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3 Reasons Why Silicon Valley Needs to Create a Gratitude Intelligent Workforce and How Neuroscience Can Help

Reason # 1 Entitlement

Reason # 2 Sense of Entitlement

Reason # 3 Overly High Sense of Entitlement


Editorial Note: This article applies to any organization seeking to improve employee engagement and create a more positive and healthy work environment.

It’s commonplace to read an article, blog or opinion column about Silicon Valley with multiple references to a sense of entitlement, astronomical sign-on bonuses, brilliant jerks, and lavish perks and freebies. More frequent references, however, focus on scandals, sexism, lack of diversity, and bruising cultures of fear and aggressiveness.

Additionally, a growing number of articles and insiders highlight the necessity to pull back on these perks and privileges, referencing unrestrained expenditures and high remuneration packages as unsustainable, short-term strategies at best, and likely to lead to higher levels of disengagement.

In a Fast Company article, CEO of Rocketrip, Dan Ruch stated, “many companies approached perks incorrectly from the outset, focusing on universal entitlements with questionable return. And instead, “perks should be conditioned on behaviors that make the perks sustainable in the first place.”

Sustainability of any kind, is always difficult to achieve. In techie terms, Apple knows about sustainability when it comes to customer engagement, satisfaction and loyalty. In terms of organizational sustainability, employee engagement and a healthy work environment are essential to talent management, performance, and productivity.

We’ve all read about the dismal condition of employee engagement. According to the 2017 world-wide Gallup poll, 85% of employees are not engaged or actively disengaged at work! If there is a retraction of bonuses, perks, toys, etc., as the current trend indicates, the lost sense of entitlement will likely unleash a torrent of negative emotions such as distrust, resentment, envy, and denial (to name a few). Quite possibly, some form of corporate sabotage.

Several years ago, while coaching a leadership team, their parking privileges were taken away due to budget tightening. The sense of betrayal and loss of productivity was staggering. To this day, the topic still comes up as unfair and uncaring.

So, why create a gratitude intelligent workforce? And, what does that have to do with the entitlement culture and behaviors in Silicon Valley? Here’s a hint – entitlement is considered the greatest obstacle to practicing gratitude.

“What separates privilege from entitlement is gratitude.” – Brené Brown

Starting with gratitude is based on science and a burgeoning body of research. The evidence-based correlates of gratitude and neuroscience are proving to be essential in building trust and positively impacting engagement, loyalty, and organizational results. When expressing gratitude, there’s a built-in (neural) reciprocity and a release of powerful (good) neurochemicals. And, thanks to our brains plasticity, practicing gratitude strengthens neural pathways that help us recognize all that we have to be grateful for, instead of feeling entitled to what we don’t have. Read more about The Neuroscience of Gratitude, and the many benefits realized from building organizational frameworks around this new neural knowledge.

The research also informs us that creating a gratitude intelligent workforce starts at the top. Silicon Valley CEO’s must get in front of the inevitable and build or strengthen the foundation of a more healthy and positive work environment. Leaders should identify and endorse this cultural shift to be as valuable and as important as the core skills that got them where they are today.

Last year, Fast Company published, The Science of Gratitude And Why It’s Important In Your Workplace. It’s one of numerous articles and countless studies highlighting the benefits of gratitude in a work environment. Research has shown these benefits to specifically include: improved corporate culture; stronger teamwork; a better motivator than MONEY; more pro-social behaviors; greater resilience to stress; and, greater engagement and job satisfaction.

Creating a gratitude intelligent workforce will require:

  • Facilitating a strong alignment of company and individual values (because genuine gratitude is values-based);
  • Creating a robust orientation to an “at my best” strengths-based performance, for every employee, regardless of position;
  • Identifying company-wide strategies and actions to enhance gratitude as a fundamental attribute of a positive and healthy work environment;
  • Expanding to all cross-functional teams.

In implementing all the above, stay true to the creativity and innovation that has yielded success in the past, adapt it to your language, and expand in the added context of upskilling and wellbeing.

Of course, it’s not Silicon Valley alone that will benefit from creating a gratitude intelligent workforce. Look anywhere entitlement or materialism impedes engagement and performance. This includes all industries, professions, and amateur and professional sports enterprises. If extrinsic motivation or the “carrot and stick” approach is the norm in your organization, consider how you can prepare for the loss of entitlements. The “contingency” rewards used to attract talent, ultimately takes away a measure of autonomy from employees. And, autonomy, is a primary driver of intrinsic motivation. Pick up any case study on extrinsic motivation, based on monetary rewards, and there’s proof that its detrimental to moral, employee engagement is unsustainable, and in the long run, equates to loss of productivity and poor financial performance.

Think about gratitude as the Next Gen of Employee Engagement. The future may belong to artificial intelligence, but to thrive as human intelligence, let’s start now to build a gratitude intelligent workforce.


“No one who achieves success does so without acknowledging the help of others. The wise and confident acknowledge this help with gratitude.”  – Alfred North Whitehead



Photo by: Alex Knight, Upsplash


Want to build a more gratitude intelligent workforce? To learn more, contact us at lburton@drwcoaching.com or call 410.750.8335


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