Author Archives: Liz King

What Everyone Should Know About the Science of Gratitude

Workplace gratitude

Workplace gratitude is collectively beneficial but often builds through solitary acts, like keeping a gratitude journal. (Photo via Garry Knight, Flickr)

In celebration of World Gratitude Day (Sept. 21), we’re digging into the latest research on the science of gratitude and it’s enormously positive impact for you and for the workplace.

There’s a lot out there lately. The Greater Good Science Center at the University of California at Berkeley has been focusing in recent months on the connections between gratitude and wellbeing. Care about employee wellbeing? This month they’re posting video excerpts from talks at the Greater Good Gratitude Summit held in June.

The more researchers examine the effects of gratitude, the clearer it becomes that showing gratitude isn’t just an optional “nice” thing to do but a powerful multifaceted tool that can help in interpersonal communication, individual resilience, decision-making, physical and emotional healing, group dynamics, stress reduction, productivity and everyday happiness.

Here are some highlights from talks at the Greater Good Gratitude Summit and from research in current discussion at Greater Good.

1. The 3 Foundations of Gratitude

“Gratitude has the power to heal, to energize and to change lives,” says Robert Emmons, professor of psychology, gratitude expert and author of Thanks! How the New Science of Gratitude Can Make You Happier. This phrase has become his mantra.

In his introductory talk at the Greater Good conference, Emmons discusses the plethora of new books about gratitude. More gratitude research is underway, and mainstream interest growing, he added: “We’re in somewhat of a gratitude renaissance,” he says.

The first step toward understanding gratitude is to break it down into elements, or the “three foundational rocks upon which we can build.” These are:

  • Joy: Look for the good and rejoice in it
  • Grace: Receive the good and savor it
  • Love: Give back the good

2. Grateful People Respond Better to Stress

Dr. Wendy Mendes studies the biological effects of gratitude, including sleep quality, longevity and health, and how levels of oxytocin (the “love hormone”) correspond with gratitude. At the Greater Good conference, she gave an overview of her research.

People with high levels of gratitude are healthier than those reporting lower levels of gratitude, in just about every category of wellness that can measured with biological markers, such as blood pressure. People with high levels of gratitude have lower blood pressure, for example. Interestingly, gratitude is also a predictor of how people react to stress.

When confronted with a stressful situation, the more grateful group also demonstrated a smaller spike in blood pressure compared to those who reported fewer feelings of gratitude. This is resilience, on a biological level. It explains why grateful people are able to bounce back from stress or hardships more quickly.

3. Count Gratitude, Not Kindnesses or Mood

A daily journal focused on gratitude is often a recommended practice for those seeking a happier, more calm daily life. It also works as a fast-acting emergency intervention for clinically distressed people waiting for psychotherapy sessions to begin. A study published this year in the Journal of Happiness found that daily journaling about gratitude can help those suffering anxiety, depression, substance abuse or an eating disorder in as little as two weeks.

Not only that, a journal tracking gratitude specifically — not mood or kindness — is the most effective mood booster. The Greater Good Science Center summed up the findings like this:

“Those in the gratitude group did report feeling more grateful at the end of these two weeks, but those in the kindness group didn’t get the same kind of benefit. That is, those who counted their kindnesses didn’t come out kinder because of it, suggesting that gratitude, but not kindness, can be cultivated in this short amount of time.”

The study is revolutionary, according to Greater Good editorial assistant Lauren Klein, because it’s the first of its kind to suggest that “self-administered positive psychological strategies [such as gratitude journals] aren’t just for happy people who are looking to be happier.” In fact, the people who can benefit the most from gratitude journaling may be those with the least obvious reasons to be grateful, whether these people are clinically distressed or experiencing outside stressors such as leading a financially struggling business.

4. The Social Benefits of Gratitude

Comparing gratitude to a microphone or magnifying glass, Dr. Philip Watkins of Eastern Washington University says gratitude “amplifies” or “magnifies” the good already present in one’s life. He discusses in a talk at the Greater Good conference how this dynamic plays out socially in group situations, according to a recent study. Grateful people participating in the study were rated as much more likable  — and more likely to be helpful.

Interested in learning more about scientific research into happiness, gratitude, kindness and appreciation? The Greater Good Science Center is offering a free 8-week online course in “The Science of Happiness.” The course kicked off Sept. 9, but you can jump in anytime through next May and take it at your own pace.

Looking for ways to bring the powerful benefits of gratitude to your workplace?  It’s easier than you might think.  Learn how in our FREE eBook,  Transform Your Workplace with Gratitude.”  Download now and start today!

 



About gThankYou, LLC

Turkey Gift Certificates and Turkey Or Ham Gift Certificates by gThankYou! are two of America’s favorite employee gifts and can be redeemed for any Brand (Turkey or Turkey Or Ham), at virtually any Grocery Store in the U.S.

gThankYou, LLC provides company leaders with a variety of easy, meaningful and affordable ways to recognize and reward employees, holiday time or anytime. gThankYou! Certificates of Gratitude and our free Enclosure Cards are personalizable including incorporating your company logo. And, nearly all orders ship same day.

gThankYou, LLC (www.gthankyou.com) is based in Madison, Wisconsin. Contact: Rick KileyChief ThankYou! Officer, gThankYou, LLC at info@gthankyou.com or 888-484-1658.
Follow the Company Blog – “Celebrating Work”.
Join the Conversation @gThankYou 
Watch our gThankYou! YouTube Video – “Learn More About Us”.

“G” logo and “Certificates of Gratitude” are trademarks and “gThankYou” is a registered trademark of gThankYou, LLC.

Change Your Attitude, Change Workplace Culture

gThankYou workplace culture

A happy workplace culture thrives in an environment of positive attitudes. (Photo via Irina Patrascu, Flickr)

“It takes just a moment to change your attitude. And, in that quick moment, you can change your entire day.” — Author Unknown

A healthy workplace culture depends on a workforce that is committed to positive thinking. In honor of Positive Thinking Day (Sept. 13), take a moment to evaluate how a change in attitude could affect the culture, health and performance of your company.

What Positive Thinking Isn’t

Positive thinking is not a refusal to see reality. It also doesn’t mean pretending that everything’s hunk-dory when it’s not.

Positive thinking is a subtle shift in how you perceive reality and react to it. It’s a refusal to let minor mishaps totally derail an entire day.

We’ve all had those mornings: the coffeemaker breaks, traffic is a nightmare, a coworker doesn’t smile back, clearly because she dislikes you — and everything just goes downhill from there. By the time you reach the mid-afternoon client meeting, gloom and doom has settled over everyone around you. The client senses it, too, and is unhappy. In a matter of hours, a broken coffeemaker and lousy traffic has caused your company to lose business.

Now let’s look at that same morning through the lens of positive thinking: “The coffeemaker broke, so I tried a new tea at home and then treated myself to a coffee break later with a friend; traffic was a nightmare, so I focused on listening to an interesting podcast in the car; my coworker didn’t smile back, so I asked her how she was doing and she opened up about a problem she’s having at home that I was able to help her with.”

Positive Thinking = Positive Actions

Doctors at Mayo Clinic view positive thinking as a major tool in stress management, because it trains your brain to think productively.

“Positive thinking often starts with self-talk. Self-talk is the endless stream of unspoken thoughts that run through your head. These automatic thoughts can be positive or negative. Some of your self-talk comes from logic and reason. Other self-talk may arise from misconceptions that you create because of lack of information.”

The first step toward embracing positive thinking as a tool is to identify the types of negative thinking to which you most often succumb. Mayo Clinic staff identify these as:

  • Filtering — magnifying the negative aspects of a situation while filtering out the positive
  • Personalizing — automatically blaming yourself when something bad occurs, even when it isn’t at all personal
  • Catastrophizing — anticipating the worst
  • Polarizing — seeing things as “good” or “bad” (or as “perfect” or a “failure”), with no middle ground

Next, Mayo Clinic staff recommend turning your positive thoughts into actions. Negative thoughts lead to dead ends, while positive thinking seeks alternate routes and solutions. Periodically throughout the day, check your inner monologue for negative thinking. Encourage positive thinking in others and avoid falling into the trap of other people’s negative thinking. When things get tough, seek out and take joy in the humor of the situation.

The Health Benefits of Positive Thinking

Training yourself to think positively has profound psychological and physiological effects. Mayo Clinic’s list of the potential benefits includes lower rates of depression, greater resistance to the common cold, better coping skills, reduced risk of death from cardiovascular disease, and increased life span.

Although positive thinking is an individual practice, it’s infectious and spreads quickly in a group of people working together closely. It sets a tone. When positive thinking becomes the cornerstone attitude of a culture, the culture benefits collectively. Company leaders have the power to set that tone.

Remember that workplace culture is malleable.

Matt Rizai, CEO of Workiva, recently described the importance of this in a column for Forbes, “4 Ways To Build A Workplace Culture That Empowers People.”

“The past few years have seen a shift in the way people think about workplace culture. While culture was once viewed as something that emerged organically without thought or intention, there is a growing realization that culture plays a key role in the success or failure of organizations. Companies that are thoughtful in shaping their culture reap many benefits, such as the ability to attract and retain top talent and nurture loyal, satisfied customers,” he wrote.

Make positive thinking the defining characteristic of your workplace culture. To begin in this process today, pay attention to your own “self-talk.” Set alerts on your cellphone throughout the day and when they go off, take a quiet minute to reflect on your current self-talk and how it affects the people around you and your company.

Soon you will see the patterns of your thought process and where you (and others) could most could benefit from positive thinking.

A culture that practices positive thinking is building gratitude, too. For a step-by-step guide with other practical tips to get you started on building a vibrant culture of gratitude, download our FREE e-book, “Transform Your Workplace with Gratitude.” Click the image below and start sharing your workplace gratitude today!



About gThankYou, LLC

Turkey Gift Certificates and Turkey Or Ham Gift Certificates by gThankYou! are two of America’s favorite employee gifts and can be redeemed for any Brand (Turkey or Turkey Or Ham), at virtually any Grocery Store in the U.S.

gThankYou, LLC provides company leaders with a variety of easy, meaningful and affordable ways to recognize and reward employees, holiday time or anytime. gThankYou! Certificates of Gratitude and our free Enclosure Cards are personalizable including incorporating your company logo. And, nearly all orders ship same day.

gThankYou, LLC (www.gthankyou.com) is based in Madison, Wisconsin. Contact: Rick KileyChief ThankYou! Officer, gThankYou, LLC at info@gthankyou.com or 888-484-1658.
Follow the Company Blog – “Celebrating Work”.
Join the Conversation @gThankYou 
Watch our gThankYou! YouTube Video – “Learn More About Us”.

“G” logo and “Certificates of Gratitude” are trademarks and “gThankYou” is a registered trademark of gThankYou, LLC.

When Does Employee Appreciation Become Taxable Employee Compensation?

Taxable employee appreciation?

A free cafeteria for employees, like this one at Google, could soon count as taxable income — and change how companies share their employee appreciation. (Photo via Kae Yen Wong, Flickr)

Employee appreciation at Silicon Valley companies could soon change, thanks to recent IRS scrutiny into the widespread and popular perk of free on-site cafeterias.

It was never exactly a free lunch to begin with — a meal always costs someone, somewhere — but stricter enforcement of current laws may require more employers and even employees to pay taxes on the buffet.

The news that free food could be up for taxation as a fringe benefit has everyone scratching their heads, from tax experts to HR executives to employees.

When exactly does employee appreciation become employee compensation? Is free cafeteria food employee compensation or is it a cost of business for these industries? Fringe benefits are a complex area of tax law, and the rules are still being clarified.

Wondering what this could mean for your company? Read on.

What are the current laws regarding meal perks?

Employer-provided meals are taxable as a fringe benefit, up to 30 percent of fair-market value. But there are exceptions, and until now the IRS hasn’t made taxing such perks a priority.

Companies are allowed to give food to employees if it’s “for the convenience of the employer,” but not if it’s simply for the employees’ happiness, according to Suzanne Lucas of Inc., in the article “Free Food Makes Employees Happy, So Naturally the IRS Wants to Tax It.” She breaks down what this means, in practice:

So, if your startup is in the middle of the Yukon Territory and it takes six days on dog sleds to get there, it’s for the employer’s convenience since the employees would take all their time just foraging for food. [...] It’s going to be difficult to make that same argument if you’re located in downtown San Francisco, with 14 restaurants on the same block.

What exactly is a “meal”?

Would a bag of bagels or platter of doughnuts at a morning meeting count? The IRS exempts doughnuts but counts bagels, stipulating that a bagel is “more like a meal than a snack,” according to The Washington Post.

In general, however, snacks or the occasional meal at a business meeting doesn’t count as taxable.

Just how much of a perk are the free cafeterias at Silicon Valley companies?

It’s a major perk. If “cafeteria” brings to mind squares of mystery casserole and lunch ladies in hairnets, think again. The cafeterias at Google, Twitter, Facebook and other tech companies are a step up. They offer truly gourmet dining, organic and chef-prepared, unlimited and at no cost.

Between its Manhattan, N.Y. and Mountain View, Calif. locations, Google alone has 35 canteens offering fresh meals — plus hundreds of pantry-like “micro-kitchens” stocked with snacks and beverages.

Bon Appetit, in a feature on Google cafeterias, puts it this way: “Imagine if your office pantry had a professional-grade espresso maker and a popcorn popper instead of a perpetually broken vending machine. Or if the company cafeteria served beer-braised short ribs and roast black rock cod with heirloom-tomato relish instead of soggy turkey sandwiches.”

But aren’t free cafeterias a necessary competitive advantage?

Silicon Valley companies would say yes. They make the case that free on-site cafeterias are vital to attracting and retaining an in-demand and limited talent pool. It also helps employees to work long hours, without the distraction of off-campus meal breaks.

“The market for tech workers is so hot right now that companies use every tactic they can to get the workers they want — not just extra pay,” writes Business Insider’s James Cook.

Does the competitive advantage apply to non-Silicon Valley, non-tech companies?

Free meal perks can matter at just about any company, experts say, and the government’s exemption for “employer convenience” is vague.

“If your employees are able to eat lunch and get back to their desks in 20 or 30 minutes, that’s a big time savings,” Washington, D.C. employee-benefits attorney Mary B. Hevener told the Washington Post. “The food is a lot healthier in many cases. And maybe you don’t want your employees running around in other eateries talking business.”

How is this issue developing?

It’s still up in the air. The IRS and the Treasury intend to focus on free meals as part of their tax priorities for the current tax year, according to James Cook of Business Insider. But no guidance or decision has been announced on taxation of meals. In the meantime, Cook predicts tech companies will join together to lobby to protect untaxed meal perks.

What’s the next step for companies interested in this issue?

Pending clear IRS guidelines, Suzanne Lucas of Inc. advises, “You need to check with your tax attorney on what the consequences could be for your company if you continue to offer free food. Then you’ll need to evaluate if that’s worth it to you and to your employees. Your employees will probably not be thrilled about a cut in their take-home pay, so you’ll probably need to consider ‘grossing up’ their salaries to account for the ‘free’ food that the IRS considers income.”

Taxed or untaxed, and no matter how big or small the investment, employee appreciation builds morale, motivation and a strong company culture.

To keep up with this unfolding story and the newest learning and best ideas for leaders to build great workplaces, subscribe to our blog today!

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About gThankYou, LLC

Turkey Gift Certificates and Turkey Or Ham Gift Certificates by gThankYou! are two of America’s favorite employee gifts and can be redeemed for any Brand (Turkey or Turkey Or Ham), at virtually any Grocery Store in the U.S.

gThankYou, LLC provides company leaders with a variety of easy, meaningful and affordable ways to recognize and reward employees, holiday time or anytime. gThankYou! Certificates of Gratitude and our free Enclosure Cards are personalizable including incorporating your company logo. And, nearly all orders ship same day.

gThankYou, LLC (www.gthankyou.com) is based in Madison, Wisconsin. Contact: Rick KileyChief ThankYou! Officer, gThankYou, LLC at info@gthankyou.com or 888-484-1658.
Follow the Company Blog – “Celebrating Work”.
Join the Conversation @gThankYou 
Watch our gThankYou! YouTube Video – “Learn More About Us”.

“G” logo and “Certificates of Gratitude” are trademarks and “gThankYou” is a registered trademark of gThankYou, LLC.

Easy Employee Thank You Gifts for Distributed Workforces

gThankYou employee thank you gifts

For a geographically scattered workforce, make sure employee thank you gifts still have a personal touch. (Photo via Marc Levin, Flickr)

Employee thank you gifts always benefit from a personal touch. That’s doubly true when you’re recognizing a distributed workforce — whether these employees work in satellite offices, from home, on the road or in warehouses or other facilities located away from company headquarters.

But how do you find that personal touch that means so much to gift recipients? Employee recognition for a distributed workforce can be a major challenge in logistics, not to mention tone and style. You’re tasked with organizing and managing gift-giving in a way that assures quality, consistency and fairness. And when you rarely have the opportunity to see distributed employees face-to-face or get to know them individually, meaningful gift-giving can feel anonymous and ineffective.

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‘Thank-you Note Thursdays’ and Other Ideas for Fun Workplace Gratitude

workplace gratitude from gThankYou

Gratitude grows wherever people are laughing together. (Photo via Vladimir Yaitskiy, Flickr)

Workplace gratitude isn’t something you achieve or check off a to-do list. There’s never a moment when you can say, “Aha! We’ve got all the gratitude we need!” Given the right support, a workplace culture of gratitude is ever evolving and always growing stronger.

The question isn’t whether your company has or doesn’t have a culture of shared gratitude and appreciation. The question is: does your company consistently nurture the growth of such a culture?

That’s why it’s important to support employees to share gratitude every day. We’ve covered a lot of the day-to-day, longterm skill-building for workplace gratitude on this blog (see 7 Steps to a Culture of Gratitude, for example).

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Empower Supervisors to Be Employee Motivation Rockstars

employee motivation by gThankYou!

Good managers, like good coaches, know that motivation can’t be manufactured — it has to come from within each person. (Photo via WoodleyWonderworks, Flickr)

Employee motivation happens naturally when intermediate supervisors are engaged, according to the Dale Carnegie white paper  “Engaging Employees: What Drives Employee Engagement and Why It Matters.” To produce the white paper, Dale Carnegie teamed with MSW Research to research the functional and emotional drivers of dedicated employees. It is available free to download here.

The personal relationship an employee has with his or her immediate supervisor is key to employee motivation, the study concluded: “The attitude and actions of the immediate supervisor can enhance employee engagement or can create an atmosphere where an employee becomes disengaged.”

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Celebrate Labor Day History with Employee Gratitude

gThankYou employee gratitude

Take a moment this Labor Day to reflect on your coworker and employee gratitude and on how far you’ve come together. (Photo via Edward Headington, Flickr)

If there was ever a holiday tailor-made for employee gratitude, it’s Labor Day. This national celebration of American workers isn’t just a three-day weekend to kick off the football season and have one last summer party before the school year begins in earnest.

It’s the perfect time to let your employees know how much you value them, their work and their contributions in the workplace.

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Research Shows Virtual ‘Thanks’ Boosts Workplace Gratitude and Happiness

co-workers sharing workplace gratitude

Sharing happy moments on social media and via smartphone apps can reinforce positivity and boost workplace gratitude, experts say. (Photo via Flickr user Stefano)

Workplace gratitude may literally be at our fingertips.

“Positive technology” made a buzz at the American Psychology Association’s annual conference this past week in Washington, D.C., and proponents say it is a tool to “habitually cultivate little pockets of happiness” and boost gratitude in our interactions at work and with family and friends.

“Being thankful matters, it works,” said Robert Emmons, one of two psychology professors who presented their research on positive technology uses at the conference and discussed it with psychotherapist and Philadelphia Inquirer correspondent Diane R. Girardot.

But to reap the benefits of gratitude, people need to remember to be grateful. And that’s where positive technology comes in.

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Holiday Employee Gift-Giving for a Distributed Workforce

holiday employee gift-giving

Don’t let the season of Thanksgiving, tinsel, eggnog and holiday parties sneak up on you. (Photo via Jamie McCaffrey, Flickr)

Employee gift-giving for the holidays may seem far off, but if you manage a large distributed workforce, it’s not too early to start. gThankYou! offers organizations easy, affordable and meaningful ways to delight employees whether centralized or across a multitude of locations.

Summer isn’t over yet — keep those swimsuits and barbecue tongs handy! — but make things easy on yourself and your company by getting a head start on holiday employee gift-giving.

Here at gThankYou! we have years of experience helping organizations coordinate gifts for distributed workforces. We know what a challenging process it can be, so we’ve come up with a system to make it as smooth and easy as possible while meeting your company’s individual needs.

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Proposal to ‘Split HR’ Sparks Lively Discussion

gThankYou future of HRA recent proposal by a Harvard Business Review columnist to “split HR” into administrative and organizational strands has sparked a wave of responses across the internet — and generated great observations and productive ideas for how HR professionals can meet new demands and move into the future.

Ram Charan’s brief but provocative article, titled “It’s Time to Split HR,” generated more than 200 reactions in the article’s comment section alone. The article, which appeared in the July/August issue of Harvard Business Review, also got responses this week from HR expert Josh BersinSHRM CEO Hank Jackson, and professor and HBR contributor Dave Ulrich.

Charan clearly struck a nerve with his readers. Few commenters agree with him, but that’s almost beside the point: his proposal has energized a lively debate that was already brewing among HR professionals, and so far it’s fruitful.

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