Confessions of a Former “Recognition Science Denier” or Why I’m Embracing a Workplace Attitude of Gratitude (and how you can, too)

Confessions of a Former “Recognition Science Denier” or Why I’m Embracing a Workplace Attitude of Gratitude (and how you can, too)

By Carol Feinberg

“You cannot recognize people enough! There’s no overdoing it,” said the experts at the Workhuman (@Workhuman) conference I attended earlier this year. With an eyeroll, I thought, “Yet another example of the ‘everyone deserves a trophy’ mindset.”

No sooner did I have that thought than the speaker addressed it as if he were inside my head. “The evidence for this is overwhelming,” he said, “but a common question that follows is ‘why can’t people just be content with a job well done?’ These, my friends, are the recognition science deniers!”

As a scientist and a communicator, I don’t want to be an any-kind-of-science denier, but I do need to see the data. And now that I’m enlightened, I see that there’s plenty of it.

  1. Your life is better when you’re grateful. Conference speaker Robert Emmons, (@Dr_RobertEmmons) a professor at UC Davis and a leader in the field of gratitude research, cited studies that show grateful people achieve more, get along better with others, are less depressed and more resilient to trauma. There are myriad benefits in counting blessings versus burdens, and, to be more specific, reports that science shows there are 14 health benefits of practicing gratitude. more than doubled that number with their 31 benefits of gratitude: the ultimate science-backed guide. Yes, you can’t deny that grateful people are generally better off than curmudgeons.
  1. Your workplace is better when you’re grateful; we underestimate the benefits. A recent study showed that when asked to express gratitude to others, the “expressers” underestimated the positivity and surprise, and overestimated the awkwardness, the recipient would feel when being recognized. Many studies show employees are not regularly recognized, even when we know that recognition is a driving factor in positive employee experiences. In a study by IBM, 83 percent report a positive experience when they are recognized for doing good work. I could cite lots more research, but I think there’s no denying that genuine gratitude and recognition in the workplace contribute to a better place to work.
  1. It’s simpler than you think to start reaping the benefits of gratitude. Here are my suggestions:
    • Gratitude is a mindset and practice makes perfect. Embed gratitude into your corporate culture so employees know it’s important. Demonstrate it and set expectations for your leaders. Get employee feedback on what kind of recognition resonates with them (it’s often not monetary).
    • Provide the recognition your employees want. Even a simple program that could include peer-to-peer recognition, leader training, thank-you cards, recognition coffee chats, and such help to build your culture of gratitude and improve your employees’ experiences.
    • Start with yourself. Be mindful of what makes you grateful. Keep a journal, meditate, start or end your day by noting your blessings. Then move on to your teams and others and start saying—out loud and to them —what they’re doing right.
    • Give your organization time to build its culture of gratitude. Develop approaches you can sustain so employees know you mean it.

VTLO has worked with many clients to develop and refine their gratitude cultures. Let us help you appreciate what you have by applying the science of recognition to build or enhance your employee recognition culture. Email us at or call 732-238-6622.

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