Beyond Employee Appreciation: Tactics For Year-Round Gratitude

Jane Sarles Larson
Jane Sarles Larson

Two employees appreciating each other at work

We keep hearing the word “gratitude” bandied about, almost to the point of becoming a buzzword. But showing gratitude is never out of style. Call it what you will—thankfulness, appreciation, acknowledgement or recognition. The point is, people thrive on knowing their contributions (in the workplace or at home) have value.

With all the complexities of the workplace, expressing gratitude in the workplace is an important place for leaders to start to create a culture of appreciation. When you show gratitude to an employee for a job well done it elicits a positive response from the recipient, who in turn, may enjoy increased morale and productivity—and may return the favor by showing gratitude to supportive colleagues.

Here are six easy-to-do tactics team leaders should focus on when getting started.

Tactic #1 – Be Authentic

Appreciating your team starts with living the values of your company. If your actions align with the corporate goals and principles, you’re demonstrating what you expect from your employees. Act as you say you will. Then recognize your employees’ performance as it aligns with your company’s values.

Tactic #2 – Personalize It

This one’s easy—put their name on it. Whether it’s an email, online recognition software or in a team meeting, using a person’s name and associating it with a specific task helps the recipient and other team members know why someone is being recognized. If you’re providing a tangible reward with the recognition, be sure it’s something the employee would want. Don’t offer a Starbucks gift card to someone who doesn’t drink coffee.

Tactic #3 – Provide Opportunities for Career Growth

While a pat on the back or a nice thank you note recognizing someone’s achievement is appreciated by most employees, 76% of them are also looking for some kind of career growth and development according to a study cited by Quadrant1. Show your gratitude for hard-working employees by providing them with resources that will enhance their value. Not only will you make your employees feel appreciated, you might even minimize turnover.

Related: Learn how upskilling employees can create a more well-rounded, cross-trained workforce, and increase your team’s effectiveness.

Tactic #4 – Hear Them

People know if their leader is really listening to them or not. Active listening is a rare commodity these days because of the fast-pace of business and thousands of distractions that come along with it. Show your gratitude for people on your team by seeking them out and encouraging them to express their ideas and concerns. Need some ideas? Check out this Forbes article, on Six Ways to Listen to Your Employees. There’s no better way to build trust than to acknowledge people by listening, responding and/or acting upon what they have to say.

Tactic #5 – Respect Your Employees

The HR Exchange Network notes in a blog that, “Few things lead to a greater desire for revenge than being treated disrespectfully.” How you respond—or don’t respond—to your employees can have an adverse impact on morale and productivity. One way to express thankfulness for your employees’ contributions is “by giving them as much positive control over their jobs as possible.” People need to perceive they have choices and some decision-making responsibility. Trust your employees to do the job their way.

Related: Learn about the differences between intrinsic and extrinsic motivators

Tactic #6 – Create Goodwill

More than two thirds (68.9%) of employees say that they are made happy by goodwill gestures from their colleagues and a further 84.2% state that they return the favor. Social scientist and New York Times bestselling author, Dan Ariely believes that creating goodwill in the workplace is key in true motivation (see video below). He states in his book, Payoff, that the “exchange of trust and goodwill is an important and inherent part of human motivation.” Nourishing goodwill is about making human connections between people. The more trust and goodwill are inspired, gratitude for one another becomes contagious and productivity and morale flourishes.

Gratitude Leads to Altruistic Behavior

Why not change the negative old adage, “What goes around, comes around,” to have a more positive spin? Make the choice to change your sphere in the workplace. If you want a thriving workplace where people are happy and productive and profits are flourishing, take the lead and be a role model for how people should treat one another. Showing gratitude is one of life’s hacks in being a truly good person.

Check out or ebook on employee motivation for even more ways to utilize your most valuable asset (your people) to transform your bottom line.

Motivational Forces are Hiding. Ready to Unleash Them? Download Our Ebook.

Jane Sarles Larson

Jane Sarles Larson

As the Research Manager for ITA Group’s Marketing Strategy, Jane is on the forefront of market research and thought leadership. Her interest in neuroscience and how it applies to human behavior and engagement has led to the development of ITA Group’s approach to motivation called Motivology. Her 30+ years of international advertising, sales and marketing experience is second only to her knowledge of dark chocolate.