Gratitude in the workplace

Gratitude in the workplace
Marie Ryan

Marie Ryan


Recognition and praise are key motivators in the workplace. We all know this, but it’s hard to do. In Ireland, when we give a compliment, we follow it up with a sarcastic one-liner. My colleagues and I took on a gratitude project for one week. Here’s how it went:

The rules

  • For five days, each person sent a compliment to four colleagues. 
  • The compliment was two sentences long.
  • The contents of each email were private. 
  • We logged our thoughts on it each day. 

There was an immediate difference in reactions from the girls vs the boys. The girls (Maelle and I) thought it was a great idea. We were enthusiastic and excited by it. Within an hour, we wrote all of our compliments for each colleague in a doc, to use each day. 

The boys reluctantly agreed and asked many questions. It took a few hours for them to get their heads around it. Our CEO said “The best cocktails are made with sweet and sour. This is out of my comfort zone, so I’ll do it.”

Diary entries:

John, Founder of HireHive


  • This project made me focus on the positive attributes of my co-workers. This will improve my working relationships with them in the short and long term.
  • It was a nice thing to do, reading complimentary emails made me feel good. 
  • Reading the emails from people made me feel valued as a leader.
  • The project made me reevaluate my relationships in some ways with my co-workers.


  • This pushed me outside my comfort zone which is a pro and a con. 
  • I knew that half the team would love doing a gratitude project, and the other half would cringe.  


This is worth doing.

Maelle De Francesco, Operations Manager, HireHive

The good 

  • I enjoyed this project and thought it was worth doing. 
  • The first email I received made me so happy. I enjoyed getting compliments from co-workers and put me in great humour. 
  • Learning what your team thinks of you & how they perceive you was very interesting. 
  • It's funny to see the difference between the messages sent by the women in the team, and the ones sent by the guys:

The guys stayed a bit "cold" and distant. I wonder how much they like this exercise?

  • I felt great after receiving everyone's email. Regarding Marie, as we have only been working together for a couple of weeks, it felt great to receive praise from her. 
  • Without knowing it, your colleagues tell you what you need to hear about yourself. 
  • I enjoyed writing the notes as much as receiving them. Trying to throw in inside jokes & anecdotes is my favourite part.
  • Receiving compliments from colleagues you've been working with for years is enlightening because those are not things you're told every day!
  • It’s wonderful to get compliments from your boss and the people you work with every day.

The bad

  • Writing these emails every day was tough, especially for colleagues I don't know that well. But it was a fun challenge. 
  • I lost inspiration after day 3. The challenge was too long. I'm glad I had something prepared in advance for the 5 days and didn't write them on the day, as it would have been way more difficult!
  • I sent my best appreciation at the start, so writing only 3 notes would have been perfect for me. The next 2 ones are definitely blander. We all started repeating stuff that we've said in the previous days.

The verdict

We should do this again because I enjoyed receiving friendly messages from the people I work with.

It was quite fun to do though, and tell people stuff you wouldn't have usually told them. I’d make it shorter the next time, 3 notes per colleague is enough!

Conor O’Shea, Junior developer

The good

  • It’s nice to see what others find good about you. I got a boost every time I opened a message. 
  • The project forced me to reflect on what I like about my co-workers. I never think about it, so it was good to do.
  • I felt good after sending each message. I enjoyed sending them as much as receiving them. 
  • It’s nice to get a positive message in the morning before I started work. 
  • I enjoyed getting personal comments, not just work related. 
  • It was good to see how other members of the team see me and also just to let them know what qualities I found good in them. 

The bad

  • It’s strange to give compliments at work.
  • It was cringey as I used many cliches. 


It was a pleasant experience, and it’s fun to try something new. Sending and receiving compliments was strange to me as I’m not a compliment person. 

I think it was worth doing as it lets you get an overview of what your strengths are and gives a positive impact when reading them in the morning.

I felt valued as a colleague and I enjoyed getting compliments. This is worth doing once, but I wouldn’t do it again. 

Marie Ryan, Marketing Manager

The good

  • It’s great to get positive comments from colleagues. I’m new to the company, so it’s nice to know they get me and understand what I’m doing. 
  • It’s rare for colleagues and employers to point out what you’re doing well. Equally, when colleagues are high-performers, you think it’s obvious and doesn’t need acknowledgement. I enjoyed acknowledging it. 
  • Doing this project forced me to think about colleagues, what they do well and what I like about them, which I usually don’t spend time doing. 
  • By the end of the week, I had a collection of positive comments to read whenever I need motivation.
  • There were some colleagues who I could rattle off compliments for all day, while others I didn’t know well enough. It highlighted that I should spend more time getting to know them better. 

The bad

  • I found 5 days to be too long. By day 3, it was a chore. I’d rather file tax returns or visit my dentist. 
  • I started working in HireHive two weeks before the challenge. I find it easy to see good things in people. But finding 5 compliments each was a challenge. By the end, I was repeating myself. 
  • Getting the emails after day 3 was similar. They washed over me. 

 The verdict

This is worth doing. It made me reflect on colleagues positively and tell them. It’s gratifying that they picked up on my positive traits, I felt seen. 

By the end, I wasn’t as excited to see the emails from others as they were saying the same things as in previous emails. If we were to do it again, I’d send one email with two or three compliments only.

Noel O’Connor, Chief Technology Officer

The good

  •  I laughed out loud at some messages from my colleagues.
  • I enjoyed reading the feedback from others. 
  • It brought back some memories of projects and work outings we had together.

The Bad

  • I felt awkward writing the emails.
  • By day 3, it was a chore. It became a box-ticking exercise that I had to endure. 
  • By day 4, I was repeating myself. 
  • When day 5 rolled around, I was glad it was over. 

The verdict

It was a worthwhile project. It got me thinking about the interactions I have with my colleagues and reflecting on our relationships together, either as friends or colleagues.

Emailing daily was too much. By the end, I was just repeating myself. Monthly recognition would be better than emailing on consecutive days. It was a great idea and people who aren't as cynical as myself would enjoy it much more.


Everyone on the team said it was worth doing a gratitude project at least once. Sending an email each day was too long for us. If you decide to try it, we recommend sending one email monthly or quarterly. 

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