December 2013, by So-Young Kang

Did you know that nurturing a culture of gratitude can lead to greater performance and productivity? There is significant amount of research and perspective from experts including a recent post in Forbes, which show the impact of having a culture of gratitude and authentic appreciation for one another.


We recently held our 4th year Anniversary Party in Singapore and I loved that my team chose the theme “Gratitude” as it reflects how we choose to work every day with each other, in our weekly team meetings, and how we engage with our clients and collaborators.

As we wrap up 2013 and start planning for 2014, I felt that sharing some practical ideas on how cultures of gratitude are fostered would be an apt way to end the year. Wow! I can’t believe it’s already 2014! Here are at least 3 practical steps to get started…

1. Use physical environment as reminder to encourage appreciation for each other. In client projects on ‘Designing a Beautiful Workplace Culture,’ our client teams have created ‘Appreciation Walls’ and ‘Refreshed Pantry’ spaces in office pantries and in their offices. You can design tools such as cards to post on the walls or to hand out to each other to make it easier to show appreciation. Take advantage of your physical space and shared spaces to encourage people to acknowledge their peers, superiors and subordinates.

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(L: Client appreciation board during prototype. R: Our team designed ‘I’m thankful for…’ cards to give as gifts and for internal use.)

(Above: Client prototype plan for office pantry redesign)


2. Create tools, processes, and systems to make it easier and sustain environment. In one of our projects, the client team designed a ‘points system’ to encourage positive behaviors such as taking people out to lunch, being generous, thoughtful and kind as a way of ‘thanking’ them and acknowledging them. At Awaken, gratitude is just the way we work. We start off every internal meeting sharing what we are thankful for. We embed our values into our performance management system so it’s constantly on top of mind, especially during performance evaluation where it’s about both performance and how performance is achieved.


3. Practice by doing and starting first. There’s no better way to create this culture than by doing it. Instead of just saying ‘thanks,’ how about trying ‘I appreciate you for the way you went out of our way to make our guest feel at home’ Or ‘I’m grateful for the extra effort you put in this analysis to demonstrate excellence in your work.’ The more specific you can be in your expression of gratitude, the more impact it will have on the receiver. Don’t leave it as a nice, ‘feel good,’ principle. Make it a habit. Live it out.

These are just 3 practical steps as there are many more ways to create and nurture cultures of gratitude and appreciation to not just improve performance, but to bring greater joy to the workplace. Please share your ideas with us on how you do this so we can share even more tips and ideas with others. Have a blessed holiday and new year season to you and your loved ones!