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Using Gratitude to Set the Tone

Tuesday, May 24, 2022

Last month we explored the benefits of a kindness culture in our lives and in the workplace. This month, we look towards one way we can set a positive tone in our lives and encourage organizational change toward kindness with gratitude. 

The first step of gratitude is appreciation, the ability to acknowledge the good things and see the positive in others and in our interactions. Too often, it is easy to fall into the trap of only noticing the faults of others, the problems in our organizations, or our own personal failures. Focusing on the negative and acting on problem-avoidance runs counter to our desires to have a kindness-focused culture. Instead, we should make the mental practice to register the uplifting behaviors and events throughout our day, which will lead to the realization that others in our lives are often sources of positivity. 

The second important step in gratitude is demonstrating thankfulness for those good actions of others. By recognizing the positive actions of others in our lives, we are both demonstrating our awareness of those actions, and also reciprocating that kindness. This feedback loop of kindness via gratitude has been described as a “gateway drug to empathy” [1]. Demonstrating gratitude is also good for us! Gratitude has been shown to improve outcomes for individuals as we can become more attuned to positive life experiences [4]. 

An increase in gratitude increases organizational citizenship [2], the sense that we are working together for a common cause or goal, rather than just ‘doing our jobs. Gratitude can shift our thinking from a transactional-based norm to a communal norm [3]. Our goal should be an organization with collective gratitude—persistent gratitude that is shared by the members of the organization. Gratitude begins within ourselves and becomes a part of our working culture through sustained actions of this form of kindness.

How can we encourage persistent gratitude within ourselves? 

One suggestion is to set aside some portion of our day for gratitude meditation or to keep a gratitude journal. Think about the interactions of your day and recognize the positive actions or events that deserve our gratitude. Once we are practiced in recognizing the good acts in our lives, we can begin to act upon them via acknowledgment, reciprocation, or celebration!

We can also demonstrate leadership and encourage a culture of gratitude in our workplace. We can make a point to spend time focusing on success and allowing space for others to show appreciation. We can embrace gratitude and include it as a fundamental part of our regular meetings and reporting. We can make sure that the beneficiaries of positive actions are connected to those who initiated the actions, which happens too seldom. Increasing those interactions will allow for more expressions of gratitude. Finally, we can use Rubin communication channels to celebrate and recognize success, starting today! 

We encourage you to challenge yourself to recognize someone whose actions demonstrated kindness or gratitude, expressing acknowledgement to the individual or to their supervisor as appropriate. Consider thanking someone in a meeting or sending a small note of appreciation.  To facilitate these positive recognitions, we are starting a #be_kind channel on the Rubin slack. This channel is meant to facilitate a general discussion of kindness—what it is, and why it’s important. It will also be a forum for people to show their appreciation to others for acts of kindness, a job well done, or any other positive actions deserving of recognition.

Our small acts of gratitude today can help us achieve the workplace culture we envision.


[1] https://greatergood.berkeley.edu/article/item/how_gratitude_can_transfor...

[2] Watkins, P. C. 2004. Gratitude and subjective well-being. In R. A. Emmons & M. E. McCullough (Eds.), The psychology of gratitude: 167-192. New York: Oxford University Press.

[3] Ryan Fehr, Ashley Fulmer, Eli Awtrey and Jared A. Miller. 2016, The Grateful Workplace: A Multilevel Model of Gratitude in Organizations, Academy of Management Review, Vl 42, No 2 (https://doi.org/10.5465/amr.2014.0374)
PDF available here: https://www.researchgate.net/publication/307559986_The_Grateful_Workplac...

[4] Lambert, N. M., Graham, S. M., & Fincham, F. D. 2009. A prototype analysis of gratitude: Varieties of gratitude experiences. Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin, 35: 1193-1207.

Be-kind channel

This is a space to discuss the Kindness program, monthly updates, or any other program-themed topics. It is a place to share articles or ideas for the program, and encourage respectful dialogue.

  • Think about how kindness impacts work culture.
  • Think about the little kind things you can do to positively impact your colleagues.
  • Please keep comments constructive.
  • Give thanks and express gratitude to your colleagues for their acts of kindness.
    • Make sure it’s okay to identify the person you’re giving thanks to.
    • Make gratitude a part of your work.
    • Make kindness a part of your day.
  • Post in English or Spanish!

Financial support for Rubin Observatory comes from the National Science Foundation (NSF) through Cooperative Agreement No. 1258333, the Department of Energy (DOE) Office of Science under Contract No. DE-AC02-76SF00515, and private funding raised by the LSST Corporation. The NSF-funded Rubin Observatory Project Office for construction was established as an operating center under management of the Association of Universities for Research in Astronomy (AURA).  The DOE-funded effort to build the Rubin Observatory LSST Camera (LSSTCam) is managed by the SLAC National Accelerator Laboratory (SLAC).
The National Science Foundation (NSF) is an independent federal agency created by Congress in 1950 to promote the progress of science. NSF supports basic research and people to create knowledge that transforms the future.
NSF and DOE will continue to support Rubin Observatory in its Operations phase. They will also provide support for scientific research with LSST data.   

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