Thank you! Why do these two words mean so much?

Topic:  Citizenship Behavior, Work Environment
Publication: Journal of Personality and Social Psychology
Article: A little thanks  goes a long way: Explaining why gratitude expressions motivate prosocial behavior (JUN 2010)
Authors: A. M. Grant, and F. Gino
Reviewed by: Sarah Teague


In recent years, employees’ jobs and job tasks have become increasingly interconnected, necessitating an increase in teams and groups in the workplace. This integration means that employees must interact with many different people at work on a regular basis and places a high value on interpersonal skills, even for non-service jobs.  Modern organizations need employees who can function well in teams and work together to help achieve a common goal. As such, it is important for these organizations to understand how to promote prosocial (helping) amongst their employees.

One simple way to increase prosocial behavior is to express gratitude. That is, a simple “thank you” often does the trick … but WHY does this work? Grant and Gino (2010) proposed two competing explanations based on the dimensions of agency and communion. The agency perspective suggests that expressions of gratitude can enhance an individual’s feeling of competence (e.g.,), while communion predicts that gratitude increases feelings of social worth

The current article sought to determine whether expressions of gratitude make the helper feel more confident about his/her helping abilities or make him/her feel more valued.

Results from three different lab studies and a field study suggest that expressions of gratitude do increase helping behaviors and that they do so by increasing individuals’ sense of social worth, or value. Additionally, the increased helping behavior was not limited to the original beneficiaries. Rather, individuals receiving gratitude were also more likely to help third-party individuals.

So managers, take note: If you want to encourage helpfulness, cohesion, and presumably productivity, among your employees, take the time to thank them for their work. As the article’s title states, it appears that a little “thanks” really can go a long way.  

Grant, A. M., & Gino, F. (2010). A little thanks goes a long way: Explaining why
gratitude expressions motivate prosocial behavior. Journal of Personality and
Social Psychology, 98(6), 946-955.