The 2 Most Important Words You Can Say to a Co-Worker

posted: 08/17/15
by: Mara Betsch
co-workers meeting work

Workplace dynamics can be tricky, whether you're a manager dealing with a team of employees or an employee reporting to a manager (or two). Though we don't want to admit it, we spend a lot of time with co-workers, often more so than our good friends and family, and anything we can do to grow these professional relationships will make our work lives easier. According to a recent study, there are two little words that can both encourage employees to work harder and increase the chances of a manager providing support. The magic phrase? Thank you.

Janice Kaplan, the author of The Gratitude Diaries, recently wrote a report on a survey containing 2,000 Americans' thoughts on gratitude. An excerpt of this book, including the study, recently appeared in The Wall Street Journal, and it included some fascinating information about how a little appreciation can go a long way. Here are the highlights:

  • 81 percent of respondents said that they'd be willing to work harder for an appreciative boss.
  • 80 percent agreed that receiving gratitude makes them work harder.
  • 70 percent said they'd feel better about themselves and their efforts if their boss thanked them more regularly.
  • 94 percent of women and 96 percent of men agree that a grateful boss is more likely to be successful. Only 18 percent feel a grateful boss could be seen as weak.

And even though everyone wants to be appreciated, few employees express gratitude:

  • Just 10 percent of survey respondents saying that they regularly showed their colleagues gratitude.
  • 74 percent never or rarely express gratitude to their boss.

These statistics fall in line with a 2011 London School of Economics review of more than 50 studies about workplace motivation, which found that employees tried harder when they were "intrinsically motivated," aka they were personally interested in their work and felt appreciated by their co-workers.

So try saying thank you to your boss and co-workers this week. Just remember to be specific and sincere -- don't say thank you for the sake of saying thank you. When you express gratitude, tailor it to that colleague's work and really mean it. We guarantee he or she will hear you loud and clear.