Thursday, November 29, 2012

The "Thank You" Culture

This is the time of year when our thoughts turn to those who have helped, worked hard, been thoughtful and considerate, stepped aside so others could succeed, were loyal and committed, motivated and so on.  Any sincere supervisor would feel compelled to say “thank you.”

Undoubtedly, more leaders say “thank you” during the holiday season than at any other time.  There are toasts, speeches of gratitude, hugs and lunches that celebrate the hard work of the past year.  There is no research I have discovered that validates my observations, but I'd bet the house that I am right. 

However, now comes a survey that says that not enough people say “thanks” in the office.  (I am going to assume that this does not apply to the holiday season.)  Only 10% of adults say “thanks” to a colleague every day, and just 7% express gratitude daily to a boss, says recent research by the Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM).  If the question were,  “Do you frequently thank your colleagues for a job well done?” the percentage is higher (40%)…but still nowhere near a majority.  Does anyone say “thank you” and expresses gratitude every day?  It’s clear that intra-office gratitude is not what it should be.

In the same way that people don't smile naturally in offices, “thank you” is not on the tips of their tongues.  So what are we to do about this situation?  Managers have to think of the benefits of expressing appreciation; they are nuts if they don't.  Article after article has noted that employees who feel appreciated are more loyal and productive.  Supervisors must accept this as gospel.  They should be as conscious of saying “thank you” as they are of requesting that work be done on time...or on overtime.  They must see the paycheck as the quid pro quo; "thank you" is the icing on the cake.  Supervisors should also encourage, and even orchestrate, the frontline boss to say “thank you” to those at various levels.  I generally send birthday cards to all staffers and always write a note of thanks; it is something I genuinely like to do.  But I am not calling for gushing, phony appreciation.  I am calling for sincere appreciation expressed to those who are deserving. 

You either have a "thank you" culture or you do not have a very good one.  Every CEO  knows that.  Every CEO can set the tone.  Every CEO can buck surveys that show that the workplace ranks dead last among the places that people express gratitude.  Forty-nine percent of managers believe the "thank you" culture increases profit.  That should drive every CEO and manager responsible for the bottom line. 

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