Thank You Still Goes a Long Way

In my article Recognize Her on the Daily, I assert that day-to-day recognition strengthens employee morale and accountability, and improves the quality of the work environment. In a recent Wall Street Journal article, Why It’s Important to Show Gratitude at Work, the author dives deeper into this topic, and cites research that demonstrates just how much a simple thank you can impact employees’ discretionary effort at work, and how it can strengthen work relationships.  

One research study showed people spending 15% more time on their work when they were thanked by the person they were helping. Another study showed that when workers observed someone saying thank you to another worker, they were more inclined to go out of their way to help the grateful person. The reason is simple: people work harder when they feel valued. 

In my article, I provided four characteristics of effective recognition: immediate, stand-alone, specific and sincere. The WSJ article provides further guidance in making recognition meaningful:

  • “Put the You in Thank You”: Focus on the person’s contribution to the effort rather than its impact on you personally. Saying “you went the extra distance” rather than “you saved me so much time” will make a person feel that much more valued.
  • Give Thanks Publicly: Recognizing workers’ contributions in public serves two purposes. First, it allows coworkers to see the contributor as generous and collaborative and makes coworkers want to help them in return. Secondly, it shows coworkers that the person expressing gratitude notices and acknowledges people who put in extra effort, and that makes people more inclined to work harder for them. 

The WSJ article also reiterates that gratitude must be sincere and specific. Research shows that gratitude works when it’s genuine, and that authenticity strengthens relationships. Specificity drives just how valued the contributor feels. Telling someone exactly what they did well signifies just how much you noticed them, and people repeat what is recognized and reinforced. 

In summary, saying …

“Thank you for <specific behavior>; it had a big impact on <the team, the project, the deliverable>” …

results in meaningful benefits to employees and the workplace environment. And it really doesn’t take much effort but rather a disciplined mindset that notices, values and acknowledges employees’ good work. 

2 thoughts on “Thank You Still Goes a Long Way

  1. Great piece as always, Lori.

    I’m a bit of a gratitude junky I think, and it helps that I deeply admire and appreciate my team. But I think it’s also true that gratitude in all its forms is a gift you give yourself – to acknowledge the effort and accomplishments of those around you in helping reach a goal just FEELS GOOD. Did just share this with my team, in our dedicated company “Thanks” channel where we exchange all these good feels :-).


    1. Thanks for your comment Nils. There are studies that show that when you are kind to people (e.g., like recognizing their good work) your happiness increases. So it’s positive all around. Missing you and loving you always.


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