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.

8 thoughts on “Our moms were right

  1. I find comprehensive feedback is the best practice and agree that the positive/thank-you side of the equation is the most often under utilized. Expressing gratitude is key and needs to be balanced against honest and direct feedback when something or someone is falling short of expectations.

  2. I totally agree and have found personally the handwritten notes I’ve written to others professionally have the most impact. Just because it takes a little more effort than sending an email and the “retro” effect of something handwritten seems to go a long way.

Add a comment

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s