employees to recognize their peers for a job well done. Peers often see areas of excellence before managers because of how closely departments work together. Allowing a peer to send a “kudos” to an employee may go a long way. This could help management “see” their star team players and provide an opportunity to say thanks. This was a good read.