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The Power of Saying “Thank You”​ – Creating a Culture of Gratitude in the Workplace. Why It Really Matters


Gratitude is an important ingredient in life, and more so than most people realize.  Gratitude is often a significant ticket to success in business, but it is too often just overlooked or replaced by a leadership style that is non-caring or bent on just getting things done.  In the acclaimed television series Mad Men (Season 4, Episode 7), Peggy Olson, a distraught and overworked copywriter, reveals her boss Don Draper’s true colors when she dares to seek his approval. Their heated exchange eventually leads to the following classic lines:

DON: It’s your job. I give you money, you give me ideas.

PEGGY: And you never say, “thank you!”

DON: That’s what the money is for!

I would call this good dramatic television if it weren’t for people, some of whom appear to be business leaders, that champion Draper’s obstinate and caustic approach to management. With this example in mind, I’d like to pose a question: If a leader’s concern is managing so-called “ungrateful” employees, what kind of model of gratitude do you actually provide through your leadership style?

Whether we admit it openly or not, everyone likes personal recognition, especially when it is in front of your peers. A salary or other form of payment is not an “open and shut” substitute for acts of gratitude. The mistake that CEOs and business leaders make is confusing simple appreciation as an “unnecessary” INCENTIVE because they are getting paid. Showing gratitude beyond just paying an employee builds human connections by appreciating human actions, thus harnessing powerful forces of collaboration, engagement, and innovation throughout a business. 

I understand that the idea of “seeking meaning” in the workplace is often regarded and dismissed as a new generational trend. However, employees no longer have to settle and hold on to a position where they feel unappreciated. They will move on to an organization that embraces the emerging workplace. This is inclusive and exemplifies a gratitude culture. 

Gratitude has a ripple effect. When we appreciate the work done for us, the entire organization is uplifted with a positive and appreciative attitude. Workers who feel appreciated pass that feeling on to others, helping to inspire them.  This has a rippling effect on the entire workplace, creating a culture that employees want to embrace, leading to increased morale, a more definite sense of well-being, and increased energy for completing company tasks at hand. These side effects of appreciation significantly impact the overall performance of the business with increased employee productivity.

recent study published by the American Psychological Association reported that 93% of employees who feel “valued” are “motivated to do their best at work.” 88% indicated they feel more “engaged.” Speaking of retention, only 21% of those polled in the study said they planned to look for a job elsewhere. Empathetic leadership is all about going the extra mile for your employees. Furthermore, The National Alliance of Mental Health California cites a “study conducted by Virginia Commonwealth University [that] showed thankfulness predicted a significantly lower risk of major depression, generalized anxiety disorder, phobia, nicotine dependence, alcohol dependence, and drug abuse. When management promotes thankfulness and gratitude in their workplace culture, the “ripple effect” mentioned earlier can potentially improve how your employees deal with stress and pressure situations.

I challenge you to try it out. It’s as simple as saying “Thank you.” Or better yet, write them a short thank you note or reward them for a job well done at an employee meeting.  Begin offering compliments on employee projects, attach affirmations in companywide e-mails, order them lunch unexpectedly, and demonstrate that you appreciate and welcome their feedback. When you think of the acts of recognition that you would like to receive, then you will understand that your employees would like the same.  A little bit of gratitude goes a long, long way.

If you want to learn more about how you can better succeed through empathetic business leadership, contact me or visit www.marklewisllc.com

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