Expressing gratitude at work is associated with better mental and physical health for everyone involved, according to a new study led by Portland State University in Oregon.
The research focused on individuals working in the field of nursing, a profession that has particularly high rates of burnout. The findings, published in the Journal of Positive Psychology, revealed that expressing gratitude had a significant impact on quality of life and job retention by preventing stress-related illnesses and disease.
In particular, when participants were thanked more often at work, they reported better sleep, fewer headaches and healthier eating.
“Nurses tend to have a thankless job. It’s very physical, and they’re often being screamed at by patients who are at their lowest. When nurses receive gratitude, it boosts them,” said business professor Dr. David Cadiz.
“This type of study helps us understand how to keep nurses in the workforce in a healthy way. Nurses strongly align their profession with their identity and often look out for patients more than themselves. The gratitude matches up with their identity, gives them satisfaction in a job well done and ultimately increases self-care.”
From an organizational, policy and leadership perspective, Cadiz said employers should create formal or informal opportunities for people to express gratitude. Including gratitude in a business plan, for example, is an essential step that many business leaders miss, and that omission can have financial consequences.
This is because, like nurses, many people inherently connect their identity to their job and feelings of appreciation within their roles. Employers who understand and react to this can create positive social and economic change.
“Employees that receive positive feedback are healthier, and that can impact the bottom line,” said Cadiz. “Preventing headaches and other stress-related symptoms means fewer sick days, and, in this case, cuts down the cost of replacement nurses and overtime pay.”
Implementing these small changes can have a dramatic effect over time, which can lead to more staff, better pay rates and increased benefits.
Overall, the big takeaway of the study is to express gratitude when you see someone doing a good job. A positive feedback loop impacts you and those around you, and can ultimately shape a healthier and happier community.
Cadiz conducted the study with psychology professor Dr. Cynthia Mohr; Ph.D. psychology graduate Alicia Starkey; and Clemson University professor Dr. Robert Sinclair.
Source: Portland State University