You Cannot Buy This Priceless Tool

Aha! roadmap software team go-kart race

Is there a fee for being happy at work? I recently saw an ad suggesting that there might be. A software company promised to boost employee engagement and retention with its powerful analytics platform — all for a small monthly fee. While the technology might be impressive (and there are certainly benefits to HR software) I had to shake my head at the pay-for-happy thinking.

Technology alone will not keep your team motivated and engaged. But there is a tool that will produce sustainable happiness — no subscription fee required. You cannot buy it.

That tool is gratitude.

That’s right — an old-fashioned thank you. On its face, the suggestion may sound a bit simplistic. And gratitude will not solve all of your company’s problems. But do not overlook the benefits of this powerful tool.

When you build a culture of gratitude at work, happiness naturally surges.

In a survey of 2,000 workers, almost all respondents reported that saying “thank you” to colleagues made them feel happier and more fulfilled. But here’s the alarming part — 60 percent of those same workers said they never express gratitude at work or only do so maybe once a year.

That last figure is not surprising if you think about it. Most of us are busy doing important work — rushing from one project to the next. Sure, you might fire off a quick “thanks” at the end of an email. But when is the last time you slowed down enough to show intentional gratitude?

We ask ourselves this a lot at Aha! — we do our best to show gratitude daily. That is because we know that when people feel appreciated, they are more committed, motivated, and happy. It benefits all of us.

Now, our culture of gratitude at Aha! might look different from yours. For instance, we are a fully distributed team. So we usually share our thanks via our group messaging tool. And when we do meet up in person twice a year, we make gratitude a big part of our time together.   

But no matter how your organization is structured or what your role is in it, you can help build a culture of gratitude. 

Here is what we have learned from our own efforts:

Act in the moment
It is easy to let praise-worthy moments pass you by. But when you wait, you forget details of what made the moment so special. The genuine emotion fades. So we do not wait. When somebody does something exceptional, we share it with the team right away — while it is still fresh in our minds (and we are at our most grateful).

Get specific
We have all grown numb to the standard “thanks!” — especially in email sign-offs. It is starting to feel like a throwaway, rather than a heartfelt sign of appreciation. So we strive for more detailed gratitude, acknowledging specific stories of outstanding performance. Instead of a general “Thanks for your hard work,” we might say something like, “Thanks for jumping in on that integration issue with XYZ company within an hour of the request. The customer was blown away by your responsiveness!

Broadcast it
Gratitude is infused into our culture because each one of us makes an effort to share it wide. In addition to giving one-on-one “thanks,” we shout it out to the whole company. We do this via our group messaging tool, video meetings, and in-person get-togethers. Sharing and hearing gratitude has become a regular practice for the whole team. And that has strengthened our connection and sense of community.

Have fun
Remember how I said gratitude is a big part of our in-person meetups? Yes, we do fun activities (like the go-kart racing photo on this post). But we also set aside time for something we call “hatitude.” This happens when the whole team goes out for dinner during our twice-yearly get-togethers. Everyone takes their turn donning a goofy hat while the rest of the team showers them with gratitude (i.e. “hatitude”). The stories are often moving. And they are funny too. Some people shed tears of appreciation. It comes easily when you have great people, great effort, great accomplishments, great food, and a goofy hat. 

Keep appreciating
Actions matter. So we do our best to really show our gratitude. We are continually asking ourselves what can we do to make everyone on the team feel valued. What will make their lives better? The fact that we built Aha! with an entirely distributed team is just one of our answers to these questions. We know the team is happier and more productive working from wherever they choose, so we have built the company on this belief. And we keep looking for ways to show even more thanks. 

When you show appreciation in meaningful ways people give their best every day. And when they do, the company grows and their careers prosper.  

That sweet spot — people working hard for both the team and themselves — brings success. It all stems from a culture of gratitude. And you simply cannot buy being thankful and sharing thanks with your team.

How do you practice workplace gratitude?

About Brian and Aha!

Brian seeks business and wilderness adventure. He is the co-founder and CEO of Aha! — the world’s #1 product roadmap software — and the author of Lovability. His two previous startups were acquired by well-known public companies. Brian writes and speaks about product and company growth and the adventure of living a meaningful life.

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