The Attitude of Gratitude — At Work


Can being grateful affect your well-being? What about at work? Does being grateful relate to how satisfied you are with your supervisor, coworkers and the work you do? Fredrickson (2003) introduced  the “broaden-and-build” theory and demonstrated the utility of positive emotions for long-term psychological and physical well-being.  Theory and research in this area demonstrates positive emotions broaden  individuals’ thoughts that lead to a build-up of emotions that result in an upward spiral. Essentially, people who experience positive emotions tend to be more aware of their environments and those around them. Gratitude urges people to creatively examine possible ways to benefit others (Fredrickson, 2004).

There are long-term psychological benefits of positive emotions. Specifically, there are “build-up” effects of experiencing several short-term broadening experiences. The benefits of positive emotions leads to healthier and wiser life choices which build an individual’s social, intellectual and physical resources  These resources also allow individuals’ to cope better in the face of adversity.

Bianchi (2013) found university students who graduated in worse economic times were more likely to feel grateful for their job compared to student who graduated in good times – they were more satisfied with their jobs. Individuals have a tendency to experience gratitude when they have received something valuable. When jobs are scarcer, there is a stronger applicant pool so people feel grateful to be one of the ones chosen over others. Employees who regularly experience positive emotions are likely to be more productive. Grateful employees may creatively explore ways to benefit others in the organization and the broader community. Thus, gratitude broadens-and-builds positive emotions and may increase employee attitudes, motivation and even performance.

So this Thanksgiving, we all have much to be thankful for: Our families, our friends, and everyone’s good health. We should also remember that despite the challenges we face at work on a day-to-day basis we should feel grateful that we are employed and able to provide for our families, as well as learn and grow from our job.


Bianchi, E.C. (2013). The bright side of bad times: The affective advantages of entering the workforce in a recession. Administrative Science Quarterly, 1-37.

Fredrickson, B. L. (2003). The value of positive emotions: The emerging science of positive psychology is coming to understand why it’s good to feel good. American scientist91(4), 330-335.

Fredrickson, B. L. (2004). Gratitude, like other positive emotions, broadens and builds. The psychology of gratitude, 145-166.