Editor's Note: Here in the U.S. it is the day after Thanksgiving. What's not to love about a holiday dedicated to gratitude? (Unless you are, like my daughter, a vegetarian who despairs that we feel compelled to celebrate the holiday by consuming an enormous bird. But anyway...) And what better way to mark the occasion here at the Cafe than by featuring a classic by our own Derek Irvine, that tireless champion of gratitude in the workplace, who shares a little research on the impact of saying "thank you."
Thank YOU, Derek. The floor is yours!
"Could I ask you a quick favor?" “Would you help me out on Project X for just a minute?” “You really know a lot about thingimajigs. Would you fix mine for me?”
Have you ever been on the receiving end of a question like these? What was your response? Did you help out? If you did, were you thanked for your effort? Or did the person just accept your help and move on? How’d that affect your desire to help again in the future?
Wonder no more. Scientists have run the studies for us, proving that receiving a simple thank you increased the likelihood of a person’s willingness to help again in the future by 100%.
Positive psychology tells us we have it within our own power to “self generate positivity whenever we choose.” That’s right. We really can choose our attitude, which affects not just us, but those around us as well.
It’s as easy as saying “thank you.” It’s as simple as saying to a peer, colleague or subordinate, “I notice you and your work. I appreciate what you do. Your efforts are valuable to me, to the team, to the company if we are to succeed.”
What’s the impact of actually extending and expressing gratitude? Studies published in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology and discussed on PsyBlog tell us:
“Studies have suggested that being grateful can improve well-being, physical health, can strengthen social relationships, produce positive emotional states and help us cope with stressful times in our lives.
“But we also say thank you because we want the other person to know we value what they've done for us and, maybe, encourage them to help us again in the future. …
“Those who were thanked were more willing to provide further assistance. Indeed the effect of ‘thank you’ was quite substantial: while only 32% of participants receiving the neutral email helped with the second letter, when Eric expressed his gratitude, this went up to 66%.”
If you would just tell me “thanks” for what I did, I’ll happily do it again. It’s that simple. But too many leaders and managers still refuse to do so in the workplace, citing: “But it’s their job to do it. They get paid for it. That’s thanks enough.”
What Value Do I Bring?
Even more interesting, researchers found it wasn’t selfish reasons driving the need to be thanked – not, “Notice me!” but “Oh, good. I’m not bothering you.” (From the same report):
“In fact the experimenters found that people weren’t providing more help because they felt better or it boosted their self-esteem, but because they appreciated being needed and felt more socially valued when they’d been thanked.
“This feeling of social worth helps people get over factors that stop us helping. We are often unsure our help is really wanted and we know that accepting help from others can feel like a failure. The act of saying thank you reassures the helper that their help is valued and motivates them to provide more.”
That’s right. People need to be thanked so they know what they’re doing is valuable, especially in cases where they are helping someone else. This has particular ramifications if you’re trying to foster an environment of teamwork and collaboration.
Encourage peers to thank each other for their contributions and their help. You may be astounded by the positive impact on “teamwork” in your organization.
As Globoforce’s Vice President of Client Strategy and Consulting, Derek Irvine is an internationally minded management professional with over 20 years of experience helping global companies set a higher ambition for global strategic employee recognition, leading workshops, strategy meetings and industry sessions around the world. He is the co-author of "The Power of Thanks" and his articles on fostering and managing a culture of appreciation through strategic recognition have been published in Businessweek, Workspan and HR Management. Derek splits his time between Dublin and Boston. Follow Derek on Twitter at @DerekIrvine.