Research has long suggested the benefits of expressing gratitude, but has generally lacked an understanding of the outcomes of receiving gratitude. To close this gap, researchers (Tang et al., 2022) investigated how service providers (e.g., healthcare professionals) may reap the benefits of gratitude expressed by their beneficiaries (e.g., patients). They argue that the positive experience of feeling appreciated can enhance daily life even outside of the workplace. Thus, a simple act of gratitude might really go a long way.
FEELING APPRECIATED IMPROVES FAMILY LIFE
The researchers conducted two studies in which healthcare professionals and their spouses were surveyed daily for two weeks. On days when patients expressed more gratitude to their healthcare providers, those workers had higher levels of relational energy, which means motivation that stems from positive interpersonal interactions. This led to heightened relationship satisfaction and the ability to meet relationship-based expectations. Simply, it appeared that feeling appreciated at work created a type of energy that helped one be a better family member at home. This finding was especially strong for individuals who felt a strong sense of identity with their work. Thus, identifying strongly with one’s work may not always take away from family life.
The authors suggest several ways that organizations can use gratitude to improve their employees’ lives. First, it is important for service providers to feel appreciated by those that they serve. Organizations could consider finding ways to increase opportunities for beneficiaries to show gratitude, such as through a feedback survey. Indeed, it’s actually the daily gratitude that matters and not just the rare event, such as “International Nurse Appreciation Day.”
Further, since employees who felt a strong sense of identity with their occupation experienced the most benefits from receiving gratitude, organizations could focus on increasing their employees’ occupational identities. For example, managers could highlight positive qualities about the organization (e.g., number of patients helped this month) to help employees feel more connected to their organization’s purpose.
Ultimately, these suggestions may help organizations in the service sector enrich their employees’ family lives.
Tang, P. M., Ilies, R., Aw, S. S. Y., Lin, K. J., Lee, R., & Trombini, C. (2022). How and when service beneficiaries’ gratitude enriches employees’ daily lives. Journal of Applied Psychology. Advance online publication.