Photo of a man smiling at the camera during a work meeting.

Expressing appreciation, empathy and gratitude for our teammates and employees not only improves productivity, but it can also positively impact how we collectively show up at work and how well we work together as a team.

In fact, it’s one of the simplest and most effective ways to help boost morale and improve overall team culture. 

However, expressions of appreciation, empathy and gratitude can also be some of the first things we forget to do when we’re busy or stressed. Creating a culture that is intentional and having a process for making it a habit in everyday interactions and weekly meetings is pivotal for creating meaningful progress toward a rewarding team culture.

Why does it matter?

Showing appreciation, empathy and gratitude for the people we work with can:

  • Help team members feel valued and empowered
  • Increase team members’ sense of belonging
  • Inspire individuals to want to show up to work day in and day out
  • Reduce emotional exhaustion
  • Reduce absenteeism
  • Cultivate better teamwork and higher job satisfaction

Here are three ways you can use appreciation, empathy and gratitude to improve your work culture.

1. Make it personal

Giving general thanks to your team or coworkers can be a normal practice. However, being specific about what you are thankful for helps expressions of gratitude feel authentic and highlights the strengths members of your team bring.

Instead, it’s important to keep in mind that people like to be recognized in different ways. For instance, an individual may prefer public praise while another may prefer to go on a one-on-one coffee break. It can be helpful to put out a survey or talk during one-on-one meetings with your employees to determine how they most prefer to be recognized for their efforts. 

2. Take notice

Pay attention to what excites people in your office. It may be something that is happening in their personal lives, a particular project they’re currently working on or a working group they’ve joined. When someone brightens up when they talk about something, it usually means that it’s something that is important or special to them. Taking notice of these types of reactions is important. I can also help teams celebrate the excitement or passions of colleagues in a meaningful way.

Recognizing when employees feel worthwhile, accomplished or competent is an important step in making them feel valued, seen and appreciated.

3. Make it a habit

Team and departmental meetings can be a great space to come together to recognize people’s accomplishments or support. One way to do this is to reserve a five or ten minute block to the end of your meeting(s) to allow people to openly share their appreciation for one another. Remember that it’s important for both leaders and colleagues to take part in these types of exercises. While management has a significant impact in creating a culture of appreciation at work, helping colleagues feel valued is a group-wide effort.

It’s also important not to force it. If everyone is required to participate, it can make the exercise feel forced or inauthentic. Instead, allow people a moment to think about something they were grateful for this week or month. Encourage team members to specifically thank someone on the team who has helped them, done good work or moved a project forward.

Celebrate your colleagues with WorkTango

WorkTango (formerly Kazoo) is an online platform where CU Boulder employees can celebrate each other and help the university build a culture of recognition and engagement.

Kazoo allows you to recognize colleagues through sharing recognition points, which can be redeemed for rewards like gift cards and other products.

Try out Work Tango

*Note: Some departments may not have access to this service.