Do You Really Need to Say Thank You?

Do You Really Need to Say Thank You?

Do You Really Need to Say Thank You?

John, the CEO of a sales organization, sent an email to Tim, an employee several levels below, to complement him on his performance in a recent meeting. Tim did not respond to the email.

About a week later, he was in John’s office applying for an open position that would have been a promotion into a management role, when John asked him whether he had received the email. Yes, Tim said, he had. Why, John asked, hadn’t he responded? Tim said he didn’t see the need.

But Tim was wrong. John’s email deserved, at the very least, a “thank you.”

Tim didn’t get the promotion. Was he passed over solely because he didn’t thank John for the positive feedback? No. But was Tim’s lack of response one piece of the Tim puzzle that convinced John he should choose a better candidate? Undoubtedly.

Before you accuse John of being trivial or over-sensitive, before you condemn his poor hiring judgment, consider what saying “thank you” represents.

On a basic level, it communicates that you received the email. While there’s a lot of advice that discourages writing “thank you” emails because they contribute to email overload, I disagree. I answer every real email I receive because I want to avoid the recipient’s “Did Peter get my email and what’s he thinking?” angst. It takes three seconds to respond “thanks” and it completes the transaction initiated by the sender.

But an email that contains emotional content — like a compliment — deserves something longer: a real, thought-out “thank you” as opposed to a simple I-received-your-email “thank you.” When you offer a real thought-out “thank you” to someone, you’re acknowledging her effort, appreciating her thoughtfulness, recognizing her intent, and offering feedback on the impact of her actions.

Still, it’s more than that. Those things are rational, but saying “thank you” is mostly an emotional act. It connects one person to another. Saying “thank you” doesn’t just acknowledge someone’s effort, thoughtfulness, intent, or action. It acknowledges the person himself.

Acknowledging other people is a critical responsibility — perhaps the critical responsibility — of a great manager, especially in sales. Actually great manager is too high a bar. I might say it’s the critical skill of a good manager but even that’s understating it.

Acknowledging each other is our basic responsibility as human beings living in community with other human beings.

Go ahead and argue: We’re all too busy at work and in life to spend time exchanging pleasantries. If John needs so much stroking, he can’t possibly be a good CEO. He’s out of touch with the digital age where no answers are the accepted norm. If Tim is doing his work well, that’s all that matters. People are paid to do their jobs and they don’t need to be thanked. Saying “thank you” to your CEO for a nice email is nothing more than brown-nosing.

I would disagree with all those arguments. It doesn’t take long to say “thank you,” but it does take caring. John is an excellent CEO, with a staff, board, and shareholders who love him and for whom he delivers a high growth rate and excellent results. Not answering someone’s communication — text or email or phone call — is not an accepted norm, it represents a fundamental breakdown in communication about which I often hear people complain. Tim might be good at certain aspects of his job but he’s not “doing his work well,” if he’s not acknowledging the people around him. And, finally, saying “thank you” isn’t brown-nosing, it’s nice.

This all becomes more obvious if you take away the digital element. How would you feel if you complimented someone in person and he just walked away from you without saying anything? Weird, right?

Saying “thank you” — sincerely and with heart — feels good. Not just to the person receiving it, but also to the person offering it. And that’s part of work too. It’s hard to remember, as we process our hundredth email, that behind each message is a person..

Tim made a mistake by not appreciating John’s effort or acknowledging his sentiment. I don’t want to make that same mistake.

So, as we approach Thanksgiving, I want to say “thank you” to you. Each week when I sit down to write this blog, I try to express ideas and feelings that make a difference in my life and, hopefully, in yours. And doing that often leaves me feeling a little vulnerable and exposed.

But my feeling of vulnerability is always met with your compassion and engagement. The support I feel from you, my readers, is an unending source of encouragement to keep at it. It is a huge gift to me that you are interested in what I have to say and spend your valuable time reading and commenting on it. It touches me and I am so thankful for it. Thank you, and happy Thanksgiving.


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14 comments

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  • Michael November 23, 2012 Reply

    Thank you for writing such an inspiring article. I like the way you explain ideas to your readers, by telling stories.
    I realize that email is just a tool that facilitates communication, but this better tool should not change how we response or what we response. However, in reality, it has changed the way we communicate, and this is the major drawback of technology.

  • Lisa Gunnoe November 26, 2012 Reply

    When I started reading this I was wondering about “thank yous” on twitter. I generally don’t thank others for retweets and such. Maybe I’m doing that wrong.
    I’m very great at actually sending thank you cards and letters, but maybe I need to take that one more step into the twitterverse.

    If I was in a crowd and someone shared my idea, giving me credit, I would say “thank you”.

    So Thank you Mr. Bregman for bringing back good manners :)

    Lisa

  • Andrea November 26, 2012 Reply

    Gracias Peter, te leo siempre con gusto desde Perú.

  • Kathy Palaski November 27, 2012 Reply

    Well written! Thankyou.

  • Vicky November 29, 2012 Reply

    Your topic make me so impressive because you ask the question in your topic. I like the way you explain your ideas by telling stories. It makes me want to keep reading in your blog. I think email is for people to provide some information and to ask some questions. In American culture, checking email is important every day, but in my culture we actually don’t really use email every day. We prefer to make a phone call to contact people.

  • elisa freschi November 30, 2012 Reply

    Very interesting, analytic and also “authentic” post. And I like the way you told a story (actually two, if one includes your last personal remark) which are not just off topic ways to look authentic or capture the reader’s attention (thus often ending up with the opposite result).

  • Adil Nemat December 1, 2012 Reply

    Hi Coach Peter,
    Hello! Happy belated Thanks Giving to you & your family.

    You message “Behind every mail, text, message is a person ( we don’t know what the person is going through- is he/she happy, sad, depressed or wants to connect to some one, is he/she is need)”.

    Your article made me cry a lot and reflect back on mistakes

    I want to thank you once again for your amazing article.

    Have a great weekend.

    Sincerely,
    Adil

  • Deb Kay December 1, 2012 Reply

    Absolutely loved your message here – it was spot on! Folks need to take the computer out of the exchange, figuratively speaking, and always understand that there is a person on the other side. Thank you so much for sharing this important message in such a thoughtful way.

  • ANA December 3, 2012 Reply

    truly inspirational. Thanks. Gracias. Grazie. Merci. Danken

  • Pat L December 18, 2012 Reply

    Thank you, you’re welcome, nice to meet you, welcome to the team, congratulations – all words that convey such pleasure to the ears of the receiver, but rarely spoken in these days of texting. I discovered SendOutCards over 4 years ago and it has not only changed my life but it has increased my business, my influence with others, my place in the business community and best of all – the smiles that come with the heartfelt cards. I’d love to share SendOutCards with anyone who’d like to know more – it has changed my life and the lives of those who are touched by simple words, like Thank you.

  • Pat L December 18, 2012 Reply

    Sorry, here is the link to SendOutCards if you’re interested.

  • Mark January 28, 2013 Reply

    I admire and appreciate the brain your heart and mind work together to communicate the intrinsic dynamics of the human experience and the importance of articulating how and why people matter.

    So much is being lost in the world today, from the digital spilling into the physical. I just want to express how thankful I am and how much I am reminded through your words, that real people with real depth, care and concern exist and that fear of vulnerability, trapped in the illusion of it representing weakness instead of true strength, and illusion of control hasn’t shut down the spirit of truth, goodness and fighters for the light in the world.

    Perhaps it would be great to have a follow-up on this – the value, gesture and symbol of saying “you’re welcome” possesses. If we think about it, many have abandoned this powerful message for “no worrries”, “no problem”, “you bet” etc… ;)

  • Google sucks March 25, 2013 Reply

    Thanks for writing this tremendous publish..Loved your content articles. Remember to do continue to keep writing

  • nitin jain August 4, 2013 Reply

    Right. Saying thanks doesn’t take much time and it displays politeness and appreciation.

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