Cultures of gratitude, part 2

Well, over the weekend I've got hooked on organizational cultures of gratitude. I've now discovered an article by Charles Kerns at the Graziadio School of Business and Management. His article Counting your blessings will benefit yourself and your organization. has a good number of references to explore (including some from Robert Emmons whom I mentioned in my previous blog on this topic), and a second article by Kerns, Putting Performance and Happiness Together in the Workplace bears a strong likeness to the Harrison article I mentioned in my previous blog on Cultures of Gratitude. I'm not implying plagiarism here. It's just that Kerns suggests that 'Happy High Performers' exhibit the following characteristics:

These individuals:

  1. Have a clear direction.
  2. Find that direction motivating.
  3. Focus on what is important and what they can influence.
  4. Are linked to the resources necessary to execute key actions.
  5. Talk and act in ways that promote performance and happiness.
  6. Are significantly engaged in their work.
  7. Find meaning and purpose in their work.
  8. Have more positive experiences than negative experiences at work.
  9. Are grateful about the past and do not carry grudges.
  10. Are optimistic looking into the future.
  11. Achieve agreed upon results.
  12. Are happy about their workplace.

And Harrison suggests that high performing organizations share qualities such as these:

• The work situation engages the total person.
• The values that people experience in the work transcend personal advantage. The situation evokes altruism, which is satisfying to everyone involved. People feel they are working for something bigger than themselves.
• People give their all, working long hours without complaint.
• People supervise themselves, seeking out what needs to be done without direction from above.
• There is high morale, teamwork, and a sense of camaraderie. The group frequently feels itself to be elite or special.
• There is a sense of urgency; people live "on the edge," putting out high energy for long periods of time.
• There is a clearly understood mission that is articulated and supported at the highest level of the organization.

These lists seem to have a lot in common. What do they share with cultures of gratitude (were such a thing to exist)? I haven't got to the point of describing a culture of gratitude but a report called 'I didn't do it alone: society's contribution to individual wealth and success' has several lovely examples of people thanking the social systems that enabled them to generate wealth. For example,

At a 1996 Berkshire Hathaway annual meeting, [Warren] Buffett noted that the American system
"provides me with enormous rewards for what I bring to this society." In a television interview, Buffett stated: "I personally think that society is responsible for a very significant percentage of what I've earned. If you stick me down in the middle of Bangladesh or Peru or someplace, you'll find out how much this talent is going to produce in the wrong kind of soil. I will be struggling 30 years later. I work in a market system that happens to reward what I do very well – disproportionately well."

And another example: Amy Domini the founder and president of the Domini Social Equity Fund points to a number of other public services that allowed her business to grow:

Getting my message out over the public airwaves has allowed me to be far more successful than if I had been born in another time and place. The mail runs on time, allowing me to communicate with existing and potential shareholders, and the rise of the publicly financed Internet has lowered the costs of these communications still further. I can fly safely – and most often conveniently – throughout the country, sharing my ideas and gaining new clients, again thanks to a publicly supported air travel system.

Acknowledging that one is supported, and examining ones role in interacting with the support seem to be central to a gratitude of culture, and these are both implied in the two lists of characteristics of high performance organizations shown.

Although there's a certain amount on 'happiness' in organizations. There's very little that I've found so far on the topic of gratitude as an organizational capability. One short piece I came across: The Effect of Gratitude on Organizational Citizenship Behavior and Customer Satisfaction, by Dora Schmit of Louisiana State University has a research propoal abstract that reads as follows:

This research proposes that management's expression of gratitude can influence employee state gratitude; in turn, this increases the likelihood of an employee engaging in Organizational Citizenship Behaviors directed at the customer … [these behaviors] directly increase customer satisfaction. … while also having indirect benefits for the organization and the employee.

But it's not clear whether the research did take place and I did not find any follow up work from her on the topic. (I've emailed and am waiting for a reply).

UPDATE: December 1 2010. Dora Schmit tells me that: "Yes, I published a copy of the abstract in the Society for Marketing Advances Conference Proceedings (2009). I presented my work there as well. I am actually still working on this project, and in fact, I am actually pursuing a dissertation on gratitude & marketing."

Any other research work that anyone knows of on creating organizational cultures of gratitude would be appreciated.

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