Building a Cultures of Appreciation and Gratitude in the Workplace (Part 1)

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Home > Articles > Building a Cultures of Appreciation and Gratitude in the Workplace (Part 1)

 Building a Cultures of Appreciation and Gratitude in the Workplace (Part 1)

William Wan | Today's Manager
December 1, 2017

When were you last recognised for a job well done? Do you commend others for doing a good job?

No matter who we are in the totem pole of seniority in our organisation, we feel good when we get complimented. It could be as simple as a smile, a pat on the shoulder, a simple “thank you”, or an elaborate commendation ceremony. Appreciation is always appreciated!

Appreciation not only makes the workplace happier and kinder, it makes business sense too. Appreciated employees are more likely to be positive, engaged, high-performing, and have better retention rates.

According to Gallup, recognition motivates 82 per cent of employees to improve their job performance. They have also discovered that a top factor to raise overall employee engagement is regular praise and recognition from their managers. 1

In addition, showing appreciation or gratitude towards co-workers creates more social and prosocial interaction. People who participated in gratitude exercises were found to be more prosocial than others.” 2 The Positive Psychology Programme defines prosocial as “promoting other’s well-being usually through altruistic acts.”

A few months ago, the Singapore Kindness Movement (SKM) embarked on a programme aimed at cultivating “Love, Growth, and Gratitude” in the workplace. One of the activities involved a daily gratitude sharing within small groups across different departments for one week.

Doing this simple exercise daily to reflect and write down the things I am grateful for helped me to be aware of the many blessings I am given each day. It encouraged the team to have a positive mindset as we face the challenges both in and outside of work.

Through this gratitude sharing, we were able to share in each other’s joys and struggles. Often, we don’t get to know our colleagues outside of work, especially those whom we may not interact with on a daily basis. At the end of the day, everyone is fighting their own battles. A simple conversation asking a teammate “how are you?” to show care and concern can help bring a human touch to today’s fast-paced and technology-centric impersonal workplace environment.

Studies have shown that appreciation and gratitude gene-rate significant positive effects on employees’ well-being and health. Showing gratitude can increase a person’s wellness, promote better sleep habits, increase metabolism, and reduce stress. Scientifically, the hypothalamus, which controls basic bodily functions such as eating and sleeping, and dopamine, the “reward neurotransmitter” are heavily affected from feelings of gratitude. 2

A recent Gallup poll highlighted “a gap between what a company thinks it is doing to appreciate great work, and what its employees see happening on a day-to-day basis. Only seven per cent of employees say their company is excellent at appreciating great work, while 56 per cent of management say their company is above average at appreciation and nearly 80 per cent mentioned lack of appreciation as a key reason for leaving their jobs. Employees want some form of recognition every seven days, but research shows that just over 50 per cent of leaders recognise their employees once a quarter or less”. 3

The good news is that there is a shift in the perceived sense of community. Dr Vanessa Buote writes in a Plasticity Labs white paper titled Gratitude at Work: Its Impact on Job Satisfaction & Sense of Community that “With more and more companies focussing on collaboration and team effort, building a sense of community among co-workers is crucial—and one way to do so is through gratitude”. 4 Besides, expressing gratitude not only makes the receiver feel good, but also the ‘thanker’: 88 per cent of employees reported that expressing gratitude to colleagues makes them feel happy and fulfilled, and our research reveals that both giving and receiving support is linked to job satisfaction, engagement, and happiness”. 4

There is absolutely no question that an attitude of gratitude is not only good for our personal health and wellbeing. It is also good for the health and well-being of the corporation.


1 Robinson, SF, 2016. What’s in a Thank you? Building a Culture of Appreciation, Huffpost, 4 March 2016,

2 Tanner OC, 2017, The Psychological Effects of Workplace Appreciation & Gratitude, Emergenetics International,

3 Emmons, R, 2013, Gratitude Works!: A 21-Day Program for Creating Emotional Prosperity, Wiley.

4 Buote, V, 2017, Gratitude at Work: Its Impact on Job Satisfaction & Sense of Community, Plasticity Labs.


Dr William Wan is a Justice of the Peace and General Secretary of the Singapore Kindness Movement (SKM). He was a senior partner of a regional law firm and a managing director of a psychometric company headquartered in the USA.


Copyright © 2017 Singapore Institute of Management

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Today's Manager Issue 4, 2017

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