Thanks mate: gratitude in the workplace

“They get paid. That’s their thanks.”

After six years working in HR, I’m disappointed to say I’ve heard this from managers more than once. Or...

“It’s their job, they shouldn’t need to be thanked for doing what they’re supposed to be doing.”

When you go to a restaurant, the maitre d' opens the door for you, they’re getting paid, but most of us will still say thank you. A waiter brings you your meal, you’re likely paying his wages when he does, but most of us still say thank you. Why? Because most people are raised knowing that it’s basic politeness to say thank you when someone does something for you, regardless of whether or not we’re paying them to do it. So why do we feel any different at work?

This song is old as time. We know recognition is important. We know it matters. So, while we shouldn’t need any more reason to start practicing a little more gratitude in our work lives, let’s look at a recent survey of 500 Australian workers and 500 managers.

More than 79% of respondents prefer to be thanked by their manager on a regular basis, over being lavished with praise at one off-events or occasions (i.e. annual performance appraisal, parties, etc.)

More than 56% of workers would say sayonara to their employer if they weren’t regularly thanked and recognised for their efforts

And, my favourite, a beautiful example of the mis-alignment between managers and their staff:

Almost 8 in 10 (79%) managers think they’re nailing it in the appreciation stakes for employees who have “earned it.” Yet, 60% of workers think their colleagues should be thanked and recognised more frequently for their good work.

Over 70% of respondents would choose to work in an organisation that gave recognition, over a company that pays generously, but provides no recognition for effort.

So what can we take from this?

Chill on the overemphasis on money

Money is a hygiene factor, and a terrible motivator. Pay staff enough money so it’s a non-issue, but don’t use big salaries in an attempt to make your employees happy.

Don’t underestimate the impact gratitude can have on team performance

The impact of providing gratitude and recognition doesn’t stop with the individual. It plays an important role in overall team dynamics and creating a culture of psychological safety. Google’s Project Aristotle provides us with a great example of this.

Chill on the ‘werk perks’. They have their place, but they’re not everything

I’m amazed at the lengths organisations go to these days to provide perks and benefits to outdo their competition. Think; drinks fridge, table tennis, additional leave, in-house chefs. Don’t get me wrong, these things are undoubtedly appealing to current and future employees, but when emphasising these perks when recruiting and engaging staff, don’t forget the basics, and what has been shown to be one of the biggest contributing factors to the happiness of our people: a simple and heartfelt ‘Thank you’!

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Written by Vanessa Doake
Co-founder, Code Like a Girl