Thanks for your thanks

What's one of the simplest things you could do to give your direct reports, colleagues or even manager, a huge lift? Answer? Acknowledge their good work.

A few years ago I worked at a small consultancy - while I loved what I did, and had great relationships with clients and colleagues, six months in I began to notice that I was not receiving ANY feedback from the boss. Clearly he had the capacity, because he assiduously cultivated relationships with clients and external agencies, and he was good at it. And it wasn't personal; he didn't thank any of my colleagues either - he seemed to operate on a policy of keeping us all humble by withholding the love.

As with personal relationships, the withholding of positive attention lead to me building up a great big store of resentment, and chipped away at my enthusiasm till I lost all regard for him - and I left. A shame, because it was a great job and a fantastic company.

Wanting appreciation isn't neediness; it's a bog-standard human condition that contributes to  healthy pride and self-esteem and results in productivity, commitment and integrity. When I joined the next consultancy, my heart nearly burst when they began to acknowledge my efforts with authentic gratitude. 

Through this period I realised that rather than shrink to smallness waiting for a 'thank you', it's probably best to ask for it directly (with an open mind) - it's unrealistic to have unspoken expectations of people who are, at their core, clueless (or worse).

And don't forget, your manager and colleagues will probably also want to hear your kind words when you appreciate something they've done.

For those of you that need to know how to express appreciation - it's not difficult or complicated, but it must be real. Here are some examples:

Keith, thanks for those ideas on social media - we talked about them at the marketing meeting, and they're 'all go'.
Helen that was a great presentation, the audience looked super engaged, and there were lots of nods. Looking forward to seeing the formal feedback, but think it will be good.
Bruce just wanted to say thanks for all your good work, sincerely - it's appreciated.
Melanie, your client has just passed on some great feedback on your adaptability. Thank you for working your magic - we all appreciate it.

Nope, it's not difficult - and while employees will continue to value money, autonomy and interesting work - beneath it all a little thank you can have lasting, positive, implications.

Additional reading:

Why appreciation matters so much

Why saying 'thank you' is more important than giving employees a raise

Keeping the right people - employee recognition

and finally, a really, really lovely book on appreciation (nothing to do with employees - everything to do with life) which is Oliver Sack's Gratitude, which I wrote about here.

Image by Morgan Sessions via Unsplash


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