Gratitude doesn’t need to be flowery or overly demonstrative to be powerful. In their first three experiments, the research team conveyed gratitude via a simple comment bubble on a document with tracked changes. “Thank you so much for catching these typos!” the note read.
After seeing documents with gratitude expressions from one worker to another, the study participants were more likely to take the extra step and proactively correct typos, too, though the task they were asked to do was to simply underline and bold useful sections of a movie review – not to make corrections, which represented “above and beyond” effort.
As organizations look for ways to engage workers and spur them to make discretionary effort, showing gratitude seems to create high payoff with minimal effort.
Gratitude also fast-tracks trust and affiliation, giving one the desire to connect with the grateful person, Younge’s research shows.
In another experiment, subjects watched videos and then were asked to write to the person in the video, expressing a positive personal experience of their own. Study participants who witnessed gratitude in the video shared more personal and emotional messages to the original speaker than those who watched videos in which the speaker spoke calmly but did not explicitly express thanks.