This daily habit will make you a better coworker

Does your office have a resident grinch who can’t help but make life miserable for their co-workers? According to a new study just released by the University of Central Florida, keeping a gratitude journal would go a long way toward improving that individual’s rude, disrespectful, or downright nasty behavior.

Work, by its very definition, isn’t always going to be fun. Some employees, though, and you know the type, can’t help but put a permanent frown on their face while at the office.

Every little task or problem is greeted with a groan or roll of the eyes. In many instances, one employee’s pessimism tends to rub off on the co-workers around them.

In more extreme cases, some employees make a habit of gossiping about their co-workers, spreading hurtful rumors, or just downright bullying others.

How to successfully address and improve employee workplace behavior is a puzzle that managers and bosses have been trying to solve for decades. Now, researchers at UCF say something as simple as taking a few minutes each day to jot down the things one is grateful for can go a long way toward fostering better in-office behavior, attitudes, and perceptions.

“Gratitude interventions are exercises designed to increase your focus on the positive things in your life. One intervention involves writing down a list of things you are thankful for each day,” says management professor & study co-author Shannon Taylor in a university release. “That simple action can change your outlook, your approach to work, and the way your co-workers see you.”

“Gratitude exercises are becoming increasingly popular products to improve employee attitudes and well-being, and our study shows managers can also use them to foster more respectful behavior in their teams,” she continues.

We’re all supposed to grow out of immature habits like gossiping or bullying by the time we graduate high school. Unfortunately, many adults bring these childish tendencies with them into the workplace. Besides obviously taking a mental toll on everyone in the office, mistreatment in the workplace can also lead to major monetary losses due to its effect on productivity and morale. Not to mention the possibility for higher employee turnover and even potential lawsuits.

With all this in mind, encouraging employees to keep a gratitude journal represents a relatively easy way to encourage a more positive work environment. 

“While organizations spend quite a bit of time and money to improve employee behavior, there are not a lot of known tools available to actually make the needed changes,” comments study co-author and doctoral student Lauren Locklear. “We found the gratitude journal is a simple, inexpensive intervention that can have a significant impact on changing employee behavior for the better.”

The research behind these findings was simple and to the point. A group of employees was asked to keep a daily log for two weeks of all the things in their life they’re thankful for. Consequently, those participants’ co-workers reported the subjects were more polite, gossiped less often, and were nicer to other employees they don’t usually talk to.

We all experience frustrating moments during the workday. What’s really important is not allowing those instances to ruin our entire day (and the day of the people working around us). Keeping a gratitude journal is just one way to accentuate the positive and create a more inviting work environment.

The full study can be found here, published in the Journal of Applied Psychology.