For Happier Employees, Learn To Give More Gratitude Than “Thx”


by Drake Baer

Do you suffer from Gratitude Deficit Disorder? If you’re like the executives that Mark Goulston’s been running into, you might.

At Harvard Business Review, the business psychiatrist admonishes executives for viewing their teams–especially their assistants–as “appliances.” But unlike the Kenmore in the kitchen, your direct reports have interior lives, and the pay and benefits of the gig may not be enough for them to feel fulfilled. As with other mammals, humans need to feel social connections to do their best work.

Call it the “contented cows give better milk” school of leadership: As has been detailed, the happiest companies are often the most profitable and firms with highly sustainable engagement have three times the operating margin of their less-engaged peers. And expressing gratitude is a reciprocal behavior, meaning that the thanked person is more likely to help the thanker–and less likely to join another company, key for building employee engagement.

How to really say thank you

Goulston lays out three steps for getting good at giving gratitude:

1. Be precise: Thank the person specifically for their exceptional actions: Tell them what they’re doing awesome.
2. Acknowledge the effort: Note the personal cost of their getting it done. If they work through the weekend, appreciate the social and family costs.
3. Share your stakeholdership: Make a point of how their great work helps your work, show how you’re in this together.

Developing a sense of how to show gratitude is a leadership key–one that can help you (and your employees) reach their potential.

Drake Baer covers leadership for Fast Company. You can follow him on Twitter.