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🙏Leaning into Gratitude to Support Organizational Change

change leadership compassion conscious leadership culture human-centered mindset resilience well-being Nov 20, 2022
Gratitude for Organizational Change

Leaning into Gratitude to Support Organizational Change 

With the Thanksgiving holiday approaching, I’ve been thinking a lot about the importance of gratitude, and how leaders can transform the employee experience with change by finding ways to help their teams access a more thankful mindset during periods of disruption. 

Leaning into gratitude isn’t about feeling overwhelmed and pretending everything is fine. It’s about acknowledging the difficulties, looking for growth opportunities, and choosing to be compassionate to ourselves and others. Gratitude is a mindset that leaders can help cultivate within their teams. Gratitude supports resilience, which is exactly what organizations need: resilient people and teams who can deal with continual change and thrive. 

In today’s post, I’ll explain why we value gratitude at Apogy, why gratitude at work matters, and how Change Leaders can help teams develop gratitude during change initiatives. 

The Impact of Gratitude on Well-Being

At Apogy, we understand the importance of well-being in the workplace and its impact on both individual and organizational performance. Some research suggests that expressing gratitude offers mental and physical benefits, including improved sleep and mood and decreased anxiety and depression. This is helpful information, considering the negative consequences of stress. 

When people feel frequently stressed, their executive functioning declines and decision-making becomes less strategic, creative, and collaborative.  This creates a ripple effect of toxic thinking and behaviors that can cascade throughout the enterprise, further perpetuating the problem. 

Gratitude is one of many ways to boost employee well-being in the workplace and create an environment where change and innovation thrive. When we think of well-being, however, we recognize the self-awareness aspect that comes with it. If you’re in a difficult season, it may be necessary to build a personal gratitude practice through journaling or daily reflections first before attempting to develop a broader approach in the workplace.

Why We Should Express Gratitude at Work

Not only does expressing and experiencing gratitude at work feel good, but research shows there are several benefits from finding ways to be thankful in the workplace. According to an article in the Harvard Business Review, expressing gratitude at work improves well-being, reduces stress, builds resilience, and can help people be more patient.

Similarly, a recent Forbes article revealed that teams who share moments of gratitude, such as thanking one another before high-stress situations, experienced less job stress overall. The research is clear: in various forms, gratitude is impactful and positively transformative at work. 

These benefits also help employees better navigate change and uncertainty when it strikes. Gratitude, particularly in the form of recognition, can be pivotal during change initiatives as it inspires others into action. It can also support a mindset shift from apathy and resistance to curiosity. Employees can then reframe their feelings by asking themselves, “what can I learn from this?” 

How Change Leaders Can Incorporate Gratitude

There are many practical ways leaders can incorporate and practice gratitude with teams and stakeholders throughout the change process. One simple way to integrate gratitude into pre-existing structures is to start each meeting by having attendees share one thing they are grateful for that day. Consider capturing these items in the meeting minutes so the team can reflect and refer to them throughout the change process (especially on the tough days). 

Recognition is a crucial aspect of adopting and sustaining changed behaviors, and fortunately, it also provides an opportunity to incorporate moments of gratitude. Leaders can encourage shoutouts and recognition amongst peers, and from leadership when appropriate. Thanking one another for collaborative efforts or a job well done goes a long way in building trust and connection and supporting organizational change success.

These actions can be implemented whether you and your team work onsite or have adapted to a hybrid or remote work environment. For project teams that rely on online tools to collaborate, consider creating a digital gratitude folder or channel to archive positive notes that the team receives throughout the change. This could be peer-to-peer thanks, messages from leadership, or appreciation from frontline employees directly impacted by the change. Ensure the folder or channel is always accessible so members can reference it whenever they need inspiration. 

Sometimes Gratitude Isn’t Enough

It’s worth noting that while incorporating moments of gratitude can be beneficial, there are some situations in which gratitude will not be enough to change how people feel about a situation. Encouraging a thankful mindset should not replace creating avenues for impacted individuals to express their feelings and concerns. 

In other words, leaders should avoid forcing gratitude onto teams because sometimes, team members will not feel grateful for any part of the situation (think recent mass layoffs). In time they may be able to see the silver lining, but in those moments, compassion is the key. They may not be grateful for the change, but kindness and caring for people as people is always appreciated and deserved. 

How will you incorporate more gratitude into your life and your next change initiative?

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