Remember to say ‘thank you’

Last night I caught up with an episode of Channel 4’s ‘Undercover Boss’.  This was the episode where Colin Drummond the Chief Executive of recycling and waste management company, Viridor, spent five days doing ‘entry level jobs’.  During this time, dressed in woolly hat and anorak, going under the pseudonym of ‘John Ray’, he spent his days as a binman, sorting through fast-moving conveyor belts of rubble and rubbish, and cleaning a recycling depot’s yard.  But most importantly he spent time getting to know the staff that do these jobs everyday. 

He witnessed one guy who, despite the early mornings and over-filled bins, had built rapport with the clients in this competitive industry; he experienced the cheerfulness with which operators in a public recycling centre greeted customers; learned what a permanent job would mean for one of the temps who sorted household waste; and discovered the dedication of one worker with cancer, who not only loved his job and wouldn’t take any sick leave, but insisted on having treatment for his serious illness in his own time.

Back at head office Mr Drummond met again with some of these employees, revealing to them who he really was.  He gave one an all expenses paid holiday, offered another more secure employment, asked one man for his input into the potential acquisition of some new equipment, and others if they would share their best practise with other sites.  In short, what Mr Drummond did was show that he valued and appreciated their efforts and opinions, and cared about them as individuals. And essentially, he thanked them.   It was obvious to viewers that in return, these hard-working people enjoyed being valued. 

All too often, in consultancy projects on employee engagement and stress management, and in catch-ups with friends and family, I hear workers bemoan the fact that they are never thanked, never appreciated.  And yet, as the Gallup organisation tells us (based on years of research and interviews with thousands of people,) employees are engaged when they receive recognition and praise for doing good work, feel that their opinions about work count, and believe that their manager cares about them as a person. 

So what are you waiting for?  Remember ‘sorry’, not ‘thankyou’ is supposed to be the hardest word.

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