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Viewpoint: Why Showing Gratitude to Employees Is as Important as Generating Revenue

A group of business people clapping in an office.

Editor's Note: SHRM has partnered with Chief Executive to bring you relevant articles on key HR topics and strategies.

In business, there are two things you can't have enough of. The first one is obvious: revenues. Ask any business owner or salesperson, and they will share with you that their work seems like an endless pursuit of an ever-increasing revenue target. Just as they meet their target, a new, higher one is set.  The constant pursuit of new customers distracts companies from the other thing you can't have enough of in business.

The second thing you can't have enough of—yet it's the most neglected aspect of most businesses—is gratitude. For example, we can take existing customers for granted and think that once we've delivered a promised product or service, we're done. We don't stop to express our appreciation that they chose us over the competition. Instead, we try to sell them more. "Why not?" we ask ourselves. "They are already customers."

We sometimes have the same attitude about employees. Great performers are often given more tasks and assignments and very little gratitude for a job well done. It seems as if getting paid is the only confirmation.

There are several reasons for this failure to appreciate:

  1. The focus on the new. We are always busy acquiring new customers or employees. They seem to be more interesting than the ones we already have.
  2. Busyness and rushing.  It seems like we are always in a rush and have very little time for small things like saying "thank you."
  3. Lack of prioritization.  We never made gratitude a priority. It's always an afterthought and the last item on our checklist. We hardly ever get to it.
  4. Fear of creating new demands. "Well, if I share appreciation with my employees, they will ask for more money," a manager told me. The rationale he presented was that it was "better to keep them hungry and unfulfilled, and they will work harder."
  5. Feeling uncomfortable.  Yes, some of us find expressing gratitude uncomfortable. Let's face it: If you have never received expressions of appreciation, you may not know how to give appreciation.

In a recent study of employee engagement at one of our clients, managers pushed back and claimed that it was a pointless study because all employees will ask for more money and more staff. In analyzing the employees' verbatim responses, we discovered an interesting finding. While 13 percent of employees did raise compensation and benefits issues, 36 percent simply asked for expressions of appreciation. During a focus group, one employee shared with me that he was the employee of the month in his company. As I congratulated him, he told me that he found out about it in the company's newsletter.

"Did you at least get a check?" I asked.

"Yes," he replied, "but I didn't get the handshake." It was clear that the handshake was much more meaningful to him than the check.

It is time to place gratitude on the same level as the other things in business we can't have enough of. It's time to appreciate the revenues we create through employees' efforts and customers' choices. No one wants to be taken for granted or feel "bought." People do business with people. People work for people. It is time to create appreciation-centric working relationships.

Start your day by thanking an employee for a job well done. Start your day with appreciation.

Lior Arussy is the president of Strativity Group, a global experience design and transformation firm. Follow him @LiorStrativity. This article is reprinted with edits from Chief Executive magazine with permission. C 2017. All rights reserved.


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