How to Create a Culture of Gratitude in the Workplace


With the holidays in full swing, it’s easy to think of reasons you’re grateful. But what happens when the lights come down, the Christmas trees sit discarded on the side of the road, and the New Year’s resolutions diets begin? Suddenly, it’s not so easy anymore. Instead, you’ve got an office full of employees with post-vacation blues.


Here at Lucid, we’ve tried to foster gratitude in the workplace, regardless of the time of year. And not just one-off displays of gratitude here and there but an ongoing culture. According to UC Davis psychology professor and author Robert Emmons, gratitude is a basic human requirement—and since we spend most of our waking hours at the office, giving and receiving thanks at work becomes pretty important. And don’t forget the science-backed benefits of gratitude—it increases productivity, job satisfaction, and physical and mental health.


Here’s a quick look at what I’ve learned along Lucid’s journey to a culture of gratitude—and hopefully other executive teams can use our journey as an example to help shape their own cultures.


1. Lead by example: A culture of gratitude starts from the top. If leadership takes the time to recognize the modest acts that can so easily go unnoticed throughout the company, it encourages others to do the same. People might feel uncomfortable calling out the sometimes seemingly insignificant things people do. But it’s a snowball effect—the more you express gratitude, the more natural and almost subconscious it becomes.


2. Make it specific: Try to avoid blanket expressions of gratitude—say thank you for something specific.  Here at Lucid, we are big fans of diagrams. This year, we created a company-wide gratitude flowchart as a gift for employees. It contains a personal note of gratitude for every single employee from their manager. Each note contains specifics on what that employee contributes to Lucid. Calling out the specifics means so much more.

3. Do it daily: Gratitude needs to be authentic. If you stand up at the company meeting once a quarter and rattle off a scripted thank you, your employees will see right through that half-hearted attempt, and it’s not going to mean much. So instead make it a daily habit. Set a goal to thank someone for something specific each day.  When you take the time to go out of your way to do so, people will know you are genuine, and you’ll see significant improvements to company morale.

4. Look for humility: “Teamwork Over Ego” is painted on a wall at our new building.  Teamwork over ego is one of our core values, and it means our employees always acknowledge that the success they achieve is never something they accomplish alone.   It comes down to humility, and that is a trait I look for when recruiting and hiring. We want our employees to consistently recognize and thank those who play a part in their achievements. Teamwork over ego is crucial to our culture here at Lucid and is something we have consciously fostered and are proud of.


5. Give back: We try and provide ample opportunities for employees to give back in order to express gratitude for the privileges we enjoy as a company. Some of our employees give up their lunch breaks to participate in the Meals on Wheels program. Others are heavily involved in STEM initiatives, such as Code for Success. Each year we participate in the Silicon Slopes Startup Santa program.


In addition to these formal programs, we try to let employees come up with their own initiatives. When Hurricane Harvey hit, one of our employees put together a fundraiser for the families of employees who had been impacted. Lucid matched the donations, raising over $20K.  A culture of gratitude helps people realize how truly fortunate they are and instills a desire to pay that forward.


6. Recognize the big and small: It’s easy to take note of new product features or the latest closed deals, but it’s much harder to pick out the employee who took on an extra project for a sick co-worker or the office manager who spent her weekend hand-cutting Halloween decorations to put up Monday morning. But all of the above should be recognized. Be aware that gratitude for the smaller actions often needs to be encouraged at the team level. We ask our managers to constantly be aware of how they can recognize the behind-the-scenes actions—one strategy we have found helpful is providing gift cards that managers can distribute to team members.


7. Have the conversation: You have to start somewhere, and sometimes that means just having the conversation at your organization to highlight that a shift in culture is needed. I give full credit to our People Operations team for getting the ball rolling at Lucid. They came to me and suggested that we thank people more for the big and small acts, and from there, we started developing ways to make this possible. The progress we have made towards our culture of gratitude is because of their decision to bring it to attention.


8. Provide avenues for gratitude: A culture of gratitude isn’t built in a day. But you can help it gain traction by making it easy for employees to express their thanks. They can be simple gestures—our office managers keep thank you cards available at the front desk for anyone to use (because a handwritten note means worlds more than an email). We send cards for birthdays, weddings, and other life events—demonstrating that you care about an employee’s personal life indicates your gratitude for them in the workplace.


Our People Ops team created a Slack channel called “Fist Bumps” where employees can publicly call out co-workers’ demonstrations of hard work, teamwork, etc., and once a month, we have a fist bump winner who receives a gift card. The channel encourages employees to pay attention to what goes on around them as they look for specific actions to recognize. Participation in the channel continues to grow.


At the larger level, we have our “Lucidite of the Quarter” program. Employees nominate individuals who they feel exhibit our core values, and executives pick one Lucidite per quarter to receive the traveling trophy and cash bonus at company update. When our office manager won, she received a standing ovation. I know it helped everyone realize just how much she does to keep the company running behind the scenes—all the early mornings, late nights, and weekends. The award helps employees to take a moment to stop and reflect on whom they are grateful for and why.


9. Don’t just recognize, but thank: Let people take ownership of projects, but don’t forget about the follow-up. And although it might seem obvious, don’t just recognize someone for what they accomplished—actually express gratitude for all the work they put into it.


10. Take time to reflect: Sometimes the key to being grateful is simply slowing down. Stop running around long enough to think about how you got to where you are. As soon as you do so, you’ll realize pretty quickly all the help you’ve had. It’s easy to lose sight of that when you get caught up in the day-to-day grind.


Get a jumpstart on your culture of gratitude now—while there’s still ample gingerbread, candy canes, and Mariah Carey to go around. That way, even after the holiday hype fades, you can keep it going, one thank you at a time.