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Perceptions of thanks in the workplace: Use, effectiveness, and dark sides of managerial gratitude

Crystalee Webb Beck (Department of Communication, Weber State University, Ogden, Utah, USA)

Corporate Communications: An International Journal

ISSN: 1356-3289

Article publication date: 1 August 2016




The purpose of this paper is to explore the use, effectiveness, and dark sides of gratitude communications in workplace organizations. From the perspective of the subordinate employee, this study offers managers applicable insight into best practices for expressing appreciation.


The original research incorporates a two-part study; narratives from three focus groups, and quantitative survey responses from 883 full-time professionals across a spectrum of industries.


The usage of various gratitude mediums (verbal, electronic, handwritten, monetary, etc.) is discussed. Most employees prefer verbal one-on-one gratitude to any other form. Sincerity is highly important to employees, which was found to be indicated by specificity, personalization, timeliness, and equivalency.

Research limitations/implications

Although it is presumed the majority of the 883 survey participants were from the USA, they were never asked to indicate their location. Conducting the same research in another country with a different value of gratitude could yield different results. While this study focusses on managerial expression of gratitude to their employees, there’s a compelling need to explore the converse: best practices for how employees should express appreciation to their managers. To complete the organizational ecosystem, it would also be valuable to explore the most effective methods of gratitude in peer-to-peer workplace relationships.

Practical implications

The synthesis of experiential themes offers practical applications for executives, managers, and corporate communication leaders seeking to improve day-to-day operations and overall employee satisfaction in their organizations.

Social implications

In the corporate communication landscape, the results of this study should cause management professionals and scholars to reflect on gratitude communication in managerial interactions with employees and the resulting employee satisfaction (or lack thereof).


Understanding how employees like to be thanked can have great value for organizations seeking to maintain a productive, satisfied workforce.



Research on gratitude would be incomplete without a few words of thanks. The researcher expresses sincere appreciation to two anonymous CCIJ reviewers for their helpful critique. Thank you, Drs Sheree Josephson and Susan Hafen of Weber State University, for encouraging this research, as well as the survey and focus group participants who offered their perspectives.


Beck, C.W. (2016), "Perceptions of thanks in the workplace: Use, effectiveness, and dark sides of managerial gratitude", Corporate Communications: An International Journal, Vol. 21 No. 3, pp. 333-351.



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Copyright © 2016, Emerald Group Publishing Limited

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