Harnessing the power of the ‘thank you’

Simon Andrew

16/02/2018
Categories: Recognition

At the Employee Experience Hackathon, I discussed how powerful the two little words “thank” and “you” really are.

When I was a kid, I went to a little school in the village of Linton, near Cambridge. It was a really nice little place with big field out back, and a small outdoor pool (complete with a film of dead bugs and no heating!). I particularly remember one cold afternoon when I was six. I had to swim once around this tiny pool. It was absolutely freezing, my body was shaking, I remember my mum there cheering me on. Eventually, I made it; everyone was happy and it was great, I’d completed one of life’s real challenges. My reward for my efforts was a cardboard certificate, shaped like a fish. But you know what, I was proud of it! I took it home, showed my brother and sister, put it on the noticeboard proudly where people could see it. It wasn’t about the value of that piece of card which, if I’d kept, could today be worth 1 maybe 2p. No, it was the sentiment. Now I’ve not gone on to be an Olympic swimmer but I do love a challenge. And I think little things like this play a part in it.

Gratitude breeds helpfulness

According to a study by Make Their Day in 2013, 83% of us say that recognition for their contribution is more fulfilling than any rewards or gifts – which explains my joy with the cardboard fish. And 76% of us find peer praise very or extremely motivating – which is something we can look into a little more. Now, no doubt you’ll work with some people who are appreciative, and some who are less so. Have noticed how much more satisfying it is to help someone when it seems to make a difference? Actually being appreciated by someone does make a big difference – particularly on our likelihood of giving them help again. According to the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, a simple thank you can make us twice as likely to help again in future.

Thank you as a relationship-builder

Expressing and receiving gratitude not only feels good, it helps us to create, establish, and maintain our existing relationships:

  • Find: the initiation of new social relationships
  • Remind: orients people to existing social relationships
  • Bind: promotes maintenance of and investment in these relationships

Think of it as a social lubricant that helps us work together and maintain our bonds.

Recognition is great for wellbeing

Perhaps most importantly, many psychologists believe that gratitude is the most essential and powerful constituent of wellbeing (according to Psychology Today). Being thanked does some wonderful things, but actually being the person who exhibits thankfulness is more beneficial still. Expressing gratitude has been proven to improve energy, enthusiasm, and determination at work, and in day-to-day life. Evidently, when we’re being thankful, we’re also generally more optimistic, we’re driven to exercise more, and we suffer fewer physical ailments. All from two little words!

Keep it simple

A ‘thank you’ doesn’t have to be fancy. A cardboard fish will do it. Even the simplest of thank yous, when given freely and regularly, can boost collaboration, culture, and wellbeing. So, let’s give our employees the chance to say, ‘thank you’ as often as they possibly can.

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