Most of us learned to say thank you at an early age. Our parents, caregivers, elementary school teachers, and other adults would often tack on a "what do you say?" after we received something. While the drills should make saying thanks an almost involuntary response in any situation where you are the recipient, an expression of gratitude—especially at work—can be hard to come by.
A survey of just over 2,000 people conducted in 2012 revealed that only 10% reported saying thanks to a colleague every day, and 7% to a boss. The survey from the John Templeton Foundation, a nonprofit research organization, found that 60% of respondents said they "either never express gratitude at work or do so perhaps once a year."
These "little" expressions still have a big impact. A new survey from cloud consultancy Appirio found that 60% of job seekers said they cared the most about whether the staff at their prospective employer felt appreciated. In comparison, only 5% said it was most important to know how fast they could get promoted, and just 4% were most concerned with knowing how often employees were evaluated for raises.
The same survey found that the majority (65%) of the 657 respondents stated their worst bosses were those who "never gave credit where credit was due" or "rarely gave verbal praise or support."
Saying thank you to staff or coworkers is also beneficial to your health. In a meta-analysis of several studies, Harvard Health found: "gratitude helps people feel more positive emotions, relish good experiences, improve their health, deal with adversity, and build strong relationships."
There’s a business case to be made for saying thanks, too. The same Harvard Health report revealed there was a productivity boost in research done on university fundraisers. One group made calls to potential donors as they always had. "The second group—assigned to work on a different day—received a pep talk from the director of annual giving, who told the fundraisers she was grateful for their efforts. During the following week, the university employees who heard her message of gratitude made 50% more fundraising calls than those who did not."
Ready to express your gratitude? Don’t wait, here are some simple tips from the pros to put thanks back into heavy rotation during your workday.
As Howard Jacobson, author and digital marketing professional, advises, "Spend five minutes now making a list of people you are sincerely grateful towards. Then create an action plan to communicate your thanks, with no hidden agenda."
Read More: Gratitude as a Business Strategy
Make it Personal.
Lots of organizations save up their staff recognitions for a special occasion, such as a holiday party or company picnic. But as Bobby Brannigan, the founder of ValoreBooks, reminds us, "No company-wide bash will take the place of a sincere and unrehearsed thank-you in front of colleagues." Doing so doesn’t cost a dime, he points out.
He suggests thanking people on the spot by getting out from behind your desk and going to where the folks you wish to thank actually work. "Your kind words will go much farther," he says.
Read More: Memo to Execs: Just Say Thank You
Do It Digitally if You Must.
According to Erin NewKirk, the founder of Red Stamp, "Expressed words of gratitude are more important than the paper they’re written on anyway," so don’t be afraid to say thanks in an email or via other virtual communication. It’s easy when you follow her three "Rs" for thanking someone in a professional way.
- Revisit what prompted the note. This gets to the meat of your message. For example: I was very appreciative of your expertise/time/etc.
- Relive an important/highlighted part of the exchange such as: Because of your expertise/time/etc., we were able to do this or that.
- Reveal what comes next. Wrap up your note with how you will get in touch or your plans for moving forward. For instance: Next time, coffee is on me, or, I'll follow up with your promised deliverable.
Make it More Inclusive
Business psychiatrist Mark Goulston advocates for making a specific show of gratitude about more than just a pat on the back for a helpful worker. He recommends acknowledging the personal cost of their getting it done, especially if they’ve gone above and beyond the call of duty on nights and weekends.
What’s more, he advises pointing out how their great work helps your own, to demonstrate how interconnected the team is.
Create Opportunities to Spread the Love
Be alert for the reaction, Goulston says. "If the person you’re thanking looks shocked or even a little misty-eyed, don’t be surprised," he says, "It just means that your gratitude has been a tad overdue."
If that’s the case, Fast Company contributor Harvey Deutschendorf has a suggestion.
"How about starting your monthly meeting by going around the room and having everyone express one thing they are grateful for? Or start a gratitude book for the office that everyone could write in to thank others or mention something good that has happened at work or at home. Discuss ways that you can make gratitude an important theme at your workplace."