I used to have a boss who said that, “you know you’re doing a good job if you don’t hear from me.” It was a ridiculous management style and very short-sighted. I know many of you have had similar bosses. It might even be your own philosophy – that you don’t have the time to say thanks for a job well done. Even more prevalent among leaders I have spoken to is that saying thanks to someone for what they’re supposed to already be doing is cumbersome and the employee shouldn’t need it. Our brain’s biological need for acceptance and appreciation says that is wrong and a lot of productivity is being left on the table just because a leader can’t get a crow bar out and pry open their mouths to say a sincere “thank you.”
Leaders I know are looking for ways to increase productivity any way they can – for their employees as well as themselves. While there are several prioritization tools and time management processes that help to that end, neither of those rely as heavily on our brain’s need to fit in socially than one of the greatest productivity tools around – simply saying “thank you” and meaning it.
Some proof: Adam Grant from the Wharton School of Business and co-researcher Francesca Gino from the University of North Carolina’s Kenan-Flagler Business School* found that, as they put it, “a little thanks goes a long way.” They discovered in experiments that simply expressing thanks in a sincere manner, that helpers were twice as likely to return the favor as well as do a favor for someone else. Also, voicing thanks increased the amount of time a helper would spend helping by an average of 15%. And in an experiment with college fundraisers, that has enormous implications for sales results: sincere gratitude created staggering results of 50% increases in the number of calls a fundraiser would make in a week.
It’s not that hard to get in the habit of using a little civility. Add please to your requests and finish them off with a thank you. Seems simple. Big ideas always are.
*Adam M. Grant and Francesca Gino. “A little thanks goes a long way: Explaining why gratitude expressions motivate prosocial behavior.” Journal of personality and social psychology 98, no. 6 (2010): 946.