Seems like there’s more to saying thank you than just good manners. Hearing those words can make all the difference in how your employees view their work and you as their boss.
“Being appreciated is one of the great motivators on the job, even better than money,” Janice Kaplan, author of The Gratitude Diaries, wrote in the Wall Street Journal. “… We give our best effort if the work gets us interested and excited, if we feel that it’s providing meaning and purpose, and if others appreciate what we’re doing.”
“[Saying thank you] is a clear and direct means to express gratitude to your staff,” says Dave Skibinki, CEO of SnapMD, a virtual care management software company. “Every business owner has limited resources to compensate their employees for their work, but every business owner has an unlimited supply of thank you's. Second, every business survives due to its customers. If you are in the habit of saying thank you to your staff, they can then say thank you to customers. You are in essence creating a culture of gratitude. That's a good thing for any business.”
A Gratitude Drought
But for all the benefits of being thanked, it seems as though we’re in a gratitude drought: It appears people are loathe to say thank you or express gratitude at work, according to findings in a 2012 gratitude poll Kaplan cites consisting of more than 2,000 online interviews.
“When asked how grateful they are for a variety of things, ‘your current job’ finished dead last, with only 39 percent expressing gratitude for their current work,” the John Templeton Foundation study found. It may have to do with those polled feeling unappreciated by their boss: Seventy percent of those interviewed said they “would feel better about themselves if their boss were more grateful,” and 81 percent would “work harder for a more grateful boss.”
But it’s not as simple as just saying or emailing those two words to your team. There has to be sincerity behind the message. Various studies on gratitude have borne this out, including a 2014 small study of 70 college students, which showed gratitude can create new relationships. Undergraduates who reviewed pretend mentees' college essays and received the following enthusiastic note—“Thank you SO much for all the time and effort you put into doing that for me!”—were more likely to want to continue to help their mentee than the other half whose notes didn’t express gratitude.
The Power Thank You
You can take your thank you's to the next level with what business psychiatrist and CEO Mark Goulston calls "the power thank you.” Be specific about what you’re thanking someone for, acknowledge the amount of effort that went into what they did, and “tell them what it personally meant to you,” he writes.
“Just make it a priority,” Skibinki says. “Our parents taught us please and thank you; I don't believe anyone will tire of a manager or executive saying please and thank you.”
An added bonus: Expressing gratitude makes you feel good about yourself, too, according to the 2012 gratitude report. So saying “thank you” is really the gift that keeps on giving for small-business owners.
Read more articles about motivating employees.