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22st Annual OLC International Conference
November 16-18, 2016 | Orlando, Florida | Walt Disney World Swan/Dolphin Resort

OLC Innovate 2016 - Innovations in Blended and Online Learning
April 20-22, 2016 | New Orleans, LA | Sheraton New Orleans Hotel

Not Your Grandma's Gratitude: E-thanks for a Culture of Gratitude and Online Organizational Well-being

Heather Rasmussen (Northcentral University, USA)
Additional Authors
Kristin O'Byrne (Northcentral University, USA)
Session Information
October 14, 2015 - 3:45pm
Faculty and Professional Development & Support
Major Emphasis of Presentation: 
Practical Application
Institutional Level: 
Multiple Levels
Audience Level: 
Session Type: 
Information Session
Northern Hemisphere C
Session Duration: 
45 Minutes
Concurrent Session 4

Gratitude can be harnessed to facilitate to positive change, faculty and staff support, and as a 'booster shot' of well-being for online educational organizations.

Extended Abstract

Gratitude, the feeling that we have benefitted by the actions of another, or being aware of the good things in our lives, is widely accepted as a way to harness well-being, especially in increasing positive emotions.

Barbara Fredrickson's Broaden and Build Model of Positive Emotions illustrates how gratitude may spark a broadened response-action repertoire, thereby building interpersonal and intrapersonal resources, pushing us toward flourishing mental health. Gratitude is linked to desirable outcomes such as less stress and depression, enhanced physical health, higher hope depression, creativity, innovation, collaboration, helping behavior and even greater life satisfaction (McCullough et al., 2002). Additionally, researchers have found that gratitude uniquely predicts job satisfaction, making it a simple but powerful way to boost morale and satisfaction in organizations. Cultivating gratitude, then, can be one of the simplest ways to support faculty and enhance well-being in organizations.

Although many people claim to be grateful, it is something that needs to be cultivated intentionally. Likewise, gratitude needs to be intentionally harnessed in organizations, especially online organizations. According to a survey of 2,000 Americans released in 2012 by the John Templeton Foundation, people are less likely to feel or express gratitude at work than anyplace else. Almost all respondents reported that saying "thank you" to colleagues "makes me feel happier and more fulfilled" but on a given day, only 10 percent acted on that impulse. Team leaders, managers, employers, and others in leadership roles play a crucial part in creating a culture of gratitude in the office. Fostering camaraderie with a sense of appreciation and gratitude among team members optimizes performance.

The primary goal of our interactive presentation is to demonstrate how gratitude can be utilized as a precursor to positive change, within online organizations. A secondary goal is to encourage leaders and faculty of online educational institutions to foster a culture of gratitude by demonstrating empirically validated gratitude interventions. Our final goal is to initiate scientific discourse and encourage researchers to continue to research gratitude in the online educational environment.

Our highly interactive session will actively engage the audience by having them participate in audience polls, utilize social media (e.g., Twitter, LinkedIn) during specific exercises, participate in interactive role play exercises and exercises led by the presenters, and share examples of their own experiences.
We begin with several interactive gratitude exercises followed by presenting an overview of gratitude, related constructs, and outcomes. Next, we highlight an essential task in harnessing gratitude, mindfulness. Because gratitude essentially involves the awareness or recognizing that we have benefited due to the actions of another, we must be mindful to experience gratitude. Through several experiential mindfulness exercises, we will demonstrate how to harness mindfulness.

Next, we present ways for organizational leaders and faculty to support colleagues by creating a culture and attitude of gratitude. Some of the such as gratitude awards, The Gratitude List Project, Have you Thanked a Student Today?, incorporating gratitude into meeting agendas, work-focused gratitude journaling, and more. We present exercises that can be utilized in the online environment as well as face to face and in hybrid environments.

Finally, we will present ideas and exercises on how to remember to practice the skills presented in the online environment. We also will address gaps in the research and encourage researchers to consider the outcomes for the benefactor, as well as some of the interventions we have developed that warrant empirical validation.