Most of us were brought up learning our ‘pleases’ and ‘thank yous’ but why is it that in business these words can often be difficult for people to say? I sometimes wonder if people worry that it dilutes their power or dominance because god forbid we are known as being ‘nice!’ But if you’ve ever been on the receiving end of a positive acknowledgement from a boss, colleague or client, you can’t deny it feels good.
Maybe we’re hampered by our British idiosyncrasies? If you’ve ever been to America the politeness is turned up to full volume and even I have cringed at what could be perceived as false pleasantries. But the Americans have got the right idea and whether you work on the shop floor or run Disneyland, saying ‘thank you’ to customers is as basic as it gets. Why? Because being appreciated is one of those things that really motivates us humans, both at work and in life, so a little goes a long way if you can offer up a genuine thank you when it’s appropriate.
But saying ‘thank you’ goes beyond just good manners – recent research in social psychology suggests that it also serves to build and maintain social relationships. And when isn’t this good for business?
In “Sidetracked: Why Our Decisions Get Derailed, and How We Can Stick to the Plan,” Francesca Gino, an associate professor at Harvard Business School, said: “Receiving expressions of gratitude makes us feel a heightened sense of self-worth, and that in turn triggers other helpful behaviours toward both the person we are helping and other people, too.” She described the scope of the “gratitude effect” as “the most surprising part” of her research. “By missing chances to express gratitude, organisations and leaders lose relatively cost-free opportunities to motivate.” Gino added.
So it’s not rocket science, nor do we find many things in business that are free and so powerful.
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“In ordinary life we hardly realise that we receive a great deal more than we give, and that it is only with gratitude that life becomes rich.” Dietrich Bonhoeffer