For Happier Employees, Learn To Give More Gratitude Than "Thx"

We all know happier companies make more money—and nothing makes for happier employees than learning how to show real gratitude for what they do. Here are some pointers to get you started today.

Do you suffer from Gratitude Deficit Disorder? If you're like the executives that Mark Goulston's been running into, you might.

At Harvard Business Review, the business psychiatrist admonishes executives for viewing their teams—especially their assistants—as "appliances." But unlike the Kenmore in the kitchen, your direct reports have interior lives, and the pay and benefits of the gig may not be enough for them to feel fulfilled. As with other mammals, humans need to feel social connections to do their best work.

Call it the "contented cows give better milk" school of leadership: As has been detailed, the happiest companies are often the most profitable and firms with highly sustainable engagement have three times the operating margin of their less-engaged peers. And expressing gratitude is a reciprocal behavior, meaning that the thanked person is more likely to help the thanker—and less likely to join another company, key for building employee engagement.

How to really say thank you

Goulston lays out three steps for getting good at giving gratitude:

  1. Be precise: Thank the person specifically for their exceptional actions: Tell them what they're doing awesome.
  2. Acknowledge the effort: Note the personal cost of their getting it done. If they work through the weekend, appreciate the social and family costs.
  3. Share your stakeholdership: Make a point of how their great work helps your work, show how you're in this together.
Developing a sense of how to show gratitude is a leadership key—one that can help you (and your employees) reach their potential.

How to Give a Meaningful "Thank You"

Drake Baer covers leadership for Fast Company. You can follow him on Twitter.

[Image: Flickr user Courtney Rhodes]

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  • 360 Degrees, LLC

    I agree with showing gratitude. And even more, a small symbolic gift, i.e. lunch, once in a while (not to be confused with "bonuses" works wonders in employee morale as well.


    "Acknowledge the effort: Note the personal cost of their getting it done. If they work through the weekend, appreciate the social and family costs."
    Great idea - but how (practically) are you going to "appreciate the social and family costs?"

    I fully appreciate the power and importance of a genuine "Thank you" - but will this be enough in the long term?

  • Corinna Frattini

    It's so unbelievably simple to provide a genuine thank you and provide immediate feedback simultaneously.  It's also probably much more effective and less costly than any under-utilized Rewards and Recognition program.

    This is a quick win for new managers to learn and use (but please use authentically)!

  • Amber King

    Show gratitude like you mean it. Sometimes people say thank you because they are expected to. A sincere thank you is better than the monetary incentive. An appreciated employee will do more than do a god job, they will give you loyalty.