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Gratitude at Work: Ending the Cycle of Ingratitude

“Gratitude can transform common days into Thanksgivings, turn routine jobs into joy, and change ordinary opportunities into blessings.”
– William Arthur Ward

At we make it easy to create a video montage of a group of people sharing their love and gratitude for someone they care about on any special occasion. We’ve delivered more than 100,000 Tributes and there are definitely a few that stand out a little more than others.

One of those is Libby from Steelcase. Her coworkers decided to create a Tribute for her retirement party. She had been with the company for 40 years! I saw the video and it was quite lovely, but it was her follow up email the next day that forever shifted the way I thought about appreciation at work.

Her note simply said, “Dear Tribute, thank you so much for this gift. One of the best of my life…” She closed with this one line. “I didn’t realize they cared this much.”

Remember that she had been at this company for 40 years. It made me deeply sad that someone could go 40 years at a company and not understand precisely how appreciated she was. It was in that moment that we started making more of an effort to loop Tribute into the corporate world to help employees and employers share their appreciation and gratitude for one another more effectively.

Gallup research shows us that the #1 reason most people leave their jobs is because they don’t feel appreciated. We’re up against something we call the cycle of ingratitude.

  • In a population study, 60 percent of people said they “either never express gratitude at work or do so perhaps once a year.”
  • 35 percent of respondents believed that expressing any gratitude could lead coworkers to take advantage of them. (GGSC, John Templeton Foundation)
  • Supervisors tend to feel that gratitude is not authentic and are less likely to express gratitude. (M. Ena Insei, PhD)

Dear Tribute, thank you so much for this gift. One of the best of my life… I didn’t realize they cared this much.”

To fight this cycle try these simple techniques to express your gratitude at work more effectively.

Go beyond thank you. Add descriptions to your compliments.

When expressing our appreciation and thanks for people at work, it is important to simply say thank you, but if we want to really impact people with our appreciation, we need to add descriptions to our statements for two main reasons:

  1. When we tell someone WHY we are thankful for them or an action they took to support us, it refines that feeling of gratitude more specifically so that it is more deeply felt within us. That feeling will then last longer.
  2. When we share a thank you with someone, they are more likely to then express gratitude and thanks for someone else at work. This a beautiful phenomenon we call the gratitude loop.

Start by making a conscious effort to not only say thank you, but articulate your “why.” When you catch yourself saying thank you, go a step further and tell them how it impacted you.

  • “Hey Dorothy, thank you for getting those expense reports over early. I am slammed this week and it is really going to save me a lot of time.”
  • “Hey Tim, thanks for staying late yesterday, this client has been going overboard and it means a lot to have the extra support.”

Make time after a meeting for people to share what’s going right in their lives.

Deep relationships at work are vital for sustained engagement and workplace happiness. One of the simplest things you can do to help your employees engage in a meaningful way is to set the context for them to talk about what’s happening in their world outside of work. Especially if you have employees who are distributed geographically or that don’t get a lot of time to spend time with one another, this can be a great way for people to learn about one another. After a weekly meeting (preferably Friday or Monday) make an announcement that you are going to start closing the meeting by allowing everyone to share the things they are most looking forward to this week and also their “big win at work last week.” These are accessible questions that naturally get everyone on your team expressing gratitude…without them even realizing it!

Set up a portal for your employees to share peer to peer recognition

(ie. Slack channel, physical gratitude board)
87% of recognition programs focus on tenure (people get rewarded for sticking around). Research shows that tenure-based rewards systems have virtually no impact on organizational performance! The secret to effective recognition is peer to peer performance recognition that happens in real time. Here’s how you do that. This week, set up a Slack channel or Google group (both free) and name it “gratitude.” Send a note out to your team and tell everyone that you are creating this thread to cultivate more gratitude at work. Anytime someone does something great at work, shout them out here. Anytime a customer says something great about our product/service, share it here.

Sometimes all people need is a little permission to start sharing gratitude at work, give it to them.


See Tribute’s work with the 2018 WELCOA Summit


About the Contributor // Andrew Horn is a serial social entrepreneur, speaker and writer based in Brooklyn, NY.  He is a Global Shaper at the World Economic Forum and received the Mayor’s Community Service award in Washington, D.C at the age of 23. He is on a deep mission to spread gratitude and meaningful connection in the world and is responsible for creating 100,000+ Tributes since launching. Tribute also closed a $1.3M seed round in 2016 and is planning large-scale expansion in 2017.

About Tribute // We build technology that helps people share more of the appreciation, love and support that connects us deeply with the people that matter to us. This simple act will transform our relationships, lives and the world. For more information visit