Practicing Gratitude

November 21, 2023

Dr. Brene Brown concludes from her research that there is no joy without gratitude. “Practicing gratitude invites joy into our lives,” she says. When we experience joy in our bodies, dopamine and serotonin are released, two chemical neurotransmitters that are heavily associated with happiness, well-being, and pleasure.

We can literally spread the joy by cultivating a practice of gratitude not only in our personal lives but in our workplaces as well. Integrating gratitude into your leadership and culture requires intentionality. It’s not a once a year event but an ongoing practice. Leaders must consistently model gratitude, and encourage its practice in their teams through recognition programs, open appreciative communication, and simple acts of kindness.

When gratitude is part of the organizational culture and practice, it creates a ripple effect that transcends hierarchy and department boundaries and fosters collaboration and support, creating a stronger, more resilient organization.

We worked with a young mission-driven startup on developing culture strategies to support its high growth and helped the co-founders develop their own personal gratitude practices, including the following:

Write personal gratitude notes before the year end

Each and every member of the team received a handwritten personal note of gratitude from the co-founders at year end. The act encouraged the co-founders to reflect on the year and the contributions of each individual, and it was not tied to a performance review or other reward. The team members appreciated these gratitude notes, which were heartfelt, personalized, and personal.

Lead by example

We encouraged the co-founders to demonstrate gratitude in their day-to-day, in interactions with their leadership team, their employees, clients, and stakeholders. All-hands meetings opened with a gratitude. Celebrations incorporated words of gratitude from the leaders. When the team saw their leaders express gratitude, it set the tone for and reinforced a culture of gratitude.

We also supported the startup’s development of organizational gratitude practices. It’s not about having an “attitude of gratitude” but in developing habits, rituals, and behaviors that incorporated gratitude into their programs and day-to-day practices. The company implemented the following:

Gratitude Wall

A simple “Gratitude Wall” allowed team members to give a shout out to each other. They used the blackboard in the hallway, but you can use sticky notes on any blank wall or a whiteboard.

Peer-to-peer recognition programs

A monthly peer nominated recognition program gave props to team members who lived the company values. The nominator presented the award to the winner, highlighting the actions that supported the company values.

Employee appreciation programs

A more formal annual award was tied to the company values and acknowledged the one or two team members who’s actions “moved the needle” for the company. The leaders gave gratitude when presenting the award.

Incorporate gratitude into performance review

Managers were coached to remember to incorporate gratitude into their performance reviews and weekly check-ins.

Gratitude takes intention for it to be a practice. Every act and gesture of appreciation, no matter how small, helps build a culture of gratitude. You can start your gratitude practice today by writing a gratitude note. Pick someone – a co-worker, a friend – and use this template from Yasmin Nguyen, author of The Game of Joy:


I’ve been thinking of you.

I remember a time when…(a special moment you’ve shared).

What I appreciate most about you is…

What I want you to know is…(include something personal and vulnerable, as in, what would you say if this were your last day on Earth?)


We hope that you take the time this holiday season to develop your own personal and organizational gratitude practices, and see the ripple effect of joy that it creates.

How do you practice gratitude?

About the Author:

Jocelyn Manuel brings two decades of rich and diverse experiences and expertise to her role as Director of Consulting Services at +One. From the first touchpoint throughout the entire client life cycle, Jocelyn is passionate about helping organizations—and the people who comprise them—to achieve lasting success by cultivating a positive and impactful workplace culture.