Article Date: 11/1/2003

Isn't It Enough to Say, "Thank You?"
If you can put a price on something such as gratitude, then by all means do it.

At whatever straws we must grasp, there is always a time for gratitude and new beginnings.
-- J. Robert Moskin

As Thanksgiving approaches, I'll share some thoughts about gratitude. The first comes from a book on leadership. It reveals that one effective way to motivate staff is to give thanks for work completed. The author claims that the "thank you" leaves staff feeling positive, so chances are they'll feel more energized when taking on new challenges.

Good job = more work

So I began motivating staff members with thanks. The staff became suspicious. Why was it that every time I thanked someone, that person ended up with a new project?

Curious conversations followed. "Thanks for the great job on the Pilgrim project," I said.

"Uh, you're welcome," said Bob. "Boy, I gotta run. I've been so busy -- lots of work. Geez, you couldn't fit another thing on my plate."

"Is there anything I can do?"

"Just don't thank me again."

Don't hold back

Sure, I could have learned by listening to my staff, but it was much easier to read a second book on management. It urged me not to save my thanks for special occasions, but to be unconditional with my gratitude. More curious conversations ensued.

"I finished filing," said a staffer.

"Thank you," I replied.

"And I contacted the vendors."

"Thank you."

"And I backed into your car at lunch time. I think it's totaled."

"Thank you."

In no time, people understood that my "thank you" meant little because they were automatic, not sincere.

Around that time an associate took me aside. He suggested that when I thank people, I make it meaningful and share why it is that I'm grateful.

Give them a reason

So I explained and quantified my thanks when I could. "Thanks for consolidating the files," I might say. "By having all of our information in one area, we'll eliminate confusion and duplicate records. This will save us a lot of time."

By putting a value on an achievement ("this process will save us $ _"), the staff understood my gratitude.

I've heard critics ask why we should thank staff for doing what they're supposed to be doing, and I can think of only one answer: It's a small price to pay to the people who contribute to our success.


Optometric Management, Issue: November 2003