The power of saying “thank you” in the workplace
Interacting with others also implies nurturing the desire to be acknowledged and genuinely appreciated by others for what we do. We want to know that our work is valued, taken seriously and recognised by others and studies have found that that job dissatisfaction is closely related to feeling unacknowledged, undervalued and unappreciated.
Yet it is equally true that despite our desire to be appreciated,
on average, we spend little time expressing our personal gratitude for what others do for us at work, often neglecting to say “thank you”
The word gratitude is on everyone’s lips these days and is considered to be a fundamental component of well-being. Initially confined to religious or spiritual contexts, today gratitude is studied in the world’s leading universities by psychologists and organisation experts, precisely to understand the power and impact it can have on the quality of collaboration at work.
Most scientific studies bear out the belief that cultivating and expressing a sense of gratitude has the power to strengthen collaborative ties, reinforces the sense of belonging and fosters a positive spirit of collaboration.
In essence, by simply saying “thank you”, we all have the power to make a positive impact on our working environment.
Gratitude generates positive emotions, strengthens relationships and helps people face difficulties. In addition, scientific studies demonstrate that showing gratitude promotes a more marked, generalised climate of helpfulness towards others, not just towards the person who expressed gratitude.
How can merely saying “thank you” be a truly powerful expression of gratitude?
If we use this word only as a form of courtesy and good manners, rest assured that our thanks will be of little benefit to others.
To become powerful, you need to thank people sincerely, explaining what you are thanking them for, rather than doing so in a formal, generic way.
A “thank you” supported by reasons (thank you because…) undoubtedly produces a much greater feeling of satisfaction because it is clearly linked to something done well and makes the recipient feel appreciated for their unique qualities.
In other words, we express sincere gratitude when we acknowledge what a single person (or group) has done and how they did it:
- it has a significant value for me and it makes me feel good because it has had a positive impact on my work;
- I don’t take your work for granted nor consider it a duty, because it goes beyond the level of commitment I require and the expectations I usually have of that person or group.
It goes without saying that expressing gratitude in this way is more demanding than just saying two words. You need to reflect upon exactly what you want to say to the other person, but it can turn out to be an excellent investment of your time and it would be interesting to experiment along these lines.
Gratitude is a skill that can be cultivated and trained over time and there are several suggestions on how to go about it, even if we only devote a few minutes of our working day to cultivating gratitude.
MAKE A LIST
The first step can be to make out a list of the people and things we are grateful for at work, because we acknowledge what they do and their successes also depend directly or indirectly on our input.
To give an example, my list includes colleagues who have supported me through difficult times, mentors who have given me new motivation, books that have encouraged me to develop new skills, my university which gave me basic knowledge and triggered my interest in the areas I deal in, organisations that trusted me with key roles, and so on.
Creating a similar list and adding to it periodically can already be an excellent investment as it helps us to develop an interior sense of gratitude whilst feeling immediately comforted by thought of all the things we have and have had.
The next step can be deciding to actually thank someone on our list and thinking of how to express our gratitude, by thinking of the precise words and method, for example, by meeting, phoning or emailing them.
Here too, a useful exercise is to try and dedicate some time to preparing an effective “thank you”. This could take the form of a compliment or passing on the comments of a grateful client (for example: “the client told me he finds our quote to be very competitive”) or else sharing appreciation for the work of one person with the entire team, perhaps because he/she is the leader or because one of the team was responsible for a project that was appreciated by others (for instance: “the client told me that the products we sent were impeccable and I know that this is thanks to the work of each and every one of you”).
Practising these gratitude exercises will also make you more mindful of what you have, reminding you to take less for granted and that merely focusing on and appreciating what we have already will generate a feeling of well-being. This is preferable to relying on our future well-being and something we don’t yet have for our happiness (this way, we will be happy now and feel like “singing in the rain, despite the rain…”).
Setting ourselves challenges and planning for the future is vital, but it is equally important to recognise and accept what we have in the present moment, including our strengths and everything we have already achieved by ourselves or with help.
One a more general note, some believe that gratitude is the route to happiness, and that grateful people are the happiest people, though the opposite is not always true: you do not need to be happy to show gratitude.
Anyone interested in the general effect that gratitude can have on our lives, should watch a wonderful TED talk by David Steindl Rast who, in only 15 minutes, talks convincingly about the importance of developing the art of gratitude and the role it can have in our lives.
Needless to say, gratitude is not a panacea for all evils, but it is a key part of mutual respect and can really exert a tremendous influence over ourselves and other people. Certainly if everyone demonstrated more gratitude at work, there would be benefits all round.
WHAT ABOUT YOU?
What can you do to make gratitude a part of your daily work routine?
How do you express your gratitude to others at work?
Who would you like to thank at work?
“Expressing gratitude is a pleasure and acting as a grateful person is a form of generosity.”