There’s been much media handwringing these days about the lack of engagement among U.S. workers.

And just as many remedies are offered, from segmented programs for different generations to changing performance management models.

Yet a mere 80 years ago, Dale Carnegie solved the issue in How to Win Friends and Influence People.

It’s something none of us hear enough of.  It cost nothing and requires little effort.  Which, as Google’s Larry Page admitted, “Appreciation is the best motivation.”

Studies upon surveys prove the power of gratitude, from an increase in annual operating income (Harvard Business Review) to healthy heart outcomes (from the University of California/San Diego School of Medicine).  No one, though, pays much attention to how best to deliver the praise.  So here are a few of our guidelines:

  • Get real – and specific.  Generic thanks don’t work.  Be precise about the reason for recognition.
  • Deliver today, not tomorrow.  If the behavior’s to be repeated, try to give thanks immediately – or as close to the “you did good” event as possible.
  • Authenticity is the word of the decade.  Think sincere and spontaneous – and embed it in context.  Writing an email to the team?  Makes sense to include an “attaboy/girl.” 
  • Avoid exclamation marks – and OVER-superlatives.  [‘Nuff said!!!]
  • Pick the most appropriate vehicle … we favor the most impactful, i.e., face to face.

After all, World Kindness Day is only six months away.


It’s time to get the hook.

Here’s a life truth:  Sitting through interminable awards show thank-yous is part of live television.  Wouldn’t it be great if every actor could simply say, like Sally Fields:  “You like me”?  Comedians, long ago, used to signal an end through the finger across the throat sign or, yes, the brandishing of an actual hook on a long-handled cane.

Today, there’s another recourse to the on-and-on-and-on again droning that serves for gratitude:  Turn off the TV (or computer, if you’re streaming it).

Thanks is a funny thing, though.  When we’re not on stage, it’s a courtesy not necessarily included in everyone’s roles and responsibilities.  Often, when we do receive a gracias, it’s a) through email, b) insincerely, c) quickly emoted in person, and/or d) not at all.  All of these, in most circumstances, deserve a re-think of the thanks.

What’s wrong with an email?  When well crafted and sincere, it’s a thing of beauty.  But why not put those same sentiments into something more tangible, like a note, addressed to business or home, with a 50-cent stamp (which is what US stamps will cost by the time this blog is issued!)? 

We could say the same things about verbal thanks.  Sure, it’s okay.  But not memorable.  And if a staffer or peer or other colleague has gone out of the way to deliver, why not hand write your thanks?

The hook, in our opinion, goes to those who either “forget” common gratefulness, who just can’t be authentic – or are way too busy to send anything more than a perfunctory “it was nice of you.”  That happens way too often. 

Many forgive the sender.  We don’t.  Whatever happened to mutual respect, appreciation, value, a give and take relationship?  Mercy.


It’s sorta expected, in our business.

After all, we’re outside experts or, at the best, business partners who work with companies on a variety of short- and long-term projects. Though we might be around for a while, we’re definitely hired help.

All fine.  So the idea of thanks (given to us) is somewhat novel, and one that’s never guaranteed.  Nonetheless, we do perk up when we hear good words, and remember the whos and whats of the conversation.

What’s unexpected, though, is the endemic lack of thanks today in the workplace, full-time colleagues and leaders who work for one company.  In its typical fashion, The Wall Street Journal, late last year, riffed on a recent “there’s no gratitude” survey, then proceeded to set up a typology of those managers who just couldn’t show appreciation.   To us, the publication’s five characters were (pick one):  1) somewhat stereotyped, 2) overblown, and/or 3) created for the sake of a headline.

For whatever reasons (and feel free to make up your own), thanks just isn’t embedded in contemporary vocabularies.  Or, if it is, it’s somehow, er, fake.  How many times have you gotten an e-missive that, oh by the way, acknowledges your contributions (usually the middle of a list of things you have to do)?  Or been lobbed an off-handed compliment on the way out the door?

We’re not imagining this.  Survey says, for instance, that only 10 percent utter a thank you to colleagues, while 7 percent manage to be gracious to the boss-person.  Are dollars or other tangible rewards good substitutes for an authentic note about “job well done”?  Is everyone way too busy to look back and forward on a day’s work to compliment the support given?  Or do we need to add an amendment to the Ten Big Ones about being grateful each and every day?

Aretha, you got it right.