The Value of Thank You in the Workplace

About five years ago, I was responsible for assessing the Federal Employee Viewpoint Survey (FEVS) results for an organization within my agency. Not only did I assess the results through a quantitative lens, but I conducted follow-up focus groups to gather qualitative data that would help leaders understand the story behind the numbers. Individuals from a variety of job series and pay grades willingly participated in this effort.

I was surprised by some of the findings. In particular, I was struck by the incredible impact of two words on the staff—thank you. My assessment of the FEVS results revealed a simple thank you on a regular basis mattered more to staff than a financial incentive at the end of the year. Most people were not looking for awards at ceremonies or public recognition, they just wanted to know their daily efforts were appreciated by their peers and managers.

I suspect this is still true today, as the 2019 Governmentwide FEVS results show just over half of the survey participants are satisfied with the recognition they receive for doing a good job. An interesting but not surprising finding showed as the agency increases in size, the level of satisfaction expressed by employees decreases. This lends itself to us thinking about being more mindful of showing gratitude towards each other in the workplace in our daily routines.

What are the benefits of saying thank you?

Individuals are reminded they are an important part of the team. Whether one is the director of the office, the security guard at the door, the secretary, or janitor everyone wants to know what they do matters. If one person is out of position, the entire team suffers; therefore, thank you can be a subtle reminder that one matters.

Individuals are empowered to say thank you to others more often. When leaders create a culture of gratitude, team members are empowered to model similar behavior. Individuals become more attuned to the value their peers bring into the work environment and become more intentional in expressing their gratitude for each other’s presence and contribution.

Morale is lifted among all team members. This is likely the greatest benefit of saying thank you. These two words lift the spirits of team members and can lighten the mood of the office. We know there are immense pressures on every member of the team, yet, in many instances, individuals are willing to go above and beyond to see the team succeed. Hearing thank you along the way keeps individuals willing and motivated to work towards fulfilling the office’s mission.

As we go about our daily routines, it is easy to forget the positive impact of telling a coworker thank you for their contribution to the work experience. Expressing this gratitude does not have to be extensive, it could be a short e-mail or a quick word in passing, but it is so important. As we come to the end of this week’s Thanksgiving holiday and move closer to the start of a new year, I encourage you to think about how you can incorporate expressing gratitude into your regular work routine.

Dawn M. Wayman is a GovLoop Featured Contributor. She is a diversity and inclusion practitioner at the National Institutes of Health NIH), is a graduate of Morgan State University and the Johns Hopkins University Bloomberg School of Public Health where she earned her Bachelor of Science degree in Biology and her Master of Health Science degree in Epidemiology, respectively. In 2017, Ms. Wayman joined the NIH Office of Equity, Diversity and Inclusion (EDI) as a Diversity and Inclusion Strategist. In this role, Ms. Wayman serves as a consultant to multiple Institutes and Centers providing assistance to them in developing and executing their representational diversity and inclusion strategies. You can read her posts here.

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