2012. Vol.3, No.12A, 1174-1176
Published Online December 2012 in SciRes (
Copyright © 2012 SciRes.
Predicting Job Satisfaction: Contributions of Individual Gratitude
and Institutionalized Gratitude
Lea Waters
Melbourne Graduate School of Education, University of Melbourne, Melbourne, Australia
Received September 14th, 2012; revised October 15th, 2012; acc e pted November 7th, 2012
This study examined the role that employee perceptions of dispositional gratitude, state gratitude and in-
stitutionalized gratitude had upon job satisfaction. Employees (n = 171) completed measures of disposi-
tional, state and institutionalized gratitude together with job satisfaction. Multiple Hierarchical Regression
showed that state gratitude and institutional gratitude uniquely predict job satisfaction. The results have
implications for the fields of positive organizational scholarship and positive organizational behavior and
suggest that workplaces aiming to increase job satisfaction can do so through organizationally-based
gratitude interventions and by institutionalizing gratitude into workplace culture.
Keywords: Positive Psychology; Gratitude; Job Satisfaction; Positive Organizational Behavior
Gratitude is a universal human virtue (Emmons, 2003, 2007)
that has been defined by Howell (2007) as “the active and con-
scious practice of giving thanks” (p. 12). The pioneering work
of Emmons and McCullough has legitimized gratitude as an
important topic for scientific inquiry (Emmons, 2003; 2007;
Emmons & McCullough, 2003; McCullough, Emmons, &
Tsang, 2002). Wood, Froh and Geraghty (2010) argue that
gratitude interventions are amongst the most successful of all
positive psychology interventions in promoting wellbeing.
The science of gratitude has typically focused on individual
gratitude, that is, gratitude which is either dispositional or
state-like (Wood et al., 2010). Research shows that wellbeing is
influenced by one’s stable disposition towards gratitude and by
state gratitude that can be triggered/heightened through a grati-
tude intervention (GI) (e.g., gratitude letter, gratitude lists).
Wood et al.’s (2010) review shows that much research has been
done to explore the link between gratitude and well-being (e.g.,
life satisfaction, mood, self-esteem) as well as gratitude and
social relationships (e.g., helping behavior, pro-social motiva-
tion). However, limited consideration has been given to the role
of gratitude in an organizational context and the influence of
gratitude on indicators of work well-being such as job satisfac-
tion. In 2003 Emmons argued that “there is virtually no hard
evidence on gratitude in organizations” (p. 84). This argument
remains valid nine years on.
Presumably the link between gratitude and positive outcomes
remains present in a workplace context. The causal mechanisms
that link gratitude to well-being such as the broaden and build
process, the gratitude-coping link and the grateful schema
(Emmons & Anjali, 2011) are all likely to operate within the
workplace and are, thus, likely to link dispositional gratitude
with indicators of wellbeing. To date, there has only been two
published studies linking dispositional gratitude of employees
to work wellbeing. Andersson, Giacalone and Jurkiewicz (2007)
found a positive relationship between gratitude and corporate
social responsibility in a sample of white-collar employees.
Chan (2010) found an inverse relationship between disposi-
tional gratitude and workplace burnout in teachers.
The link between gratitude and job satisfaction has not been
empirically tested. This gap is surprising given that job satis-
faction is a long standing and well accepted measure of well-
being at work (Muchinsky, 2003). Indeed, Fisher’s (2010) re-
cent review of employee happiness posited job satisfaction as
one of the three top indicators of wellbeing at work. Job satis-
faction is defined as “the degree of pleasure an employee de-
rives from his or her job” (Muchinsky, 2003: p. 307) and is
aligned with a positive psychology approach.
Beyond the influence of dispositional and state gratitude
upon job satisfaction, the degree to which a workplace culture
expresses and reinforces gratitude is also likely to influence job
satisfaction. Cameron’s (2012) research can be used to suggest
that workplaces which enable virtuous behaviors, such as grati-
tude, will foster employee wellbeing. Institutionalized gratitude
(Cameron, 2012) is defined in the present study as “gratitude
that is culturally embedded within the organization, through its
people, policies and practices, such that thankfulness and ap-
preciation are customary features of daily work life”.
Using Cameron et al.’s (2011) organizational virtuousness
model, institutionalized gratitude can be said to be enacted in
and through the organization. Gratitude enacted in organiza-
tions is done so by members giving thanks to each other. Re-
search by Bennett, Ross and Sunderland (1996) found that
when patients and managers provided gratitude and recognition
to employees who worked in carer roles for HIV/AIDS patients,
it buffered the employees from burnout. Gratitude fostered
through organizations is done so by the features and practices
of the organization that legitimize gratitude. For example,
Emmons (2003) highlights Appreciate Inquiry as an organiza-
tional method that can build gratitude.
Institutionalized gratitude is not simply the aggregate of in-
dividuals who express gratitude in the workplace, rather, it is
conceptualized in this paper as a distinctive and enduring or-
ganizational characteristic that promotes gratitude within and
between organizational members across time. Thus, institution-
alized gratitude may have a unique effect on job satisfaction
above and beyond the effect of dispositional gratitude because
institutionalized gratitude comes from outside of the individual.
In addition, institutionalized gratitude may have a unique effect
on job satisfaction above and beyond the effect of state grati-
tude because institutionalized gratitude is enduring rather than
transient. The intra-personal processes that link dispositional
and state gratitude to job satisfaction are likely to be the cogni-
tive and emotional mechanisms listed above such as the
broaden and build process, the gratitude-coping link and the
grateful schema (Wood et al., 2010). In contrast, the link be-
tween institu- tional gratitude and job satisfaction will come
through social processes and group dynamics like the contagion
effect, recip- rocal altruism, the elevation effect and the ampli-
fication effect (Cameron, Bright, & Caza, 2004; Emmons, 2003;
Frederickson, 2003). Thus, an employee may not feel gratitude
themselves, but will still experience improvements in job satis-
faction through the positive influence of a grateful culture.
The current study adds to the gratitude literature in two im-
portant ways: 1) it empirically tests the relationship between
dispositional and state gratitude with job satisfaction, and 2) it
examines the relationship between employee perception of
institutional gratitude and job satisfaction.
Hypothesis 1: Dispositional gratitude and state gratitude will
be significantly related to job satis f acti on.
Hypothesis 2: Institutional gratitude will have significant
predictive variance upon job satisfaction above dispositional
gratitude and state gratitude.
Sample and Measures
One hundred and seventy one employees (45% male) across
two different sectors (teaching and finance) participated. Aver-
age tenure with current organization was 7.18 (SD = 4.75) years,
82% were university educated and the average age was 41.16
(SD = 8.88) years.
Four measures were used in the following order of assess-
ment: 1) The Index of Job Satisfaction (IS) (Brayfield & Rothe,
1951) assesses subjective perspectives on work (e.g., “I find
real enjoyment in my job”; 6 items, = .68); 2) The integrity
and gratitude sub-scale of the Positive Practices Scale (IG-PPS)
(Cameron et al., 2004) assesses employee perceptions of the
degree to which their workplace fosters a culture characterized
by gratitude and integrity (e.g., “At my workplace, we express
gratitude to each other; 7 items, = .92); 3) The Gratitude
Questionnaire (GQ-6) (McCullough, et al., 2002) assesses dis-
positional, stable, tendencies to experience gratitude in daily
life (e.g., “I have so much in life to be thankful for”; 6 items,
= .74); and 4) The Gratitude, Adjective Checklist (GAC)
(McCullough et al., 2002) was used to assess state gratitude.
Employees were asked to think about their feelings over the
past week at work and respond to the three items that assess
gratefulness, thankfulness, and appreciativeness (3 items;
= .74). All scales were answered along a five point Likert scale
(1 = not at all, 5 = very much). All scales are well-validated,
and have been used across multiple samples.
Participants were recruited through a series of professional
development workshops on positive psychology run by the
researcher. The researcher was invited to three schools and two
investment banking companies to run these workshops. Prior to
commencing the workshop, participants completed the IJS,
IG-PPS, GQ-6 and GAC.
Table 1 presents the means, standard deviations and correla-
tion coefficients. Job satisfaction was significantly correlated
with dispositional gratitude, state gratitude and institutional
gratitude. A hierarchical multiple regression was conducted
using SPSS in which the demographic measures (age, length of
tenure, profession and gender) were entered before disposi-
tional gratitude (step 2), state gratitude (step 3) and institutional
gratitude (step 4). The overall model was significant, F(7, 156)
= 7.35, p < .001, and 24.8% of the variance in job satisfaction
was predicted. The variance in job satisfaction scores accounted
for by demographic factors was not significantly different from
zero. However, there were statistically significant increases in
variance when dispositional gratitude (F(1, 158) = 16.63, p
< .000), state gratitude (F(1, 157) = 23.76, p < .000) and institu-
tional gratitude (F(1, 156) = 5.83, p < .05) were subsequently
entered into the equation. Specifically, they accounted for 9.5%,
11.8% and 2.8% of variability in job satisfaction above those of
previous predictor variables. Interestingly, Dispositional grati-
tude did not significantly contribute to the model after account-
ing for state gratitude scores.
This preliminary study responds to calls by Emmons (2003)
and Cameron et al., (2011) to conduct scholarly research on
virtuousness in organizations. All three types of gratitude were
positively correlated with job satisfaction. However, disposi-
tional gratitude was not a significant predictor of job satisfac-
tion when state gratitude and institutionalized gratitude were
entered into the regression. This may be because state gratitude
and institutionalized gratitude were assessed as more localized
constructs anchored within a work context and as such, they
had more of a proximal nature to an employee’s assessment of
Table 1.
Means, standard deviations and correlation coefficients for the study
Mean (SD)JS Age CT DG SG
(JS) 5.92 (.78)
Age 41.16 (8.88)–.01
Current tenure
(CT) 7.18 (4.75).05 .64*
(DG) 5.56 (.78) .29** –.04 .09
Gratitude (SG)5.93 (.76) .45** –.03 –.02 .44**
Gratitude 5.66 (.86) .32** .01 –.03 .22** .36**
Note: n = 164; **Correlation is significant at the 0.01 level (2-tailed); *Correlation
is significa n t at the 0.05 le vel (2- ta ile d).
Copyright © 2012 SciRes. 1175
Copyright © 2012 SciRes.
the degree to which they derive pleasure from work, thus mini-
mizing the role of dispositional gratitude.
The significant relationship between state gratitude and job
satisfaction suggests that organizational leaders can aim to
boost job satisfaction by regularly prompting grateful emotions.
There is convincing evidence to show gratitude interventions
promote wellbeing in many different samples and settings
(Wood et al., 2010). However, little work has been done on
organizationally-based gratitude interventions (OBGI). In
Chan’s (2010) research, employees who used a weekly grati-
tude list together with the Naiken meditation questions for an
eight-week GI reported improvements in life satisfaction and
positive affect. However, the employees engaged in the GI in
their homes rather than at work. Howell (2012) established a
year-long OBGI with teachers from two schools who formed a
gratitude group and met each week in the staffroom to explore
gratitude. Her qualitative research found that teachers in this
OBGI reported enhanced wellbeing and relationships. To date,
these are the only two published studies on OBGI’s.
However, leaders can transfer many of the existing GI’s (see
Wood et al., 2010) into a workplace context. Further ideas in-
clude gratitude boards in the staffroom, providing employees
with thank-you postcards to send home to their colleagues,
gratitude lists included in weekly meetings, gratitude awards
and other activities that are designed to orient employees to
appreciate what is good in their workplace and express grati-
tude to colleagu es .
The results also suggest that employees gain benefit, in the
form of greater job satisfaction, through belonging to a work-
place culture that endorses gratitude. This benefit operates
above and beyond the amount of gratitude an employee feels
within him/herself. Through the contagion and elevation effects,
the expression of gratitude is amplified across an organization
and reciprocally expanded, which has the potential to positively
influence job satisfaction of all employees (Emmons, 2003).
Leaders can seek to institutionalize gratitude through role mod-
elling practices such as publicly expressing gratitude in team
meetings and staff assemblies, through company reward poli-
cies, appreciative inquiry methods, and by creating thankful
relationships amongst employees. Beyond these behavioral
manifestations of gratitude, those leaders who adopt a deeper
life orientation of appreciation and move away from a deficit,
or complaint focus will be the leaders who truly inspire a cul-
ture of gratitude (Howell, 2012; Emmons, 2007).
Several methodological considerations are present in this
study. All measures were self-report which can lead to common
source bias. The study accessed employees from two sectors,
but a wider range of professions is needed in order to generalize
the results. Also, it is possible that there is a selection bias in
the sample, as the five workplaces that invited the researcher to
conduct the positive psychology training are, presumably, or-
ganizations that are receptive to promoting positive cultures,
which may mean that the effect of gratitude upon wellbeing
was stronger in the sample. Finally, the study was cross sec-
tional and cannot be used to draw conclusions about the rela-
tionships between gratitude and job satisfaction over time. The
influence of disposition may be stronger over time than at one
testing point.
In their foundational paper launching the field of positive
psychology, Seligman and Csikszentmihlyi (2000) contended
that the application of positive psychology can be used to create
“positive institutions” (p. 5). The relationship between institu-
tionalized gratitude and job satisfaction is a fruitful area for
future research towards this valuable purpose.
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