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  • Writer's pictureErika Clegg

Gratitude: the single most important team behaviour

There are two types of people. People with gratitude, and people without it. To maintain a healthy organisation you need to populate it with the former and consciously stoke their capacity for thankfulness.

People with gratitude find the good in every circumstance, and are open and willing to collaborate, celebrate the successes of those around them, and to make big decisions. They’re generally happier, healthier and more resilient than their pessimistic colleagues. Put a gratitude minded person in an unpredictable situation and, given the right tools, they’ll navigate it cheerfully and help those around them do so too.

Those on the other side of the coin will find it hard to see the good even in exciting times. Metaphorically they see that every silver lining has a cloud. Often this is driven by a sense of fear, lack of self esteem or other deep-set emotion; the outcome of which is to make them self-protective, reactive and critical.

This means that, whatever your culture and character, it is more likely to flourish in an atmosphere of gratitude than negativity.

Harvard Health describes the value of gratitude so: "With gratitude, people acknowledge the goodness in their lives. In the process, people usually recognise that the source of that goodness lies at least partially outside themselves. As a result, gratitude also helps people connect to something larger than themselves as individuals — whether to other people, nature, or a higher power.

"In positive psychology research, gratitude is strongly and consistently associated with greater happiness. Gratitude helps people feel more positive emotions, relish good experiences, improve their health, deal with adversity, and build strong relationships."

The familiar concept of 'radiators and drains' shows the difference between a gratitude mindset and its reverse. People who are radiators project warmth, underpinned by those people's ability to see the good in things, and to be able - because of the positive sense of self that creates - to share that with those around them. Drains are, of course, the reverse and suck positive energy away from their radiator colleagues pretty fast.

Sadly once someone's tuned in to negativity it's very hard for them to see the sunny side, which makes them guarded and unhappy. We all know people who seem never to be content despite any number of good things. You can list the positives until you are blue in the face but they don't land. Simply put, the negative mind set means they just don't see them. To change that needs a fundamental shift of mindset.

We all know drains, and it may well be that we cannot avoid them altogether. In fact, most people will fluctuate between the two - even the sunniest personality will have off days, tough times and a bad night's sleep once in a while that dents their positivity.

So whilst you should be sympathetic - the last thing they need is your critical voice to add to their own - the advice is to limit your time with them, not get drawn into their pessimism and move back into the sunlight. But can you also help them?

The answer is yes, if they're willing. Here are a few ways to start instilling positivity in the negatively minded.

1. Give compliments. We all want to be needed, and ensuring that good work, effort and other things are clearly noticed and remarked upon creates a boost.

2. Express your own gratitude. Share insights to what's good, what good can come out of circumstances, recap on an experience and share the positives. This helps to wrap your team in the mindset.

3. Listen. Allow your negative colleague the time to share their fears and frustrations. Listen fully and silently. This is respectful and makes them feel valued.

4. Project your happiness. When in conversation with them, don't treat them less well than you would treat someone else, even if you feel challenged by their attitude. Make them feel welcomed and that their presence is a pleasure.

Gratitude. It's such a simple thing, once you've got it cracked. And yet it might just be the number one contributor to a happy life, and healthy team and a superb business.


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