Health and Wellness

The simple habit that will make you less of a jerk to your coworkers, according to research

Mayur Kakade | Moment | Getty Images

Whether you're working remotely during the pandemic, or trying to vibe with your coworkers in an office, getting along with your colleagues is key to staying happy and productive at work. A new study published in the Journal of Applied Psychology points to an easy habit that can help employees treat each other better: keeping a gratitude journal.

After two weeks of keeping a gratitude journal, 200 coworkers at a data management company reported that they engaged in fewer rude, gossiping and ostracizing behaviors, such as talking about people behind their backs, excluding others and making rude remarks. The workers in this study worked a minimum of 20 hours a week, and had positions that required them to interact with other people in the company at least once a week. 

The gratitude exercise used in the study was pretty straightforward: At the end of each workday, participants were prompted to journal about what they were grateful for and why.

"Try to think about the many things in your job/work, both large and small, for which you are grateful," the study authors asked in the journal prompts. "These might include supportive work relationships, sacrifices or contributions that others have made for you, advantages or opportunities at work, or thankfulness for the opportunity to have your job in general."

Researchers at the University of Central Florida then placed participants in pairs and asked them to reflect on their assigned coworker's behavior over the past two weeks. For example, the participants were asked questions like, "How often in the last two weeks has your coworker criticized a coworker while talking to another work colleague?"

At the end of the two weeks, the researchers assessed their responses and found that the gratitude exercise led to less "interpersonal mistreatment," which is a term used to describe things like disrespect, rudeness, harassment or exclusion.

What's so special about gratitude journaling? Research has shown that "That simple action can change your outlook, your approach to work and the way your coworkers see you," Shannon Taylor, associate professor in management and study author said in a press release. 

This finding is about more than just getting along well with your team. Other studies have shown that experiencing workplace mistreatment is associated with lower performance and decreased job satisfaction.

And gratitude practices like this have been shown to increase happiness, improve relationships and even improve sleep. 

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