By Jiji Lee

How Gratitude Can Improve Your Professional Relationships


A simple way to form better connections and feel happier at work.

We all know that gratitude is good for us.

When we take the time to appreciate the people in our lives and everything we have going for us, we just feel better. Period.

But did you know that gratitude is also good for the workplace? And that it can help us deepen our professional relationships?

Then again, when we think of the workplace, gratitude might not be the first thing that comes to mind...

In fact, with its emphasis on deadlines and revenue and growth, the modern workplace feels less like an office, and more like a marketplace. Our interpersonal relationships are starting to feel less collaborative, and more transactional. We send texts and emails on evenings and weekends, with requests and subject lines that say “urgent” and “ASAP.” And with our personal and professional boundaries becoming more and more blurred, it’s no wonder that so many Americans are experiencing stress and anxiety in the workplace.  

While there is no quick fix when it comes to transforming the American workplace, one small thing we can all start doing is to express gratitude for our colleagues and the work that they do.

When you express gratitude you make people feel valued. It’s simple but powerful. Because when people feel valued, they are more likely to feel more inspired, motivated, and satisfied in the workplace.

Plus, people who show gratitude make better leaders. When we talk about successful leaders, we usually praise them for being innovative or bold or ambitious. But another trait that is less discussed, but no less important is humility. And according to this Forbes article, “True humility is a mindset that involves less focus on self and more on others, and an ability to see the strengths and value of others.” 

Here are some of the the many benefits of expressing gratitude at the office: 

  • Gratitude can help build trust in the workplace
  • Gratitude can create a positive environment
  • Gratitude can boost office morale
  • Gratitude can help with relieving stress and anxiety 

Below, we provide some examples of how we can cultivate gratitude in the workplace and foster our professional relationships. 

Send a thank you note

Whether it’s an intern who went the extra mile or a manager who has been with the company since day one, it’s always a nice gesture to recognize people and express our thanks.

When we’re at the office, it’s so easy to get in productivity-mode and just go through our to-do lists, without considering how our tasks can impact other people’s days. But we have to remember that we don’t work in a bubble, and that we rely on others to help us get the job done. So make sure to take some time to give thanks to the people who make your job easier. And in this day and age when messages are delivered over text and email, a handwritten thank you card can go a long way towards making someone’s day.

When composing your message, write down the specific details that you are thankful for. Maybe you appreciate how they took the time to focus on the little details in a presentation. Or how you appreciate how they spearheaded a project. Or how they interacted with a client. Or just thank them for doing a great job in general.

The thank you note can be as effusive or as simple as you want it to be. Try not to feel pressured to write a beautifully worded note. What the recipient will remember is the kind gesture and how you made them feel. 

Give a small gift

Maybe it’s an intern’s last day at the office. Or a team member just got promoted. Or a senior manager is entering retirement. Career milestones are a big deal and should be recognized. It’s always nice to honor your colleagues for their hard work and dedication with a thoughtful gift.

When it comes to choosing a gift for a coworker, you don’t have to go overboard and break the bank. Select a gift that is personalized and from the heart. You also want the gift to be  professional and something that they’ll actually be able to use. 

One trick is to gift them with something that’s a nicer version of what they already have.

For instance, your coworker probably doesn’t need another thermos or water bottle. But a gift like a Yeti mug or a water bottle with a pretty design would be an elevated take, and would make it feel that much more special and unique. 

An elegant notebook or fountain pen would also make a wonderful gift for a colleague who is leaving for a new job or for grad school. These gifts are not only practical, but they would make your colleague feel so cherished and allow them to start their new chapter on a confident note. 

Show gratitude in one-on-one meetings

The next time you have a one-on-one meeting with a direct report, make sure to set aside some time to thank them for a job well done.

One-on-one meetings play a vital role in strengthening professional relationships. You can use them as an opportunity to open up dialogue between you and your coworkers. By being present and creating a welcoming space, your employees will feel seen and heard. It’s hard to sincerely convey thanks when we’re distracted by our phone, so just make sure to block off this time and remove any distractions. Put away your devices or step away from the computer. 

You can prepare for the one-on-one meeting beforehand and gather your thoughts on what you’d like to say. Write down specific examples of what you are grateful for so that your employee can walk away from the meeting feeling proud of their work. 

Here are some other simple ways you can express gratitude in professional relationships:

  • Send weekly emails thanking your team and give shoutouts to people for a job well done
  • Take a coworker out for coffee
  • Treat your team to a team lunch
  • Bring donuts to your next meeting
  • Surprise your coworker with a gift card to their favorite lunch spot