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It Doesn't Take Much to Say Thanks


say thanks

I again heard a group of managers raise a common problem during a training program this past week, "How are we supposed to keep our employees motivated? We don't have any money for bonuses, raises, or gifts, and we can't afford to buy them stuff out of our own pockets. Why should we have to do that anyway? How can we blame them for not wanting to work any harder than necessary when they're not going to get paid for it?"

Yikes! In addition to showing very little imagination, there are so many things wrong with their thinking it's frightening. If that's the way they're thinking (and probably behaving), no wonder their employees don't want to "give" any more than the bare minimum.

Ok, let me start at the beginning of their comment and break it down piece-by-piece so you learn what I shared with them:

"How are we supposed to keep our employees motivated?"

This is a great question and one that every supervisor and manager should be asking him/herself on a regular basis. However, there is no one answer. The answer to what will motivate your employees is unique to your team. What do they really want, need, expect in order to do their jobs? What would make them feel appreciated, respected, part of the team, etc? You'd be amazed that often, even though your employees complain and claim they need more money, they don't. They simply want to be appreciated. A few years ago I was training several groups of mid-level managers, as well as the senior leadership team. I asked each of the mid-level groups, "If the senior leadership team could do anything for you - other than giving your raises or bonuses - what would you like them to do to help keep you motivated?" Without exception, every group said, "Say 'Thank you' once in a while." When I asked the senior management team, "What do you think your mid-level managers want from you - other than raises or bonuses?" The senior team said things such as new equipment, additional vending machines in the cafeteria, longer break times, more flexible work schedules, etc. When I popped up the slide that said, "Say 'Thanks' once in a while" they were stunned into silence. It doesn't take much to say thanks.

"We don't have any money for bonuses, raises, or gifts, and we can't afford to buy them stuff out of our own pockets. Why should we have to do that anyway?"

Every thinking adult should realize the economy is still unsettled and budgets are tight. So first, have a serious conversation with your team on the realities of your organization's budget situation. If there is NO money for raises, bonuses, etc, there is NO money for these things - period. Don't hide it. However, if they want to stick around and be a part of your team when things DO turnaround - great! You'd love to have them be a part of your team. The choice is theirs. In the meantime, they need to stop grumbling about their financial situation. If they don't like it - leave. However, it also doesn't take much if ANY money to show your employees you care and you appreciate what they do for you and the organization. Buying pizza for the team once a month won't break the budget for most managers. Creating a team "kitty jar" that everyone contributes to when someone does something cool is another way to recognize the good work of other team members. You and any team member can toss in coins or dollars whenever you or they see someone do something special for a customer or team member. Then when the kitty is "plump," buy subs, pizza, or ice cream for the team. Or, do what I've done before and just did recently, draw stupid little stars on sticky notes and give them out to team members after they've helped you meet a critical deadline or WOW a client. These darn little stars are a testament to my poor art skills, but they make every single team member smile, laugh, and know I've noticed their extra effort. And, my team keeps them posted on their computer monitors. Are they silly? Absolutely. Are they cheap? Yep. Do they make the team smile and know I appreciate their efforts. Yep. It doesn't take much to say thanks.


"How can we blame them for not wanting to work any harder than necessary when they're not going to get paid for it?"

This statement is so close to my pet peeve statement of "That's not my job" it makes my skin itch! If you believe that any time you ask an employee to do something "extra" you need to pay them for it, you're teaching them to expect extra payment for anything they do they perceive as over and above their core duties. That's stupid and is counterproductive to any plans you may have in creating a flexible, motivated workforce. If your organization's position descriptions don't include the line, "And any other duties as assigned to meet the vision, fulfill the mission, and abide by the values of this organization." Add it. Then explain it and your organization's vision, mission and values to every current and new employee to your organization. If they don't want to be an active contributing member of your team in driving to your vision, fulfilling your mission, and abiding by your organization's values, fine. They need to find someplace else to work. If they do, great! Then they need to not expect to get paid for everything they determine is "extra." Flexible, motivated employees look for and do the "extras" to get the job done. That's how they succeed. That's how your organization succeeds. You need to let your employees know what's expected, what you appreciate, and what you will and won't tolerate. It doesn't take much.

It doesn't take much to say thanks: It just takes you doing your job in helping them realize you appreciate it when they do theirs.


Copyright MMXIII - Liz Weber, CMC, CSP - Weber Business Services, LLC – +1.717.597.8890

Liz supports clients with strategic and succession planning, as well as leadership training and executive coaching. Give her a call and learn how to say thanks to your team!


Liz Weber CMCLiz Weber, CMC CSP

Liz Weber coaches, consults, and trains leadership teams. She specializes in strategic and succession planning, and leadership development.

Liz is one of fewer than 100 people in the U.S. to hold both the Certified Management Consultant (CMC) and Certified Speaking Professional (CSP) designations.

Contact Liz’s office at +1.717.597.8890 for more info on how Liz can help you, or click here to have Liz’s office contact you.

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4 thoughts on “It Doesn't Take Much to Say Thanks”

  1. Alan Kay says:

    There are so many ways to say thanks. One of the most valuable is to be specific about the thank you. When we pat someone on the head we are only providing a small part of the value of affirmation. Let’s add more detail to the affirmation and help the person not only feel good, but learn something useful that we want them to do more of.

    1. Liz Weber says:

      Alan as usual, you're dead on with your comment. I wrote an article entitled Specifically = Every Manager's Favorite Word a few years ago for this exact reason. Let's not create confusion. Let's not cause our employees to guess at why we are happy or unhappy with them. Be fair. Be honest. Be clear. Be a leader! Thanks again Alan. L

  2. Glenn Buesnel-May says:

    Another simple but perplexing issue. When it's so easy to do, why are leaders reluctant to do it?

    Perhaps the secret to saying 'thanks' effectively is in knowing 'how' people in teams like that 'thanks' expressed. Some like or need gregarious expression, others like or need discreet expression. Knowing the people in your team, their individual needs and cultural norms, helps select the most appropriate and effective way of building performance through thankful expression.

  3. Liz Weber says:

    Glenn you said it beautifully, "When it's so easy to do, why are leaders reluctant to do it?"
    From my experience, they simply don't remember to articulate or convey their appreciation. It's just not on their radar screens. And yes others may say, "Well the employees are already being paid to do the work, why do we need to say Thanks?" To which I typically reply, "So what would it hurt if you simply let them know you notice and appreciate the work they do that's contributing to your organization's success?"

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Posted by Liz Weber CMC on June 18, 2013 in Leadership Development and tagged , , ,