How Might We Express Gratitude in the Workplace?

The Power of Gratitude to Create a Positive Workplace Culture

Recently, OpenIDEO reached out to us to participate in their innovation challenge by answering the question:How might we inspire experiences and expressions of gratitude in the workplace? This got our wheels turning.Our mission at CultureIQ is to partner with organizations and their leaders to make culture a competitive advantage. This means that we dedicate our days to thinking about how to create great workplace culture for companies of varying industries and company sizes. Therefore, we welcomed the idea of approaching our passion of culture from the angle of gratitude.


The Challenge

This OpenIDEO challenge couldn’t have been a more fitting topic for us to discuss, because we know that showing gratitude and appreciation at work not only helps people feel more fulfilled at work but it also ultimately helps to create a good working environment. Showing gratitude fosters benefits such as strengthening relationships, improves health, and motivates us to push ourselves to achieve our goals. Overall, empowering organizations with the right tools to build cultures of gratitude and appreciation will boost positivity and create positive workplace cultures. To begin the innovation challenge posed by OpenIDEO, we selected members from different departments (marketing, strategy and operations) and came together as for a cross-functional brainstorming session. Once gathered, we agreed that we needed to come up with a proper definition for “gratitude” and craft an idea that can be applied effectively to all organizations.positive workplace cultureThis led us to our next key realization: people in the workplace lack a common language to express gratitude. Because we work in diverse organizations, we encounter people who express gratitude differently from us and also prefer to receive gratitude in other ways. For example, during our brainstorming session, one of our employees said she likes to get a reward such as a gift card when she has accomplished something. Another employee said he likes to receive a verbal thank you in private. Me

anwhile, a manager said he likes to recognize people publicly during meetings. All of these examples reveal that there may be a disconnect in how people give and prefer to receive gratitude in the workplace.

Thanks to our brainstorming session, we had identified the problem we wanted to solve.

positive workplace culture


The Idea

At CultureIQ, we believe in thepower of gratitudeto create a positive workplace culture, so we wanted to create a way to help people overcome obstacles to expressing (and receiving) gratitude at work. Just like how the 5 Love Languages help people in relationships figure out what they each need from a partner, our idea is to build the 5 Gratitude Languages for the workplace. Here’s what it would look like in action:

The 5 Gratitude Languages in Action

Employees will take a survey to indicate how they tend to show appreciation for others as well as how they like to receive appreciation from others in the workplace. The results of the survey will provide a great discussion topic for teams, managers, and employees to explore how they can communicate with and support each other more effectively. For example, the survey would ask individuals:“How best would you like to receive and give gratitude?”and/or“When do you feel appreciated at work?”The 5 Love Languages served as an inspiration for this idea, but because they don’t translate directly to the workplace, we want to come up with the workplace equivalent. Our hypothesis on the 5 Gratitude Languages are below:

  1. Gifts/Rewards
  2. Recognition (this is on a spectrum: private > team > company)
  3. Training + Development Opportunities
  4. Increased Responsibility
  5. Team Building Activities (quality time with team, celebrations of team achievements, etc.)

The survey results would generate a ‘Gratitude Profile’ for each team member along with suggestions of what to do for that person with that profile. For example, if Julie’s #1 gratitude language is “receiving thoughtful rewards/gifts,” her manager and peers know that this is what they can do for her whenever she accomplishes something great or does something positive in the workplace. Internally as a company, we also want to explore how the 5 Gratitude Languages can further translate to supporting the CultureIQ’s values:

  • Mutual Respect: We put people first and treat ourselves and our customers with respect.
  • Creativity and Resourcefulness: We strive to achieve this in all endeavors.
  • Curiosity: We are committed to understanding every layer of culture.
  • Flexibility: We’re open to change. We remain resilient and flexible in the face of obstacles.
  • Data-Fueled Human Decision-Making: We respect data, but we appreciate that humans ultimately make the decisions.
  • The Journey: We appreciate the journey and celebrate our successes along the way.


At CultureIQ we say that culture isn’t one-size-fits-all. The same goes for gratitude. To really leverage the power of gratitude to create a positive workplace culture, we must recognize how employees wish to receive and give gratitude.

Check out our Idea Submission at OpenIDEO Challenge!