1 Thing Your Employees Need to Hear You Say

Can you guess what it is?  If not now, maybe you will after I share my experience a few years back.

When I worked as a District Manager, I often traveled with the Regional Manager or the VP of Operations to our various stores.  It was natural to greet the store managers and say hello to the associates.  However, I noticed my companions wouldn’t say hello to most of the employees in the store.  In fact, they hardly noticed any of the employees.  The Regional Manager and VP, dressed in suits, and holding their briefcases, couldn’t have gone more out of their way to appear distant from the staff, all hard at work, dressed in the required khakis.

From my perspective I could see the employees just wanted to be acknowledged and thanked, especially from these two higher level managers.  The staff was proud of their store, they got it all ready for Regional Manager’s or VP’s visit . . . and then . . . nothing.  I saw how demotivating it was to the store staff. So I suggested the Regional Manager make an effort to say hello and thank you (he hated this idea, btw) to the employees.  The staff really loved it (surprise, surprise).

It was particularly important in my opinion at the company I was working at because the owners of this company put a very high priority on visiting the stores, knowing everyone’s name, etc.  Somehow this goal got lost on some of the senior management.

I started out in that company as a store manager so I knew it was really hard work – especially during the holidays.  Once a particular holiday was over a fax inevitably came in at the end of the day, or the next morning.  A thank you for a job well done?  Hardly.   Rather, a communication to tell managers to send everyone home that wasn’t essential in order to save payroll (even though payroll was already approved), and to tell everyone what they did wrong during the recent holiday.  Yes.  You read correctly.  So, just as the staff started to feel proud and take a deep breath after basically running nonstop for weeks before a holiday – this fax and attitude fell upon them with a thud.

The higher management at this company complained in the meetings I attended how terrible the staff was out in the field or how we should fire this or that employee in another store because their attitude had change and so forth.  They never realized why they had these issues or that their high turnover could’ve been avoided if they treated their employees the way they themselves wanted to be treated.  Respecting their employees’ hard work would have cost them absolutely nothing and saved them the many thousands of dollars they spent on hiring and training new staff each year.

So, what’s the word?

Well, you’re right if you guessed that it’s not necessarily one word.  It is about treating employees, clients and others you work with, with the same respect that you expect.  If I had to sum it up –  Thank you goes a long way.  In this article at mindtools.com, they write about the high yield return you can expect on something as simple as showing your appreciation. Did you know that workers who feel appreciated are TWICE as likely to stay at a company as those who don’t feel valued? It makes sense, right? Think about any job you may have left – did you feel respected or valued? I’d wager that you didn’t. How many entrepreneurs owe their business launch to a boss who didn’t know how to appreciate or value them? Many, many. Plain and simple, appreciating your productive employees is Business 101 and yet many managers don’t heed this advice.

The article on Mind Tools addressed how you can’t over do this (as long as you keep your “thank you” sincere). No matter how many times a child, spouse, boss thanks you, it never loses its significance, right?  The same is true of your staff or business colleagues.   Not only will they not tire of it, but they will want to give you their best in return.  This article also mentioned a few caveats as you implement this strategy:  Thank your people for specific acts/accomplishments.  This way they connect it to a tangible thing they did well.  Stay consistent.  You can’t berate everyone one minute and thank them the next and retain their loyalty.  Also, if you’re going to reward your staff as a “thank you” do it in a way they will find meaningful.  Baseball tickets for a woman with no baseball interest or a large frozen turkey for your 20-something bachelor are not thoughtful tokens of appreciation.  Though chances are this won’t nearly bother them as much as forgetting to say a simple “Job well done.”

Which leads me to another blog post I found helpful along these lines.  The gist of the post found here was that there are many ways to say “Thank you” to your staff. The main thing is not how you say it, but that you do! I recommend taking a quick look at the 30 different ways they list of saying “great job” to your employees.

If you do incorporate this “1 Thing” with your staff let me know your thoughts on this time tested principle in the comments section below. And, yes, if you were wondering – this same powerful “1 Thing” does work with family and friends!

2 Comments

  • Hi Anita,

    Great article, and one that needs to be read by every manager everywhere. Sorry seems to be the hardest word according to Elton John, but Thank and You must be next! The jobs I’ve been happiest in are the ones where I felt my hard work was acknowledged. But most times, there seems to be a tangible divide between the management and the workers.
    Even if you’re self-employed, I think a simple thank you to contractors must go a long way in nurturing long term business relationships.
    Thank you ;)

  • Well said Daniel. I completely agree with your comments. I work with contractors & freelancers on a daily basis and truly appreciate all they do.You’re right, telling & showing them appreciation is key!

    Thank you too! :-)

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