Say thanks, feel good. Gratitude for managers of the big and the small.

Appreciation can make a day, even change a life. Your willingness to put it into words is all that is necessary
— Margaret Cousins, author

My six year old son is becoming quite the little helper (okay, sometimes, when he wants to be). He will fetch shoes, baby wipes, toys, my phone, whatever is required while I physically wrangle his not-always-so-helpful two year old brother.  When this happens I try very hard to thank him and show him that I appreciate his help.  I know that as a parent positive reinforcement works and I generally find that he squirms with pride at my praise.

Managing people at work is not much different to being a parent.  We're just managing big people rather than little people and sometimes those big people don't act much more grown up than the little ones. 

But as managers of big people we can forget, as we do with our kids, to thank them and appreciate their efforts when they exceed our expectations. Even when the ordinary everyday tasks are getting done with ordinary everyday efficiency there is a lot to be said for being appreciative and saying thanks. 

Gratitude (being thankful and ready to show appreciation) is a hot topic in positive psychology with plenty of research in the past ten years showing a strong and consistent association between being grateful and being happy. That means that when we take the time out to consciously consider the good things we have in our lives, including the people who help us out, we're more likely to feel happier not just at the time but for some months ahead. 

What's more, getting into the gratitude habit can do the following good stuff: 

  • Increase your brain activity  
  • Reduce your stress and anxiety
  • Improve your sleep
  • Increase your overall sense of wellbeing
  • Enhance your relationships with other people (particularly those people you thank), and
  • Increase your sense of responsibility to other people and to society at large.  Basically, it makes you a better person.

Of course if you are managing other people - whether big or small - you may also find that they are more motivated and more productive when you thank them for their good work.  It's that positive reinforcement thing again.

So what can you do to become the uber-grateful people manager and all round happier person?
  • Practice! Make a conscious effort to thank one person a day. Have a go - try it now.  If there's no-one around, think of one thing that you are thankful for today and make a note of it.  Feel the happy.
  • Be specific.  Saying 'thanks for doing such a great job' can just feel a bit awkward.  Try thanking someone for the exact thing that they did and tell them how it made your life better.
  • Be genuine.  We can all pick a phony and you only get out what you put in.  Happiness comes to those who are truly grateful.  
  • Be fast.  Cultivate an attitude of gratitude and get into the habit of thanking people right then and there when good stuff gets done.
  • If you're on the receiving end of thanks, be gracious. Don't brush it off.  Smile and say thanks in return.  Now you both feel good.

Feeling thankful, and expressing it, has an amazing capacity to flip our point of view around from humdrum to happy.  Go ahead, thank someone for making your life easier and see if you can't make a big person squirm with pride, even just a little bit.

What are you thankful for?  You might like to post it here: Or tell me about it in the comments below.  (P.S. Thanks for reading to the end! E.)