2012 year end


Two year-end social media notes, one professional and one personal. (At least to the diminishing extent that those realms are distinct from one another).

On the professional front, I’m happy to share that Universal Studios Hollywood made one of Facebook’s 2012 Trends top 10 lists, in the Check-Ins category.

Facebook 2012 Trends - Check-ins

On a personal note, I’d like to extend a very sincere thank-you to everyone who has taken time to read posts on this blog. I’ve been touched by how many people from different parts of the world have visited The Contrast Principle since I started it in September. I’ve received a lot of words of encouragement and great feedback, including many thoughtful comments that have added to post topics.

After years of telling my wife I was considering starting a new blog and once a week saying “that’d make a good post,” I finally committed myself to the effort. I’ve really enjoyed the process and am looking forward to continuing in 2013.

Thank you in advance for your continued interest and support.

And, more importantly, best wishes to you and yours for a wonderful New Year!

— Josh Cole, 12/31/12

Our moms were right, part 2

Thank You image (by woodleywonderworks)My previous post about the shortage of thank-yous in the workplace was spurred by a Wall Street Journal article (titled “Showing Appreciation at the Office? No, Thanks”) listing a variety of fears and concerns that cause some managers to withhold expressions of gratitude.

One of the fears discussed was that of embarrassing employees, since some people dislike being thanked in group settings or even in private.

I believe the article really exaggerated the extent of this potential risk while ignoring a related consideration that’s much more important.

While people with a distaste for being thanked exist, it’s safe to say they’re a very small minority. And it probably doesn’t require extraordinary skills of perception for a manager to realize if one of those people is amongst their ranks.

The risk of accidentally embarrassing one of these people is greatly outweighed by the benefits of thanking everyone else.

In addition, I’m willing to bet that for most of the “don’t thank me” people, their biggest issues are with public attention and insincerity; but if gratitude is expressed in private, with tact and when truly merited, it will be appreciated.

The real risk of public thank-yous

From my observation, the much more relevant potential pitfall of public thank-yous:  the risk of perceived exclusion. For every person thanked, there’s often someone (or someones) thinking, “what about me? I contributed to that the effort, too.”

Perhaps a key consideration is that whenever you thank someone in a group setting, it’s a good idea to include a comment along the lines of:  “and I know John had support in making this happen, so if you’re one of the people who helped, thank you, too.”

The fear of embarrassing people is not a good reason to withhold expressions of gratitude when the vast majority of people want them.  Plus, per my previous post, it’s healthy to say thanks.

Our moms were right

By the G™ Used under the Creative Commons Attribution license

Have you had the feeling that thank-yous are relatively rare at the office?

If yes, apparently you’re not alone. And apparently you might be right.

According to a recent Wall St. Journal article, “The workplace ranks dead last among the places people express gratitude…”

The article — written by Sue Shellenbarger and titled “Showing Appreciation at the Office? No, Thanks” — discussed research indicating that “employees who feel appreciated are more productive and loyal. But that message hasn’t yet reached many of those in charge.”

Why the lack of thank-yous?

According to the article, mainly fear and insecurity:

•    Fear of appearing awkward or insincere
•    Fear of inflating employees’ egos
•    Fear of embarrassing employees
•    The feeling that critiquing employees, not thanking them, makes one appear more ‘in charge’

Also referenced was the topic of cascading bad behavior:  nobody thanks me, so why should I thank my employees?

In a perfect work world…

Ideally all people promoted into managerial roles would be able to set aside insecurities and pettiness and would treat employees in a way that makes them feel appreciated.

But in reality…

While some managers consistently act in this manner, many do not. (Or maybe the majority do not, from what the research referenced in the article indicates.)

It’s likely that a good number of managers intellectually understand the benefits of a workplace culture of gratitude but in practice do not consistently contribute to creating one.

But there are many reasons they should, including:

1.    It’s polite

Our mothers were right.

2.    It feels good

It’s like all the studies that show giving gifts can feel as good as receiving them. When someone does something well and you look him/her in the eyes and express a genuine thank-you, it just feels right.

3.    It’s healthy

There is a growing body of research focused on the health benefits – both physical and emotional – of being thankful.  According to Harvard Health Publications (Harvard Medical School), “most of the studies published on this topic support an association between gratitude and an individual’s well-being.”

4.    It’s good management

Expressing appreciation helps lead to happier employees, higher productivity and less turnover.

Thinking that saying “thank you” is a risk because the recipient of the praise might feel overly important and ask for a raise – which is one of the fears the WSJ article referenced – is shortsighted and/or cowardly.

Would those managers rather have employees who feel their contributions are taken for granted?

A manager who thinks a subordinate or colleague doesn’t notice (or doesn’t mind) the slight of withheld thank-yous is kidding him/herself. People do notice, and employees who feel unappreciated would rather work for someone else.

And the employees who most frequently deserve sincere thank-yous are typically the ones the company would least want to lose.

Happy holidays and, speaking of appreciation, thank you for reading this post.