Did you know that just two words can make you happy? They can reduce anxiety and depression; strengthen your immune system; lower your blood pressure; help you sleep; make you more resilient; strengthen your relationships and promote forgiveness. What are these two words that have such power? Thank you. That’s it, just thank you! There is no cost involved, and on the job, it can lead to increased recognition, esteem, and maybe even bigger pay raises than you might otherwise receive (see below).
What is Gratitude?
Gratitude or thank you is an appreciation for what one has received. When someone helps us with “no strings” attached, we express our gratitude by saying thank you. According to Robert Emmons, Professor of Psychology at the University of California Berkley and an expert on the topic:
Gratitude is an affirmation of goodness. We affirm that there are good things in the world, gifts and benefits we’ve received. We recognize that the sources of this goodness are outside of ourselves… We acknowledge that other people – or even higher powers, if you’re of a spiritual mindset – gave us many gifts, big and small, to help us achieve the goodness in our lives.
Georg Simmel, an early twentieth-century sociologist defined gratitude as the moral memory of mankind.
In fact, gratitude – saying thank you is a universal human notion. It exists in all cultures around the world, and history is filled with discussions of gratitude. Gratitude and references to giving thanks appear throughout the Bible as well as in Jewish, Islamic and Buddhist texts. The Greek philosopher Cicero (106 – 43 BC) said, Gratitude is not only the greatest of virtues, but the parent of all others.
Gratitude at Work
More than ever before, we are connected to one another. Thanks to computers, smart phones and other technologies, we are never alone. This is true, especially at work. My friend Lisa is a Six Sigma Black Belt who is constantly on call for questions and issues related to the process improvement projects she leads. She said that the only way she could get away from e-mails and phone calls was to go to Antarctica – literally!
Because of this constant interconnection at work, establishing and maintaining good relations with co-worker, superiors, and customers are more important than even. Saying thank you is essential in that effort. Yet, according to the results of a 2012 study conducted by the John Templeton Foundation, a non-profit that focuses on creativity, gratitude, freedom and related topics, you are less like to say or hear “thank you” at work than in any other situation. According to the study, only 10 percent of workers regularly say thank you to their co-workers and just 7 percent thank their bosses. In fact, we are more likely to say thank you to a stranger who opens a door for us than we are to say it to a co-worker. According to Professor Emmons, gratitude is a relationship strengthening emotion because it requires us to see how we’ve been supported and affirmed by other people.
Saying Thank You at Work
Effective expressions of gratitude at work at timely, sincere, specific and brief.
- Timely: Don’t wait a week or two or even a day to two to say thank you. The closer in time the thank you is to the action that elicited it, the more meaningful and powerful the thank you.
- Sincere: When thanking a person, make eye contact, smile and don’t mumble – speak clearly.
- Specific: Tell the person exactly what they did and how it helped you.
- Brief: Keep it short; do not go into great detail.
- Do it Yourself: Do not use “fill in the blanks” templates and do not have your assistant write a thank you note or e-mail on your behalf.
Saying Thank You is Enlightened Self-interest
Enlightened self-interest tells us that saying thank you can bring us tangible benefits, in addition to the physical and emotional benefits desired in this article. According to a study conducted by Adam Grant and Francesca Gina in 2010, saying thank you increase prosocial behavior in the workplace. (In other words, being nice and helping others.) If we say thank you to our co-workers and managers, we are more likely to get help from them when we need it.
In addition, other studies report that workers who say thank you regularly are respected, seen as good team players and more productive, which may lead to better performance evaluations and merit pay increases. Think about it. Saying thank you enhances your well-being at work and may even enhance your paycheck.
Feeling Gratitude and not expressing it is like wrapping a present and not giving it. ~ William Arthur Ward.
To whom have you forgotten or neglected to say thank you? Say it today. A late thank you is better than none at all!
Emmons, Robert, “Ten Ways to Become More Grateful” Greater Good Science Center, University of California, Berkeley, February 17, 2010,http://greatergood.berkeley.edu/article/item/ten_ways_to_become_more_grateful1
Shelton, Charles, S. J., Gratitude, Moral Emotions and the Moral Life, Poynter Center, IN\Indiana University, 2002, http://greatergood.berkeley.edu/article/item/ten_ways_to_become_more_grateful1/
Grant, Adam M.; Gino, Francesca, “A Little Thanks Goes a Long Way: Explaining Why Gratitude