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Gratitude and Productivity

In the final keynote at HDI 2018, speaker and author Nataly Kogan mentioned the positive effects of gratitude in the workplace how both thanking people and being thanked increases productivity and engagement according to Harvard Medical School:

Managers who remember to say “thank you” to people who work for them may find that those employees feel motivated to work harder.

Sean O’Driscoll, who formerly ran Microsoft’s volunteer user assistance MVP program, once told me that the very top-performing MVPs once received an official thank you from Microsoft, resulting in a 30 percent increase in the number of responses they provided to users. It’s worth repeating:

The very top performers increased productivity by 30 percent when they received a simple thank you.

Skeptical? Here’s more:

“Researchers randomly divided university fund-raisers into two groups. One group made phone calls to solicit alumni donations in the same way they always had. The second group assigned to work on a different day received a pep talk from the director of annual giving, who told the fund-raisers she was grateful for their efforts. During the following week, the university employees who heard her message of gratitude made 50% more fund-raising calls than those who did not.” O.C. Tanner

Study after study confirms that gratitude both given and received has a positive effect on productivity. Gone are the days when a manager could say, “Gratitude? I give them a thank you note every payday: It’s called a check.”

While it is true that staff are paid for their time and effort, rewards and recognition have proven time and again to be worthwhile. Gratitude is special:

  • Gratitude costs nothing
  • Saying “Thanks” takes almost no time at all
  • Gratitude can be either specific (“Thanks for the extra effort on that support call!”) or general (“Thank you all for handling our contact volume like champs!”)
  • Thanks can be given in private, such as one-on-one meetings or in public
  • You don’t need a plan or permission or a budget to express gratitude

While special occasions, such as project completion, offer opportunities to give a little something extra (“Thank sand here’s your pizza!”), every day can offer up opportunities to give sincere thanks to the team and among the team members.

A note of caution: Gratitude should not be considered a means to an end. It shouldn’t be thought of as a way to get more work out of hardworking staff. Increased performance is a side effect of being well treated, respected, and valued. If your motive is to get more work out of your people, it will be seen for what it is, and the opposite may occur. Not only that, but the uplifting effect on you will be lost if your thanks aren’t sincere.

Refer back to the earlier quote from Harvard Medical School: Managers who remember to say “thank you” to people who work for them may find that those employees feel motivated to work harder. It does not say, “Managers who wish to increase productivity should say thanks.”

Every day offers us opportunities for gratitude. Let’s not be shy about expressing it.

Thanks for taking the time to read this.