In this post, we’ll explore the neuroscience of gratitude and discuss how managers can cultivate a grateful team culture. A growing body of research shows that gratitude has powerful effects on our 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. 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.
By measuring people’s oxytocin levels in response to various situations—first in the lab and later in the workplace—Zak identified 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 concludes, managers can cultivate trust by setting a clear direction, giving people what they need to see it through, and then getting out of their way. In short, to boost engagement, treat people like responsible adults.