“Gratitude is not only the greatest of virtues, but the parent of all the others.” – Cicero
Gratitude is a character strength that is appreciated by many people in almost all cultures. It’s possible to be grateful in different ways: being grateful for the things we have, for others who has helped us or who are just there for.
There is quite a few scientific evidence showing that gratitude is associated with various positive outcomes. One of these outcomes is job performance. Suppose that you are in a job which can be quite hard and frustrating: Trying to raise funds to the university you work for, that often times includes contacting the alumni. You will have to make phone calls to people who are possibly not interested in donating money, and might not be very welcoming when you make the call. Basically, in one study, fund raisers received feedback on a daily basis from their managers, depending on two conditions: getting feedback based on their performance with or without expressions of gratitude.
In the first condition, in addition to telling participants how they are performing, the manager told them the following: “I’m grateful for your hard work, we sincerely appreciate your contributions to the university”. In the second condition, the manager told them how they were performing, and expressed no gratitude. Researchers hypothesized that these expressions of gratitude is an indicator of how much effort the person is putting to raise money. To measure the effect, they looked at the number of calls those employees made to raise funds. It was found that people who were thanked for the effort they put in made greater number of calls than the ones who did not receive any gratification. That is, the performance of the employees was affected by the gratitude expression that they received.
Gratitude has an effect on our mental and physical wellbeing as well. In another study, participants were divided into three groups:
- Those who were asked to write down five things in their lives that they feel thankful or grateful for
- Those who were asked to write five hassles that occurred in their lives
- Those who were asked to write 5 events that happened to them that week that had an impact on them without specifying the type of the event
Researchers measured participants’ happiness and physical symptoms before and after the intervention. They showed that participants who were asked to think about things they were grateful for reported greater happiness and fewer physical symptoms at the end of the intervention compared with participants in the other two groups. Thus, the experience of gratitude is positively related with both our emotional wellbeing and physical health. Gratitude obviously benefits both the giver and the receiver.
In a nutshell, as these findings imply, feeling gratitude, expressing gratitude, and thinking about the things that we feel thankful for might benefit us more than we imagine. If you would like to improve your job performance and general wellbeing, it might be a good idea to practice gratitude in your daily life.
For Further Reading
Emmons, R. A., & McCullough, M. E. (2003). Counting blessings versus burdens: Experimental studies of gratitude and subjective well-being. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 84(2), 377-389.
Grant, A. M., & Gino, F. (2010). A little thanks goes a long way: Explaining why gratitude expressions motivate prosocial behaviour. Journal of personality and social psychology, 98(6), 946.