It’s November, which in the United States, is closely associated with Thanksgiving—a national holiday encouraging gratitude. Although one may argue it’s devolved into a holiday of gluttony, football, and bargain hunting, its undercurrent remains: giving thanks.
The benefits of showing gratitude are well documented on both the individual and organizational levels. For example, according to the website Insider, gratitude can improve physical health by improving sleep and lowering the risk of diabetes. Plus, a Limeade Institute study revealed that employees practicing both gratitude and mindfulness strongly correlated to having higher levels of well-being, engagement, and productivity and low levels of stress at work.
Still, many organizations struggle to incorporate a sense of gratitude into their messaging strategies. Here are some suggestions to help:
Think about whom you want to thank.
We should share gratitude with all the people most important to our success.
- Start with employees. (In our opinion, everything should start with employees.) According to Positive Psychology, the majority of employees will leave if they do not feel appreciated and recognized. But that’s just the start. Gratitude is contagious. When people show us gratitude, we are more inclined to share it with others. Studies also show that a culture of gratitude spreads and improves productivity, innovation, and engagement as well as decreases burnout.
- Then, take it outside. Next, think about those outside your organization, for example, clients for social enterprises and for-profit organizations or donors for not-for-profits. No matter what you do or sell, you have competition. There are plenty of other options for those who share their dollars, time, and energy with you. Show that you appreciate their choice in you. Plus, it’s more than just that. In many instances, people are spending some of their reputational capital by supporting or buying from you. That too is worthy of gratitude.
- Look more broadly. People who work adjacent to you also deserve your gratitude. From delivery services to research institutes, think about all the people who have a peripheral impact on your work. One of gratitude’s superpowers is that it doesn’t have to be direct. When people see you showing gratitude to someone else, they see you more favorably and are more inclined to support you as well.
- Take it home. Remember to thank those in your personal life who provide you with support, guidance, and encouragement for your professional life. Far too often we take for granted how important that support is.
Think about how you want to thank them and for what.
Even for organizations that understand the importance of showing gratitude, but they don’t always get it right. First and foremost, go for sincerity. People can smell inauthenticity from miles away so it’s important that your show of gratitude is not. To do that:
- Keep it in perspective. Don’t overdo it. By thanking people for more than they have actually done, you often create the opposite effect. When the amount of gratitude does not match the effort, people can feel guilty for not doing more, not energized to do more. There’s a big difference. Plus, when people are thanked en masse with a blanket statement it can create a sense of anonymity. “I’m not really important to them. I’m just one of thousands.”
- More than money. One way to do that is by not focusing on the dollar value of their support. Thank people for their faith, trust, and passion as well as their monetary support.
- Too much of the same is not good either. Another trap in which organizations can find themselves is thanking people too much. A thank you for every little interaction can start to smell of inauthenticity and automation, leading to the feeling of anonymity we mentioned above. Swap out a notecard with a telephone call, or an email with social media post. Gratitude is like your diet. Everyone likes ice cream but no one wants to eat just ice cream. Mix it up.
As always, whatever your organization says, make certain it aligns with your overall messaging strategy: Your expressions of gratitude should support what you do, why you do it, and how you do it differently than anyone else.