Case Study: How a Manager Created a Culture of Gratitude

Case Study: New manager (who we will call Zak) developed a powerful way to connect his staff using gratitude.

Background: This manager recognized signs of eroding trust in his department and knew that something needed to happen to present turnover.

This post looks at the neuroscience of gratitude in the context of building engagement and trust in the workplace. A growing body of research shows that gratitude has powerful effects on well-being. But what is gratitude, exactly? And why does it have such a positive impact on our lives? 

Managers have tried various strategies and perks to boost employee engagement—all with little impact on long-term retention and performance. But now, neuroscience offers some answers.

Because of the increase in tension, sick calls and general lack of interest Zak decided he needed to do something different to engage his staff. Through his research on the brain chemical oxytocin—shown to facilitate collaboration and teamwork—Zak has developed a framework for creating a culture of trust and building a happier, more loyal, and more productive workforce.

Research has found eight key management behaviors that stimulate oxytocin production and generate trust:

(1) Recognize excellence.

(2) Induce “challenge stress.”

(3) Give people discretion in how they do their work.

(4) Enable job crafting.

(5) Share information broadly.

(6) Intentionally build relationships.

(7) Facilitate whole-person growth.

(8) Show vulnerability.

Ultimately, Zak knew that to build trust in his staff and disrupt the current behavior, he needed to implement these 8 keys. He changed how he interacted with people, gave more autonomy when possible, discussed with his staff how he felt watching everyone go through the motions without any passion and slowly turned the culture around.

He set up long term objectives and began working on a shared governance model empowering people to solve problems including conflict and tension.  In short, to boost engagement, treat people like responsible adults.

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