WSU Student Receives International Award for Thesis on Gratitude in the Workplace

OGDEN, Utah — “Thank you.” It’s a simple phrase in the English language and one that can have great impact on employees in the workplace. This was the topic of an international award-winning thesis written by a recent Weber State University graduate.

Crystalee Beck, who graduated with a master’s degree in professional communication at WSU in April, won the award for best theoretical paper at the Corporate Communication International Conference on Corporate Communication held in Hong Kong in June.  She also received a commendation for best presenter. The paper, “Perceptions of Thanks in the Workplace,” explored gratitude and how managers can best show their appreciation to employees.

Her survey of 900 employees found that 28.2 percent of employees prefer verbal, one-on-one appreciation as their favorite medium of receiving gratitude. Monetary bonuses ranked second at 25 percent. Employees were also asked how frequently they like to receive praise and about potential negative effects of over-communicating or withholding praise. Information was gathered using online surveys and focus groups. Those surveyed were recruited via online social networks.

For Beck, gratitude has always been an important principle. She got the idea for her thesis as she reflected on an unexpected thank-you note she received from her boss.

“I received an email thank you from MarketStar's chief information officer at the time, who thanked me for my efforts as the social community manager in the launch of our social intranet,” Beck said. “Personally, it felt like a million bucks that she took the time to send me an unexpected note. I printed it out and pasted it in my journal, it meant so much.”

Beck conducted the research for her master’s thesis, and through her extensive interviews, learned what employees appreciate most. “I was surprised at how important it is to give one-on-one verbal appreciation to employees,” Beck said. “It was really close, but verbal appreciation even beat out monetary rewards in terms of the top things that employees prefer. It’s important to people to feel that they work with someone who is authentic and who values them.”

Beck was one of four award recipients at the conference. Two of the recipients were doctoral students and the other was a fellow master’s student. Beck received the Lindquist Student Fellowship from the WSU College of Arts & Humanities, which allowed her to travel to the conference. She never anticipated that she would be an award recipient.

“I was in shock that I was able to have that opportunity,” Beck said. “I know it might sound cheesy when the paper itself was on gratitude, but that was the biggest thing I felt, gratitude and surprise to attend.”

Beck worked closely with WSU communication professors Sheree Josephson and Susan Hafen, who helped her interpret the data from her interviews. Beck said she couldn’t have completed her work without the one-on-one help from her professors.

“It is a testament to the Master of Professional Communication program, which emphasizes real-world applied knowledge, that its students also gain a solid grasp of theory and can apply it to their professional lives,” said Josephson, the chair of WSU’s communication department. “It was rewarding and fun to mentor such an incredible young professional and now scholar.”

As Beck reflected on her experiences at WSU, she said that she is not the same person she was two years ago.

“I am definitely coming away from Weber State instilled with more confidence in my abilities as a professional communicator. For me, the capstone experience was writing this thesis and presenting it at an international conference.”

Beck plans to earn a Ph.D. and has goals to write books, teach communication and gain more experience in the workplace. For now, she is concentrating on a newborn and letting her recent success sink in.

“I had a goal of eventually presenting and being published, but to have it to be on that scale, it was even beyond my own dreams,” Beck said. “I am coming away feeling empowered to continue to surprise myself. I want to be a contributor, whether that is in a professional or an academic sphere.”

Beck will submit her thesis to the Corporate Communication International Journal.

For more information on WSU’s communication department, visit For more information on Corporate Communication International, visit

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For high-resolution photos, visit the following links:
Crystalee Beck, WSU Master of Professional Communication graduate
801-440-5321 •
Sheree Josephson, WSU Department of Communication chair
801-626-6164 •
Marcus Jensen, Office of Marketing & Communications
801-626-7295 •