The Simple, Powerful Thank-You Note

When there is a corrosion of credit, there is an erosion of spirit.

If you’re like me, you were probably taught that giving is its own reward. You shouldn’t expect any thank-you in return.

Well that’s nice in theory. You and I should give — if it’s the right thing to do — whether or not the other person bothers to say “Thanks.” But in the emotional, gut-wrenching world you and I live in, it just doesn’t feel good when the other person fails to acknowledge our giving.

And we start to wonder why we even bothered to give in the first place. We may even question our willingness to give in the future.

I see it happen in our personal lives. I see it when you and I send gifts to our children and grandchildren, but they’re too “busy” to send a thank-you note. I see it when you and I invite 20 people over for dinner, but only one “remembers” to send a thank-you note.

Of course the problem isn’t new. Perhaps you read the ancient story about the time ten lepers were healed, but only one came back to say “Thank you.” Apparently there has been a lot of rude, uncivilized ingrates running around for a long time.

The same goes for our work lives. A volunteer may spend hours and hours working for his professional association, but he may never hear a word of gratitude. Or one employee may put in lots of extra unpaid hours for the company just because something had to be done. But she never receives a note of thanks. It won’t be long before that association or company struggles to find enough willing, enthusiastic people to help.

I’m here to say that…

=> 1. A written thank-you is not just nice; it’s good business. It pays off.

Tom Campbell of Campbell and Company knows that. He talked about the manager who wrote personal thank-you notes to call-center employees every Friday afternoon. He wrote notes to the employees who had been praised by customers throughout the week. And that was a “nice” thing for the manager to do.

At some point, he invested in a customer-service training program for those same employees. (P.S. Check out my training program called “Creating Customer Service Champions.” It comes complete with manuals, trainer’s guide and Power Point slides.

In the months after the training, the number of customer compliments grew so large that that manager had to spend all Friday afternoon writing his thank-you notes. Poor fellow. He had to miss the golf game he normally played on Fridays. He had to be content with the fact that his business was GROWING RAPIDLY, and his bottom line profits were better than ever.

=> 2. Written thank-you’s also turn into pure, unadulterated motivation.

That’s what happens at the Bradley Company, a Cleveland based software development company. The employees write out “affirmations” for one another whenever they see a colleague display a service-oriented attitude towards customers or coworkers. And they place their comment cards in the “affirmation bank.”

At the end of each monthly staff meeting, CEO John Zitzner pulls out a handful of cards and reads them aloud. Occasionally, those who wrote the cards add to their praise, reinforcing the value of public recognition. And others often add remarks, prompting applause for the employee’s hard work.

The employee praised on the last card receives an award and dinner for two. The CEO encourages them to pick a restaurant they’ve always wanted to try and places no limit on the tab. He wants them to have a really good time.

No one abuses the privilege, he says. And he’s convinced that the special treat — and the overall “affirmation-recognition” process — motivates all employees to provide better service.

If you think your written thanks is unnecessary, you’re wrong. If you think you’re too busy to write out your thanks, you’re wrong again. Even the slightest thanks is appropriate, appreciated, and treasured.

President Ronald Reagan’s speech writer Peggy Noonan talked about that in her book, “What I Saw At The Revolution.” After about three months on the job at the White House, during which she had never met her boss, Noonan got back a speech draft on which the President had written “Very good.” Thrilled, she cut the words off the page, taped them to her blouse, and accepted congratulations from her peers all day.

Action:  Write out at least one thank you note every day. It’s that simple.