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The power of a simple “thank you”

Do say: “ I was surprised and pleased to get a thank you note from the chief executive.” Don’t say : “ We all got one. I got one last week thanking me for my contribution to a meeting I sent my apologies for”.
When we were children my mum always made us write,” thank you notes “for Christmas gifts. We hated it, in part it was the effort of writing but it was also that the gifts from distant relatives and friends were not age appropriate, exciting or showed any knowledge of our interests. Whether or not we liked the gifts was irrelevant to my mum, if you revived a gift it was expected that you wrote a thank you note. I was reminded of this  when thinking about how managers say thank you to their staff.
The chief Executive of an organisation I worked for suddenly started sending,”thank you notes”  to managers. They were inspired  by a presentation at a recent conference where the message was, “we don’t say thank you enough to our staff. If we did it more often as leaders it would have a powerful effect on moral”. To have a real impact the speaker stressed thank you notes should not be reserved for a special effort /occasion but should be a routine part of being an appreciative manager.
The first time I received a thank you note from the chief executive I felt rather pleased. It said thank you for your positive contribution at the recent senior managers workshop”. It was quickly followed by another thank you note for my positive contribution to a recent project group meeting. I thought I was definitely in with the chief executive until a colleague informed me that every one was getting these thank you notes. After about 3 months the notes stopped coming presumably the experiment had not worked. One reason was probably the mismatch between the sentiment the notes were intended to convey and the chief executives management style and general demeanour which was rather aloof, demanding and grumpy.
The observation that managers don’t say thank you to their staff often enough is In my experience valid. Managers do need to let their staff know they value and appreciate their efforts. Senior managers can set the tone in the organisation by leading by example. The ,”thank you note “ is a good way of showing appreciation to individuals as long as the notes are personalised and not devalued by over use. However an abrasive, intolerant, demanding, domineering, credit stealing boss does not become a good manager just because they write a few thank you notes.

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