A simple ‘thank you’ can have powerful results

Expressions of gratitude can help to build strong working relationships

Expressions of gratitude can help to build strong working relationships

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To acknowledge nurses and make then aware of the Nursing Now campaign, two of my colleagues and I formed a group called the Developing Affirmative Research in Nursing Group. We took the opportunity to deliver free cups of coffee to nurses in Scottish hospitals and say ‘thank you’ for being a nurse.

As we handed out the coffees, the responses from nurses and other healthcare staff was mixed. Most nurses looked at us sceptically, asking: ‘What’s the catch?’ ‘Nothing,’ we replied. ‘We just want to say thank you for being a nurse’.

Others were overcome with emotion and broke down in tears. Many said they had never been thanked for their work.

Some nurses became angry discussing their working lives, but the conversations always concluded with them saying: ‘Thanks for listening.'

Even though we were not in a position to enact any changes based on their concerns, there was an understanding that being thanked made a difference to them. This experience made me wonder about the power of gratitude.

Stronger relationships

Expressions of gratitude invite the possibility to build stronger relationships, while staving off the jadedness and burn out common among nurses.

In studying gratitude in the workplace, Grant and Gino (2010) report that up to 35% of employees are not thanked by their managers, yet validation by managers increases workforce output.

Grant and Gino (2010) found that people feel more valued, are more likely to do work for others and demonstrate more initiative when they are thanked. These figures remind us that engaging in acts of gratefulness could take place more often, with potentially powerful results.

That 35% of employees are not thanked by their managers does not imply that gratitude must be expressed by people in roles of authority to have an effect. All nurses can acknowledge and enhance the capacity of their peers and supervisors simply by taking the time to say ‘thanks’. However, the effect of validation increases when it comes from a source of authority, such as a manager.  

I propose that nurses in clinical practice, management, academia or other areas can enhance their positional authority and social equity by offering gratitude at work on a regular basis. In this way we can support each other in developing our profession and ourselves.

In being grateful to each other we can magnify the effects of our individual efforts and contribute to a nursing workforce with impact beyond the bedside.


  • Grant A, Gino F (2010) A little thanks goes a long way: explaining why gratitude expressions motivate prosocial behavior. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology. doi: org/10.1037/a0017935

Further reading

About the author

Andrew_WaddingtonAndrew Waddington is an associate lecturer at Edinburgh Napier University

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