Do you remember hearing, “What’s the magic word?” as you were growing up? We learned those Magic Words because it pleased our parents and teachers. We used please and thank you to unlock our wishes and needs. Experience taught us each time we proclaimed, thank you! a smiling parent granted our requests and returned the gratitude with a hearty, you’re welcome! Somewhere along the way through time, those magical phrases seemed to have gotten lost. The Magic Words are disappearing from our workplaces, if not from our lives completely.
Time and time again, surveys reveal things employees value more than rewards and awards. At the top of most lists, is to be noticed. In a 2017 interview with INC. Magazine, business author and speaker, Todd Patkin identified 10 phrases employees want to hear that boost morale, including thank you. He says, “Your people treasure your appreciation more than you realize…and in most cases, they'll be willing to work a lot harder to keep the compliments and thanks coming.” (Emphasis added.) Mary Hope, HR expert and career coach recently released “Seven Phrases Employees Want to Hear from their Boss.”* They are:
1) Thanks for that! (Thank you for getting that job done)
2) How are you?
3) Thanks for this! (Find something specific every day to recognize)
4) Yes, I see you.
5) Yes, I know you are working hard.
6) Thanks! (Just to be polite!)
7) Yes, I know you have an opinion and it does matter.
Did you notice, three of the seven are Thank you?
It’s hard to point to a single moment when employees became instruments rather than people. Perhaps the shift from Personnel to Human Resources signaled legitimacy to consider a staff member as just another resource to be used to achieve an end rather than a person with needs and feelings contributing to that end. Is it coincidental that programs designed to assist managers to “get the most out of employees” became popular at about the same time?
You can increase staff satisfaction while working in a difficult and demanding profession by treating your team members with the same courtesy learned a lifetime ago. Start meetings with “if I can please have your attention, we’ll begin now” rather than “okay, let’s quiet down and get started so we can get back to work.” When making assignments, directing activity, or asking for feedback, begin with “please.” When somebody has had a difficult project, a hard consult, or a particularly long stretch of the routine, say “thank you.” Yes, even if that is what they are being paid to do! Make it routine every day to find a reason to thank somebody for an exceptional job, because every day somebody is doing an exceptional job. After a while, people will notice and will not be embarrassed to say please and thank you themselves. When people thank you, return the gratitude with an energetic “you’re welcome!”
Good manners never go out of style. HR may have taken the person out of your personnel, but you can still treat them like people. Team members become more engaged and more productive when they feel valued, and they feel most valued when they are treated like people.
Please be polite. Your staff will thank you. It is the right thing to do.
*Hope, Mary. 7 Phrases Employees Want to Hear from their Boss (2021). Undercover Recruiter. https://theundercoverrecruiter.com/phrases-boss/