“Thank you.” Two small words with a tremendous positive impact on people.
Growing up in Nashville, Tennessee, I was taught from a very early age that is was good manners to say “Thank you,” but truthfully I had no idea what kind of impact those words had on others until I began learning how to be a better leader in business and in my life. Since then, I’ve learned that “thank you” is more than manners—it is a form of recognition and appreciation.
In the last ten to fifteen years, gratitude has gotten a lot of press. Study after study has proven that being grateful in your personal life can increase your happiness exponentially. And in 2012, a gratitude study commissioned by the John Templeton Foundation found that expressing gratitude at work was just as powerful—and that it is a great predictor for success. 81% of respondents, in fact, said they would work harder if their boss expressed gratitude towards them at work.
Unfortunately, this same study found that over 70% of people in the workplace never express appreciation to their co-workers (leaders, peers, and employees)—and, just as discouraging, in a 2015 Interact/Harris poll of 1000 workers, 63% of respondents said that their number one complaint about leadership was a failure to recognize employee achievements. Together, these findings suggest that we are not using the power of expressing appreciation at work in the way we should.
Clearly, our work environments can benefit from a big dose of gratitude and thanks being infused into them. People leaders can do this in three ways:
#1: Use “thank you” as recognition.
Companies spends millions of dollars on formal recognition programs that include earning perks—travel, bonuses, and shopping sprees, for example—that are intended to be an “atta boy” or “atta girl” for a job well done. But recognizing people for their efforts does not have to be done with material things. People want to know they have made a real difference, and nothing delivers this message better than an authentic and heartfelt “thank you.” Note, however, that this can’t be just a passing “thanks”—it needs to be a personalized expression and recognition of the hard work that the individual put their time, talent, and heart into. Be specific; highlight the individual’s unique contributions. You might say, for instance, “I appreciate the time and effort you put into completing that customer presentation. You finished it on time and met all the requirements I gave you as I expected.” People love for others to see their accomplishments, so while this is effective when done one on one, it can be doubly so if you do it in front of peers or other leaders.
#2: Encourage gratitude in your team.
Just as it is important for leaders to express appreciation to their team members, peers need to do the same with one another. People leaders encourage their team members to express gratitude to their co-workers. Share with individuals the impact that “thank you” can have on people’s lives, as well as the success of your organization. Teach them how gratitude not only makes others feel happier and valued, it also builds a sense of community and trust among team members. Achieving goals, especially during difficult times, is always less stressful when the members of a team feel connected to one another.
#3: Hold gratitude sessions with your team.
This is a quick and easy way to keep gratitude at the forefront of people’s minds. Pick a time—once a week, once a month, or even once a quarter—to let each person reflect upon and share about what they are grateful for in their lives. This includes their personal and work life. When you shift focus from the stress of the job or what is going wrong to what is going right or what someone appreciates, people’s negative energies, attitudes, and mindsets transform into peace, happiness, and possibility.
When people feel appreciated at work and can focus on what they are thankful for, their happiness and productivity increases dramatically. So try using “thank you” a little more often at work. You’ll be amazed at how those two small words guarantee better performance for your team.
Reflection Question: How often do you say “Thank you” at work? What impact does it have on your team? Share your answers in the comments section below.