Giving thanks can transform lives. Not only does saying “thank you” mean good manners, but it also opens door to more positive relationships. A previous study has likewise shown that grateful people are more likely to take care of their health, thus contribute to longevity, are more likely to behave in a prosocial manner even if others behave less kindly, and they also sleep better. Knowing these scientifically proven benefits, people have tried some ways for living a life of gratitude and one of which is to keep a gratitude journal.
Keeping a gratitude journal
Regular journaling helps improve well-being but it takes the experience to another level by making a point to focus on all things that one is grateful for. It increases positivity, improves self-esteem, makes a person happier, and reduces stress. But did you know that it can also reduce gossip in the workplace?
A new study conducted by the University of Central Florida researchers found that employees who keep a gratitude journal exhibit less mistreatment and rude behaviors to others in their workplace. Management Professor Shannon Taylor, who is also a co-author of the study, told Phys.org that gratitude interventions are exercises designed to increase the focus on positive things in life. The simple act of writing down a list of things one is grateful for every day can change their outlook in life, the way their coworkers see them, and their approach to work.
The authors said that workplace mistreatment can cost companies millions of dollars each year and is already widespread. In a 2017 Statista survey involving 1,100 office employees in the Netherlands, 45% said they have a culture of gossiping about colleagues in their workplace while 31% said they don’t know if they have such a culture or they would just prefer not to say.
Exclusion or ostracism, gossip, and bullying have been shown to negatively impact job satisfaction, job performance, and physical health. Mistreatment likewise hurts a company’s balance sheet since it costs from litigation, employee turnover, and productivity loss.
Randstad, a Dutch multinational human resource consulting firm, shared that job satisfaction is highest in India (89%) in Q4 2019, followed by Mexico (85%), Turkey (80%), Norway (79%), and the US (78%). It is, however, lowest in Japan (42%). While a lack of job satisfaction can have many reasons, a bad work environment can contribute to unhappiness.
Organizations can spend money and time to improve employee behavior but there are less popular and less costly tools that can make behavioral changes. Co-author Lauren Locklear shared that a gratitude journal is an inexpensive and simple intervention that can have a significant change in improving employee behavior.
To come up with the recent findings, study participants jot down people, events, and things they were grateful for in their journal for two weeks. Results show that these participants engage in fewer ostracizing, gossiping, and rude behaviors. Taylor added that the positive effects of gratitude journaling can also apply to managers and they can use it to promote a more respectful behavior in their teams.
Another proven method of inducing gratitude is to hang out with positive people. Therese J. Borchard, founder of online depression community Project Hope & Beyond, shares that we are the average of the five people we spend the most time with. This means that individuals who associate themselves with happy people were also more likely to be happy themselves. So, there’s a higher possibility of becoming a more grateful and positive person if you surround yourself with grateful people too. Borchard was not a part of the UCF study.
Workplace gossip and its effects
Gossip can be a good thing when it is positive, such as a promotion or a new project. It builds coworker bonds and engagement. Yet, when the office talk is negative, a healthy work environment can turn into a toxic one. It can ruin not just professional but also personal relationships, could drive employees away, and get people fired.
But why do people gossip? It is believed that it makes people feel as though they belong to the group. Gossipers enjoy being seen as the source of information and they feel powerful when they attract requests for more information. When they don’t feel good about themselves, they temporarily feel better when they judge others negatively. Some gossip to hurt those whose lifestyle or talents they envy. Some just do it out of boredom. When they generate interesting discussions based on their ideas or knowledge, they can temporarily feel the void. Lastly, some people gossip out of anger. They are the ones who don’t dare to settle the face-to-face dispute or are not even in the situation with someone in a higher position so they get revenge by making disparaging remarks about another person.
Malicious gossip may even result in lawsuits for invasion of privacy, malicious interference with employability, and defamation. Both the employees and the employer can be held liable for damages. It may also result in workers’ compensation claims for emotional and physical injury.
Florida International University's Employee Assistance Program, which is not involved in the recent study, shared that employees can help reduce the gossip by not participating in it. If no one listens to the gossip, it means the gossiper can’t gossip. If you are the employee, tell the person who gossips that you would rather not hear what someone else is doing if the facts are not known and you need to get back to work. It is also important for an employee to speak to his supervisor about office gossip but be mindful of not passing all the details just to also avoid spreading the information.
In response, the manager may set out a reminder to the workers or may intervene in how damaging gossip in the workplace can be. Managers also have the option to talk to individuals involved to promptly stop the gossip, such as those involving slurs of religious, ethnic, sexual, or personal nature.
Gratitude disconnects people from negative and toxic emotions. Much more when the feeling of gratitude is written down, it shifts our attention and we highlight more on the positive emotions. It makes sense why the UCF study suggests that it can promote a gossip-free workplace culture.