Gratitude in the Workplace…Really?!

Recently, one of my clients was quoted in the Wall Street Journal relative to how companies and employers give thanks to their employees. Research has shown that employees who feel appreciated are more productive and loyal. Yet, amazingly, that message hasn’t reached many of those in charge. The article states that some bosses are afraid employees will take advantage of them if they heap on the gratitude. Other managers believe in thank-yous yet are nervous about appearing awkward or insincere—or embarrassing the employee they wish to praise.

Frankly, I don’t get it – yet this particular article unquestionably states that “saying thanks” is in a downward spiral. In fact, the WSJ states that only 10% of adults say thanks to a colleague every day, and just 7% express gratitude daily to a boss, according to a survey this year of 2,007 people for the John Templeton Foundation of West Conshohocken, Pa., a nonprofit organization that sponsors research on creativity, gratitude, freedom and other topics. In fact, some folks think that the paycheck they pay their employees is all the thanks they deserve. What is up with that?!

I am pleased to say that my client, Greg Peel, disagrees with this philosophy, and was singled out for the creative ways in which he recognizes his team members. Sure, it goes without saying that folks like financial reward and appreciation; yet, how else can we show our gratitude to those with which we work? Greg offers notes to family, parents, spouses, and even children that show respect and gratitude in very authentic and sincere ways. Imagine how you would feel if your parents got a note from your manager offering their thanks; and what an incredible role model and cascade of positive events this could create if you sent a note to your employee’s children or spouse about the job they are doing?

For those with whom I have worked, you know how I much I value the concept of gratitude. For me, it is the fuel for the car. However, from my perspective, there are a few salient points relative to showing appreciation:

  • False praise dilutes the power. Only give thanks and praise when you really mean it. Period.
  • Be specific in what you are praising. Broad brush commentary comes up empty.
  • Lose the “but” and add the “and.” The adage that when we say “but” everything said before it is lost – is often quite true. Example: “Tom, you did a great job with the sales presentation BUT,…” I can assure you, Tom is focused on everything following the “but” and didn’t really hear the good stuff. If you want to offer constructive feedback, either choose to offer this independently from the compliment OR simply say it in an inclusive way. Example: “Tom, you did a great job on the sales presentation, AND with that incredible creativity I could see you really building on your message for the final presentation.”
  • I will say this again: be sincere and authentic. Manipulation through compliments and praise is always discovered. Be genuine. You know when someone is playing you – so do they. So, if you can’t honestly give praise, do not say anything.
  • Finally, do not underestimate the power of a simple, sincere thank you. Regardless of the job a person is being paid to do, embracing the “platinum rule” when it comes to showing gratitude can make all the difference in how folks respond to what they are being asked to do. “Treat others the way they would wish to be treated – not how YOU would wish to be treated, how THEY would wish to be treated.” So think about and pay attention to how they would like to be shown thanks – and when in doubt, ASK!

As my parents taught my sister and I growing up, three of the most powerful words in the English language are: Please and THANK YOU! This concept does not stop a the door of business.

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