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Gratitude at Work Works! A Mix-Method Study on Different Dimensions of Gratitude, Job Satisfaction, and Job Performance

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Gratitude may be defined as a personal positive tendency to recognize and respond with gratitude to positive experiences. It has been extensively described within personal relationship literature, showing its correlations with life satisfaction and decreased psychopathology. We propose here to consider gratitude as both a personal and an organizational value able to improve job performance and job satisfaction. The specific aim is twofold: to explore how public administration workers are used to express and perceive gratitude in the workplace, and to validate a serial mediation model, in which dispositional, collective, and relational gratitude are predictors of job satisfaction and job performance. We have designed a mix-method study, with a survey and a diary study, choosing to collect data also on a daily basis because we were interested in gratitude exchanges in work contexts using the event-sampling data method. Nine employees from several Italian public administrations completed a gratitude diary for ten working days in the initial qualitative part of the study. Afterwards, a sample of 96 Italian public administration employees filled in a questionnaire with measures related to job satisfaction, job performance, and three dimensions of gratitude: dispositional, collective, and relational. Results confirm that the three types of gratitude are predictors of job performance and job satisfaction and this relation has been tested in a serial mediation model. This investigation on gratitude has practical implications for the planning of training interventions framed in the positive psychology context.
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sustainability
Article
Gratitude at Work Works! A Mix-Method Study on
Dierent Dimensions of Gratitude, Job Satisfaction,
and Job Performance
Michela Cortini 1, Daniela Converso 2, Teresa Galanti 1, Teresa Di Fiore 1,
Alberto Di Domenico 1and Stefania Fantinelli 1, *
1Department of Psychological, Health and Territory Sciences, Università“G. d’Annunzio” of Chieti-Pescara,
66100 Chieti CH, Italy
2Department of Psychology, University of Turin, via Verdi 10, 10124 Turin, Italy
*Correspondence: stefania.fantinelli@unich.it
Received: 11 June 2019; Accepted: 16 July 2019; Published: 18 July 2019

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Abstract:
Gratitude may be defined as a personal positive tendency to recognize and respond with
gratitude to positive experiences. It has been extensively described within personal relationship
literature, showing its correlations with life satisfaction and decreased psychopathology. We propose
here to consider gratitude as both a personal and an organizational value able to improve job
performance and job satisfaction. The specific aim is twofold: to explore how public administration
workers are used to express and perceive gratitude in the workplace, and to validate a serial mediation
model, in which dispositional, collective, and relational gratitude are predictors of job satisfaction and
job performance. We have designed a mix-method study, with a survey and a diary study, choosing to
collect data also on a daily basis because we were interested in gratitude exchanges in work contexts
using the event-sampling data method. Nine employees from several Italian public administrations
completed a gratitude diary for ten working days in the initial qualitative part of the study. Afterwards,
a sample of 96 Italian public administration employees filled in a questionnaire with measures related
to job satisfaction, job performance, and three dimensions of gratitude: dispositional, collective, and
relational. Results confirm that the three types of gratitude are predictors of job performance and
job satisfaction and this relation has been tested in a serial mediation model. This investigation on
gratitude has practical implications for the planning of training interventions framed in the positive
psychology context.
Keywords:
dispositional gratitude; collective gratitude; relational gratitude; job satisfaction;
job performance
1. Introduction
In the field of positive psychology, some authors [
1
] have defined gratitude as a dispositional
tendency, meant as a personality trait. They described gratitude as part of a wider life orientation
towards noticing and appreciating the positive in the world [
1
] (p. 891). Other scholars [
2
] have
demonstrated that a higher dispositional gratitude augments the tendency to use positive reframing,
which in turn positively aects one’s life event interpretations. Indeed, Chen [
3
] described gratitude as
having both aective and cognitive elements.
The interest in gratitude, as an organizational value able to positively aect individual and
collective dimensions, is quite recent. Gibbs [
4
], among others scientific contributes, observed that
gratitude in the workplace is not related to a specific contract relationship nor to a precise role, but it is
a natural individual attitude.
Sustainability 2019,11, 3902; doi:10.3390/su11143902 www.mdpi.com/journal/sustainability
Sustainability 2019,11, 3902 2 of 12
The aim of the present study is to extend the positive eects of gratitude to the work life and to
evaluate the direct and mediated consequences on job satisfaction and job performance.
More specifically, we are interested in evaluating how dierent kinds of gratitude, such as
collective, dispositional, and relational, are related to an individual and an organizational psychological
dimension. The originality of our study is represented by the simultaneous evaluation of the three
dierent dimensions of gratitude, relating them to both individual and collective organizational factors.
Through the implementation of a mix methodology we could explore both the quantitative and
the qualitative dimensions, involving an in-depth investigation and a constructive synthesis of both
data and analysis.
The recent contribution by Di Fabio et al. [
5
] related to gratitude in organizations represents the
formalization of the construct framed in the context of positive psychology and psychology of harmony
sustainability [
6
8
]. These authors collected and analyzed several literature contributions in order to
define the relevance of gratitude in dierent aspects of organizational life.
Prior to Di Fabio et al.’s work [
5
], there were others research studies that deepened the gratitude
construct. For example, one research study aimed at correlating gratitude and organizational constructs,
such as job performance [
9
]; in this case, the authors included gratitude among many others values
that contribute to the definition of organizational virtuousness. Positive attitudes, such as gratitude,
are often ignored in organizational life if they do not have a direct relationship with more concrete
outcomes; several scholars [
9
,
10
] have demonstrated this relation thanks to two specific characteristics of
general virtuousness. These are the amplifying and the buering attributes; the former can encourage
more positive consequences, while the latter can prevent negative implications [
9
]. Grant and
Wrzesniewski [
11
] studied the mediating eect of gratitude on the relationship between self-evaluation
and job performance, showing that other-oriented employees experience higher levels of anticipated
guilt and gratitude, which appeared to motivate them to channel high core self-evaluations toward
high performance. A recent study by Stegen and Wankier (2018) [
12
] also showed a positive eect
of “attitude to gratitude” on job satisfaction, with an increase in collaborations between workers [13].
The Arenas study is among the studies that have investigated the frequency with which there are
episodes of bullying in the workplace and how this can aect employees’ satisfaction at work and
psychological well-being [
14
]. This phenomenon has been investigated starting from a contextualized
approach. One of the strengths of this study concerns the comparison of the data obtained on a sample
of Italian employees and on a sample of Spanish employees. The authors concluded that cultural
factors are fundamental for developing a bullying reduction policies and programs for organizations.
The results of this study are relevant for the purposes of this research, as through their hypothesized
mediation-moderation model they highlighted the role of job satisfaction in mediating the relationship
between bullying in the workplace and psychological well-being [14].
In line with this study, Di Marco and colleagues reiterated the role of satisfaction as a mediator in
analyzing the consequences of the perception of a discriminatory work environment on health and
psychological well-being of employees [
15
]. The perception of a discriminatory work environment
has negative eects on the well-being and health of employees; this study underlines the need for
Human Resource Managers to intervene to reduce explicit prejudices in order to create a healthy
environment that is free of discrimination, and the importance of promoting job satisfaction to preserve
personal well-being and better face potential negative eects. Moreover, positive relations between
gratitude and coping styles were found [
16
], besides the positive eects of gratitude on depression
symptoms [17].
Wood et al. [
1
] investigated the link between gratitude and wellbeing; their literature review oered
a thoughtful analysis, including several psychological dimensions that correlated to gratitude, such as
personality, emotional functioning, existential and humanistic conceptions, and health. According to
their review, an increase in gratitude does improve wellbeing, but it is necessary to further deepen
the dierence between gratitude as behavior and gratitude as a personality trait. Thus, gratitude can
be an emotion stimulated by the positive aspects in life and there can also be active interventions or
Sustainability 2019,11, 3902 3 of 12
communication acts aimed at increasing gratitude; the positive consequences can be valuable both
for the giver and for the receiver [12]. Therefore, it is unavoidable that gratitude communication will
aect a relationship or a social interaction. Furthermore, the positive relation between gratitude and
prosocial organizational behavior was confirmed, explained by the feeling of being socially valued
rather than by the self-ecacy attitude [
18
]. The link between gratitude and individual wellbeing can
be also explained by the psychology of sustainability, which refers to the reciprocity between person
and environment wellbeing [19].
In another research study, it was found that gratitude can be a predictor of organizational
citizenship behaviors [
20
], and in this vein a measure for gratitude state was developed and validated.
The same authors conducted additional studies with the experience sampling methodology focused on
gratitude, combining them with the dispositional gratitude scale [21].
In another study conducted by Buote [
22
] gratitude activity related to job was compared with
gratitude activity related to life in general—participants had to list things they were grateful for.
It was found that the activity concerning the job could increase job satisfaction—employees were more
satisfied in the next six months, also indirectly aecting turnover intentions. The relationship between
gratitude and job satisfaction was empirically investigated by Waters [
23
], who demonstrated that
only state and institutional gratitude predicted job satisfaction; dispositional gratitude did not have
a predictive role in multiple hierarchical regression.
Moreover, concerning gratitude in the workplace, a recent work by Beck [
24
] analyzed the
gratitude communication between managers and employees, and in particular the author found that
expressions of gratitude were appreciated overall, and only a minimum part of the sample gratitude
was defined as not necessary or even disliked. The interesting point raised by Beck [
24
] concerns the
discrepancy between managers’ way of expressing gratitude and employees’ preferences—it emerges
that the most common medium used and desired is oral, one-to-one communication. A discrepancy is
manifested in monetary bonuses—employees do prefer this kind of gratitude expression right after the
verbal modality, but on the other hand managers rarely apply this method of gratification [24].
Based on these results we can assume that managers and employees do not share the same
meaning of gratitude; this is the case for dierent punctuation events [
25
], which can in turn negatively
aects social interactions.
Recent research studies analyzed gratitude in the workplace and its eects on work life, for example
Fehr, Fulmer, Awtrey, and Miller [
26
] identified three kinds of gratitude. The first episodic gratitude
at the event level, where gratitude is perceived as a positive emotion and is dierentiated by other
positive emotions by the trigger event, the impact of the trigger on the self, and the prosocial action
tendency [
26
] (p. 367). The second type is persistent gratitude, which is the individual level of gratitude
meant as a constant attitude recurring in dierent contexts. The collective gratitude represents the
third type. This is at the organizational level and it is defined as persistent gratitude shared by the
members of an organization [
26
] (p. 369). The authors stated that organizational gratitude could be
fostered by focused interventions undertaken by the Human Resource division.
In line with this classification, our attention is directed to episodic, persistent, and collective
gratitude; they are relevant and measurable in an organizational context, thus highlighting the fact
that gratitude is a multidimensional construct, as other authors have already stated [27,28].
All of the above-mentioned literature confirmed the statement made by Emmons in 2003 [
29
]
regarding the relevant role of gratitude relating to organizational success, since it is a positive dimension
able to improve well-being and organizational climate [29], resulting in a healthy organization [7].
Our study is in line with previous work [
30
], being conducted in Italian public administrations,
related to organizational gratitude, and with the aim of identifying how dierent types of gratitude are
related to job satisfaction and performance.
Sustainability 2019,11, 3902 4 of 12
2. Research Design
We decided to implement a triangulated methodology in order to enrich the data from a double
point of view—qualitative and quantitative data together can depict a more comprehensive context [
31
].
According to the appropriateness paradigm [
32
], the choice of the method was decided in light of the
specific multidimensional nature of the object of the study. The aim was to put together dierent data,
informants, participants, and analyses.
The research conforms to the provisions of the Declaration of Helsinki [
33
], and all ethical
guidelines were followed as required for conducting human research, including adherence to the legal
requirements of the study countries. According to the Italian Association of Psychology (AIP), at the
time of the current study, a very general document was available, whose guidelines we have followed.
A discourse and an interpretative analysis were performed in line with the grounded theory
approach [34] and with the traditional exploration of metaphors and actions in the text.
The qualitative part was realized with the elaboration of a gratitude diary at work: a small
sample of employees from several Italian Public Administrations were voluntary invited to participate.
They were asked to fill in the diary for ten working days, following the instructions reported daily;
in line with previous considerations regarding the participants commitment [
35
] we decided to limit
the amount of questions and the participants’ eorts.
Gratitude lists or diaries were already used in past studies [
36
] and they turned out to be eective
techniques to enhance individual well-being; however, it has to be specified that it was not a work
related intervention and participants were asked to simply list to up to five reasons to be grateful for
within that day.
Dierently, the Experience Sampling Methodology (ESM) applied by Nezlek [
37
] is a diary
experience; in fact, in this case participants completed daily questionnaires so that the researcher could
perceive their real thoughts, feelings, and work context. The author investigated and confirmed the
relation between gratitude and organizational citizenship behavior at a personal level.
Diary studies in organizational research have been recently investigated by some scholars [
38
],
highlighting their relevance when studying thoughts, feelings, and behaviors within the natural work
context, as well as characteristics of the work situation, which may fluctuate on a daily basis [
38
] (p. 80).
The quantitative part has been implemented through the administration of an online ad hoc
questionnaire, with which we meant to verify the relations among dierent types of gratitude and
individual and collective dimensions. In particular, the main hypothesis was that dispositional,
collective, and relational gratitude could foster both job performance and job satisfaction.
2.1. Gratitude at Work: Qualitative Evidences
2.1.1. Research Questions
The exploratory phase of the research began with two research questions:
-
Which is the most common type of gratitude frequently expressed and perceived by public
administration employees?
- How do workers express gratitude in the workplace?
In line with the above-mentioned literature, our aim was to expand the knowledge concerning
gratitude in the workplace and to confirm some research hypotheses with statistical analyses.
2.1.2. Data Collection
We provided participants with a diary that had five blank spaces per day to be filled in by
handwriting; the structure was as follows:
(1)
Overall my working day has been . . .
(2)
Today I am grateful for . . .
Sustainability 2019,11, 3902 5 of 12
(3)
Concerning the above grateful reasons, for how many do you actually express explicit thanks?
How did you do?
(4)
Does anyone express thanks for something in this working day?
(5)
Additional comments . . .
2.1.3. Results
We had nine completed diaries to analyze and we decided to apply a bottom up analysis according
to a grounded theory perspective [
34
]. In line with this approach, we identified some key patterns
originated by frequent participant’s comments, creating a categorical tree in order to organize and
interpret our qualitative results.
Labels were mostly related to the three sections requested in the diary, and the three identified
levels were as follows:
(a)
the expressed gratitude: according to the participant’s opinions it can be felt towards employers,
colleagues, customers, oneself, nobody, the work environment, or toward the diary itself;
(b)
the way gratitude is expressed: it can be direct (verbal or non-verbal), indirect, and unexpressed.
(c)
the way gratitude can be received: there is a formal manner similar to a social practice; there is
the real gratitude expressed through concrete behavior; lastly, there can be the expected but not
received gratitude.
The most frequent kind of gratitude cited by participants was the gratitude toward colleagues,
with 33 occurrences, for example citing the help to perform a task. The related method of expressing
gratitude is direct and verbal; participants declare hat they said thanks in most cases and sometimes
with a smile.
Concerning the most frequent kind of received gratitude, there were 12 occurrences for real
gratitude, such as psychological support.
It is worth noting that there were 25 occurrences for gratitude expressed toward self; in more
specific terms, participants congratulated themselves for a good job having been carried out.
An unexpected type of gratitude was the one toward the diary, even if there were just 4 occurrences;
this means that writing the diary was, at the same time, a way to collect data for the research and
a sort of intervention in itself. For example, one participant declared: Today I am grateful to this diary,
because for the first time it seems to me that there is an argument in the oce other than football.
Another relevant aspect that was inferred from the diaries was related to formal gratitude: some
participants stated that in most cases, gratitude is expressed as a social automatic practice, so it is hard
to define if it is a real and sincere feeling or a sort of due behavior.
2.2. The Working Outcomes of Gratitude: A Quantitative Analysis
The three dimensions of gratitude that we measured are dispositional, collective, and relational
gratitude. Dispositional gratitude is defined as a personal tendency to notice and appreciate the positive
in the world [1], so it is a very personal trait, dependent on individual attitudes and experiences.
Collective gratitude is experienced by employees toward the organization; according to Akgün,
Erdil, Keskin, and Muceldilli [
39
], collective gratitude is defined as a collective emotional state referring
to benefits that employees intentionally receive from management; this is described as a positive but
temporary state. In this case, the social and shared dimensions make this kind of gratitude part of the
organizational culture and identity.
Perceived or relational gratitude is the one received from customers, such as clients or patients [
40
];
it highlights that the relation with customers can also be a source of positive emotions other than stress.
The relationship between public organizations’ employees and customers is based on reciprocity; there
is a delicate balance, so that a customer complaint can negatively aect workers’ satisfaction and
performance [30].
Sustainability 2019,11, 3902 6 of 12
In order to test the simultaneous eects of the dierent kinds of gratitude on both job satisfaction
and job performance, we have hypothesized a serial mediation model (Figure 1). In the figure, all of
the possible relations are graphically represented.
We were interested in testing an additive eect of the dispositional, collective, and relational
gratitude on both job satisfaction and job performance. Therefore, the relationship between dispositional
gratitude and the outcomes, job satisfaction, and job performance should be smaller when the other
two types of gratitude are included in the model than when they are not.
6
Perceived or relational gratitude is the one received from customers, such as clients or patients
[40]; it highlights that the relation with customers can also be a source of positive emotions other
than stress. The relationship between public organizations’ employees and customers is based on
reciprocity; there is a delicate balance, so that a customer complaint can negatively affect workers’
satisfaction and performance [30].
In order to test the simultaneous effects of the different kinds of gratitude on both job
satisfaction and job performance, we have hypothesized a serial mediation model (Figure 1). In the
figure, all of the possible relations are graphically represented.
We were interested in testing an additive effect of the dispositional, collective, and relational
gratitude on both job satisfaction and job performance. Therefore, the relationship between
dispositional gratitude and the outcomes, job satisfaction, and job performance should be smaller
when the other two types of gratitude are included in the model than when they are not.
Figure 1. The hypothesized serial mediation model.
2.2.1. Measures
We elaborated an ad hoc questionnaire for the quantitative part of the study, aimed at
evaluating several types of gratitude, job satisfaction and job performance. In particular, the
following scales have been used:
- Job satisfaction was measured with the two items scale [41]. For example, participants rated
on a 5-point Likert scale, ranging from “strongly disagree” to “strongly agree”, the following
statement: “in general I am satisfied with my job”. The Cronbach α was 0.886.
- Job performance was evaluated with the two items scale [42], which provides a self-
evaluation of job performance. An item was: “I achieved all my job goals in the last six months”;
participants indicated their agreement or disagreement on a 5-point Likert scale. The Cronbach α
was 0.513.
- Dispositional gratitude was evaluated with the Gratitude Questionnaire GQ-6 [21], using
the Italian translation and validation by Caputo [43]. Cronbach α = 0.765. The items were scored on
a 7-point Likert scale, ranging from “strongly disagree” to “strongly agree”; a sample item was: “I
have so much in life to be thankful for”.
- The collective gratitude was measured with the collective gratitude scale elaborated by
Akgün, Erdil, Keskin, and Muceldilli [39]. Eleven items were scored on a 5-point Likert scale rating
agreement or disagreement; the reliability was 0.935. A sample item was: “We are grateful to our
firm for encouraging us to participate in organizational decision making”.
Figure 1. The hypothesized serial mediation model.
2.2.1. Measures
We elaborated an ad hoc questionnaire for the quantitative part of the study, aimed at evaluating
several types of gratitude, job satisfaction and job performance. In particular, the following scales have
been used:
-
Job satisfaction was measured with the two items scale [
41
]. For example, participants rated
on a 5-point Likert scale, ranging from “strongly disagree” to “strongly agree”, the following
statement: “in general I am satisfied with my job”. The Cronbach αwas 0.886.
-
Job performance was evaluated with the two items scale [
42
], which provides a self-evaluation of
job performance. An item was: “I achieved all my job goals in the last six months”; participants
indicated their agreement or disagreement on a 5-point Likert scale. The Cronbach αwas 0.513.
-
Dispositional gratitude was evaluated with the Gratitude Questionnaire GQ-6 [
21
], using the
Italian translation and validation by Caputo [
43
]. Cronbach
α
=0.765. The items were scored on
a 7-point Likert scale, ranging from “strongly disagree” to “strongly agree”; a sample item was:
“I have so much in life to be thankful for”.
-
The collective gratitude was measured with the collective gratitude scale elaborated by Akgün,
Erdil, Keskin, and Muceldilli [
39
]. Eleven items were scored on a 5-point Likert scale rating
agreement or disagreement; the reliability was 0.935. A sample item was: “We are grateful to our
firm for encouraging us to participate in organizational decision making”.
-
The perceived gratitude scale [
44
] measured the employees’ perception of customers gratitude,
which can be also defined as relational gratitude. There were 12 items to rate on a 5-point Likert
scale ranging from “completely false” to “completely true”; the reliability was 0.892. An example
item was: “The customers trusted in my competencies”.
2.2.2. Sample
Participants were mostly invited through social media (LinkedIn and Facebook) to voluntary
participate and to fill in the online questionnaire, so the applied sampling method was snowballing.
We decided to limit our sample to public administration workers in order to depict a specific
organizational context, which is useful as a comparison term for future investigations.
Sustainability 2019,11, 3902 7 of 12
The research conforms to the provisions of the Declaration of Helsinki in 1995 (as revised in
Edinburgh 2000), and all ethical guidelines were followed as required for conducting human research,
including adherence to the legal requirements of the study countries. According to the Italian
Association of Psychology (AIP), at the time of the current study, a very general document was
available, whose guidelines we followed. We did not ask for written consent, since it was an online
questionnaire on a voluntary basis.
The sample was composed of 116 workers of public administrations, 46 males, and 93 females;
Mage (mean age) =48.23, SD (standard deviation) =8.34. However, only 96 participants completed
the whole questionnaire (and were considered for the analysis).
2.2.3. Results
Certain qualitative results represented the starting point for the quantitative analysis.
More specifically, we were interested in investigating the role of the gratitude expressed towards
colleagues or employer. Before testing the serial mediation model, we observed the correlation table
(Table 1); it partly fosters the hypothesized relations, which are significant at p<0.01. In addition,
we controlled the distributive qualities of our sample, which is satisfactory for all the used scales
(Table 1).
Table 1. Correlations and descriptive analyses of the scales.
1 2 3 4 5 M SD N Skewness Kurtosis
1 JP 1 6.962 1.734 96 0.774 1.495
2 RG 0.222 * 1 48.81 7.021 87 0.434 0.250
3 DG 0.275 ** 0.051 1 26.37 5.154 96 0.316 0.521
4 CG 0.338 ** 0.307 ** 0.116 1 36.38 12.521 96 0.006 0.589
5 JS 0.530 ** 0.421 ** 0.149 0.534 ** 1 7.55 1.938 96 0.761 0.491
Note: JP =job performance; RG =relational gratitude; DG =dispositional gratitude; CG =collective gratitude;
JS =job satisfaction
. M =mean; SD =standard deviation; N =numerosity of the sample. * =p<0.05; ** =p<0.01.
In order to perform the mediation analysis, a SPSS (Statistical Package for Social Science) macro
called PROCESS (PROCESS is an observed variable OLS and logistic regression path analysis modeling
tool for SPSS and SAS), described by Preacher and Hayes [
45
], was used, incorporating the traditional
approach (for example the Sobel test), the bootstrap approach, and the approach developed by Baron
and Kenny to quantify the indirect eects of the predictor on the dependent variable [
46
]. In this study,
the use of confidence intervals of the bootstrap method was necessary to avoid problems relating to
the limited size of the sample, as already highlighted by Preacher, Rucker, and Hayes [47].
The tested serial mediation model is represented in Figure 2, where only the significant relations
are reported; more specifically, collective gratitude does not have a direct relation with job performance,
nor the dispositional gratitude with the relational gratitude.
8
There was a significant indirect effect of dispositional gratitude on job satisfaction and job
performance through collective and relational gratitude: 0.30, CI (confidence interval) (0.98, 0.51). In
fact, zero is not in the 95% confidence interval, and the indirect effect is significantly different from
zero at p < 0.05.
Figure 2. The significant relations in the serial mediation model.
3. Results Discussion and Conclusions
According to our sample, as can be seen from the qualitative analysis, the most common type
of expressed gratitude was toward colleagues, and the most common received type was from
customers. This latter evidence seems to disconfirm the common stereotype concerning public
administrations about the stressful relationship with external customers, so the systematic
relationship with customers could promote a healthy working environment [30].
Another point is related to the parallelism between working life and personal life: in both
cases, perceived and expressed gratitude can positively affect life and job satisfaction. With regard
to the specific relationship between gratitude and job satisfaction, it is worth noting that our results
highlight the direct effect of both collective gratitude and relational gratitude on job satisfaction. A
past study [23] found a significant relationship between the state of gratitude and job satisfaction.
The main difference is that in our case the collective dimensions of gratitude are related and can
affect an individual job dimension, such as satisfaction, highlighting how these dimensions are
strictly entangled.
There are, of course, some limitations of the study. Concerning the sample, we had a small
convenience sample of homogeneous workers, not allowing us to generalize the data; however, on
the other hand it could be an interesting future perspective to test our model on a wider sample of
different workers, implementing what was suggested by Bockerman and colleagues [48] in terms of
wages and work histories.
In addition, the estimates in our regression models may suffer from the omitted-variable bias,
and in this sense, it would be interesting in future studies to test, for example, the role played by
personality traits that are supposed to be correlated with the dependent variables used in the
analyses. Moreover, the job performance measure employed in this study provided only a partial
inspection of the construct, because it is a self-reported rating; it would be interesting in the future
to collect data concerning objective performance.
The cross-sectional evaluation is a main limitation as well, but on the other hand it allows us to
replace the study with a longitudinal perspective and test the effect of the diary as an intervention.
Indeed, some participants confirmed the idea that the diary itself can be an intervention rather
than simply a qualitative research method. This could be the first premise to design training
experiences oriented toward gratitude education and development at every level of an
organization, meant as training for the expression, recognition, and perception of gratitude in the
Figure 2. The significant relations in the serial mediation model.
Sustainability 2019,11, 3902 8 of 12
There was a significant indirect eect of dispositional gratitude on job satisfaction and job
performance through collective and relational gratitude: 0.30, CI (confidence interval) (0.98, 0.51).
In fact, zero is not in the 95% confidence interval, and the indirect eect is significantly dierent from
zero at p<0.05.
3. Results Discussion and Conclusions
According to our sample, as can be seen from the qualitative analysis, the most common type of
expressed gratitude was toward colleagues, and the most common received type was from customers.
This latter evidence seems to disconfirm the common stereotype concerning public administrations
about the stressful relationship with external customers, so the systematic relationship with customers
could promote a healthy working environment [30].
Another point is related to the parallelism between working life and personal life: in both cases,
perceived and expressed gratitude can positively aect life and job satisfaction. With regard to the
specific relationship between gratitude and job satisfaction, it is worth noting that our results highlight
the direct eect of both collective gratitude and relational gratitude on job satisfaction. A past study [
23
]
found a significant relationship between the state of gratitude and job satisfaction. The main dierence
is that in our case the collective dimensions of gratitude are related and can aect an individual job
dimension, such as satisfaction, highlighting how these dimensions are strictly entangled.
There are, of course, some limitations of the study. Concerning the sample, we had a small
convenience sample of homogeneous workers, not allowing us to generalize the data; however, on
the other hand it could be an interesting future perspective to test our model on a wider sample of
dierent workers, implementing what was suggested by Bockerman and colleagues [
48
] in terms of
wages and work histories.
In addition, the estimates in our regression models may suer from the omitted-variable bias,
and in this sense, it would be interesting in future studies to test, for example, the role played by
personality traits that are supposed to be correlated with the dependent variables used in the analyses.
Moreover, the job performance measure employed in this study provided only a partial inspection of
the construct, because it is a self-reported rating; it would be interesting in the future to collect data
concerning objective performance.
The cross-sectional evaluation is a main limitation as well, but on the other hand it allows us to
replace the study with a longitudinal perspective and test the eect of the diary as an intervention.
Indeed, some participants confirmed the idea that the diary itself can be an intervention rather than
simply a qualitative research method. This could be the first premise to design training experiences
oriented toward gratitude education and development at every level of an organization, meant as
training for the expression, recognition, and perception of gratitude in the workplace. Actually,
gratitude training may be seen as an innovative practical policy to be implemented.
We can imagine how a sort of gratitude education could be implemented from school levels in
order to promote a wellbeing culture based on positive attitudes and behaviors, just as other scholars
have already shown in Australia [49].
As already stated by some scholars [
1
], there is a clear link between gratitude and wellbeing,
and there are several conditions and variables that can aect individual wellbeing. For example, in the
recent economic crisis, which spread around the world from 2008 onward, has received scarce attention
as a variable able to aect the individual health related to work [
50
,
51
]. According to Giorgi and
colleagues, organizations should foster positive emotions in crisis periods, and positive management
could relieve the employees’ crisis perception, and in turn positively aect their health. It is possible to
hypothesize that gratitude behaviors toward employees could have a mediation role in addition to the
social support, which was already verified in previous work [
50
]. On the other hand, there could be
a bias eect—employees who perceive less uncertainty related to their employability could manifest
a forced gratitude toward their organizations.
Sustainability 2019,11, 3902 9 of 12
However, the strategic role of gratitude in Human Resource Management is evident. Gratitude
has a direct eect on improving the organizational climate and contributes to enhancing individual
well-being and reducing negative emotions in the workplace, such as rancor and envy. It is also
a key-resource to promote worker eciency and productivity to improve organizational performance
in strategic management of human capital [5]
It would also seem that collective gratitude could promote organizational resilience, which is most
likely to occur in organizations when employees see a direct link between the organization and their
personal growth [
26
]. This aspect of resilience is directly associated with employees’ shared gratitude
for developmental opportunities for personal growth, and interpersonal trust in organizations’ HR
systems. As far as we are concerned, the originality of this study is represented by the simultaneous
evaluation of dierent kinds of gratitude as predictors of both job satisfaction and job performance,
which is a valuable systematic point of view in the frame of positive psychology and of psychology
of sustainability.
Moreover, the applied mixed-method provides a dierent point of view on the topic and reflects
the inner nature of the discipline. Indeed, occupational and organizational psychology has to produce
an impact on the observed reality; we believe that in this case, the diary represented a real experience
able to produce concrete eects able to be collected and analyzed.
From our point of view, the fact that the research opens up several new investigations and research
questions is a strong practical implication.
The qualitative results obtained by the diaries tell us that the definition of gratitude can be very
subjective. For example, a participant associated gratitude with the feeling of trust, so it should be
relevant to depict a clear and unified definition of the concept in every single organization as a premise
of gratitude training.
Moreover, it could be interesting to classify the kind of nonverbal gratitude received and
expressed, for example, participants often cited a smile or a mutual glance; this suggestion is in
line with previous work [
24
] concerning the dierent meanings of gratitude between employees and
managers. Therefore, further studies are also needed in order to explore dierent points of view—the
management interpretation and the customers perception of gratitude.
Two employees implicitly considered two dierent dimensions of gratitude: the expected but
not received gratitude, and the gratitude that would have been expressed. There may be other future
dimensions to evaluate regarding the relative negative emotions or regrets.
Planning and implementing gratitude training can produce a sort of virtuous circle that fosters
collective gratitude toward management, also positively aecting the learning climate. Past studies
have already identified a positive relationship between the learning climate and job performance
in a public administration context [
52
], and we think that a good climate in terms of gratitude can
nurture this kind of relation. Gratitude could, in this vein, promote the process of Harmonization
in the job context, fostering the construction of a positive relationship with parts of self and with
others, at the group and at the community levels, as suggested by the psychology of sustainability and
harmonization [8].
Finally, there is another recent and partly unexplored issue related to the predictors of job
satisfaction—the presence and the communication of social media policies in an organization could
aect job commitment and job satisfaction [
53
]. It seems to us that the digital revolution aecting
our life is also transforming several psychological dimensions of work life, therefore we imagine that
the dimensions of both collective and relational gratitude could be aected by social media policies,
e.g., whether employees perceive something as a violation of their digital privacy, and also how
expressed gratitude could be aected in a negative way.
In order to sum up the main findings and the contribution of our study, we can state that the
serial mediation model has been validated, showing that individual dispositional gratitude, gratitude
that employees express toward the organization, and the employees’ perceived gratitude of external
customers are all predictors of both job satisfaction and job performance. The simultaneous measure of
Sustainability 2019,11, 3902 10 of 12
three types of gratitude is the main contribution of this work; the qualitative results, derived from the
diary analysis, are another strong contribution because of their explorative aim. We believe that the
suggestions raised by the qualitative analysis are open to a series of new research questions.
Author Contributions:
M.C., T.G., and S.F. substantially contributed to the conception and design of the study.
All the authors contributed to the data collection, analysis, and interpretation of data for the research. All authors
wrote and reviewed all parts of the manuscript, and agreed to be accountable for all aspects of the work.
Funding:
The authors declare that the research was conducted in the absence of any personal, professional, or
financial relationships that could be construed as a potential conflict of interest.
Conflicts of Interest:
The authors declare no potential conflicts of interest with respect to the research, authorship,
and/or publication of this article.
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2019 by the authors. Licensee MDPI, Basel, Switzerland. This article is an open access
article distributed under the terms and conditions of the Creative Commons Attribution
(CC BY) license (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/4.0/).
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The effect of a grateful outlook on psychological and physical well-being was examined. In Studies 1 and 2, participants were randomly assigned to 1 of 3 experimental conditions (hassles, gratitude listing, and either neutral life events or social comparison); they then kept weekly (Study 1) or daily (Study 2) records of their moods, coping behaviors, health behaviors, physical symptoms, and overall life appraisals. In a 3rd study, persons with neuromuscular disease were randomly assigned to either the gratitude condition or to a control condition. The gratitude-outlook groups exhibited heightened well-being across several, though not all, of the outcome measures across the 3 studies, relative to the comparison groups. The effect on positive affect appeared to be the most robust finding. Results suggest that a conscious focus on blessings may have emotional and interpersonal benefits.
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In four studies, the authors examined the correlates of the disposition toward gratitude. Study 1 revealed that self-ratings and observer ratings of the grateful disposition are associated with positive affect and well-being prosocial behaviors and traits, and religiousness/spirituality. Study 2 replicated these findings in a large nonstudent sample. Study 3 yielded similar results to Studies 1 and 2 and provided evidence that gratitude is negatively associated with envy and materialistic attitudes. Study 4 yielded evidence that these associations persist after controlling for Extraversion/positive affectivity, Neuroticism/negative affectivity, and Agreeableness. The development of the Gratitude Questionnaire, a unidimensional measure with good psychometric properties, is also described.
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Background: The current nursing shortage affects all settings. In an effort to promote retention of nursing faculty, an "attitude of gratitude" was cultivated to improve job satisfaction and increase collaboration in one school of nursing. Method: This was a quantitative study using a convenience sample of faculty at one school of nursing. A presurvey of faculty on perceived gratitude levels and job satisfaction was administered prior to the start of the school year. Multiple gratitude interventions were implemented throughout the year and a postsurvey was administered to measure the effectiveness of interventions. Results: The findings of this study show an improvement of 17.9% in overall job satisfaction, which is consistent with other studies on the topic. Collaboration was not affected by gratitude interventions. Conclusion: Implementing gratitude is a cost-effective and easy way to improve job satisfaction to increase faculty retention rates. [J Nurs Educ. 2018;57(6):375-378.].