The chain reaction that starts with a "Thank You".
Updated: Aug 5, 2020
I was recently asked “What is the biggest single thing that a manager can do to demotivate you?” I have never been asked this before, but I did not take long to confidently reply, “Not saying Thank You”. I was told that this was an interesting answer as most people say something generic and boring like “I don’t like being micro-managed or having my work scrutinised”. I explained that gratitude is important to me, and great things happen when we give and receive thanks.
The effects of receiving gratitude
In a previous role, I remember booking flights for a manager who did not travel very often so was not familiar with the internal booking system. She was within the team but not someone who I usually supported so as a thank you for my help, she went out at lunch and bought me a slice of cake from Patisserie Valarie (which was delicious!). I was completely shocked by this act of gratitude and part of me thought, “It’s part of my job to be helpful, you don’t need to buy me cake and I would have still done the same thing for no cake”. Nevertheless, receiving thanks (and the cake) did leave me feeling appreciated and more motivated.
That is not to say that every time I do something at work, or indeed in life, someone needs to make a grand gesture of appreciation, a simple “Thank You” can go a long way. I think that this is especially true when working in the role of a PA/EA as our work is often to be proactive and smooth things out before they become a problem, so often our work can go unnoticed. Your manager saying thank you means that they have noticed your work and acts as an acknowledgement that you have done a good job. This can result in an internal glowing feeling of celebration. I equate receiving thanks to getting a juicy boost of serotonin and dopamine (the happy hormones) and is a bit like the feeling you get when you hug a loved one, the buzz after completing an exercise class or even when someone likes your latest social media post. I caveat this; each expression of gratitude needs to be sincere otherwise it will not have this effect.
The art of practising gratitude.
Equally, the practise of expressing gratitude is just as important. Resilience, which we all need in abundance at the moment, is like a muscle and it can be built up and strengthened. Expressing gratitude is a key way of building resilience; it helps us to not take anything for granted, see the bigger picture and notice the small things in life which are good.
I regularly practice gratitude by writing down at least one thing that made me smile or that I appreciated that day. I do it just before bed and it helps me go to sleep feeling positive, which in turn results in improved rest and recovery time. Regularly practising gratitude has made me much more aware of all the small things that give me joy, that could be spring flowers about to bloom or the kindness shown by someone taking the time to explain how to tackle an Excel formula which was getting the better of me.
Having practised gratitude in this way for over a year, the greatest benefit has come on those, luckily few and far between, tough days. The days that you feel the whole world is crashing in on you. On these days I have had to search deep inside as to what I was grateful for or what made me smile, and I have always found one thing. This has greatly helped me know that brighter days will come again. If you choose to practise gratitude in this way using a journal or online notebook, you have the bonus of looking back on the year before on the things that made you smile which can also be really entertaining.
Furthermore, if you take the small amount of time to recognise someone's efforts, even if is for the mundane and regular life activities like; “Thank you for sorting out dinner tonight” to your partner, or “Thanks for finding a meeting room for us to use”, the recipient of thanks will respond positively, feeling appreciated and motivated. Their optimistic reaction will reinforce your own act of thanks creating a virtuous cycle. It is the mood enhancing chain reaction that you have the power to kick start, all with a simple “Thanks”.
So, with that in mind, I encourage you to practise taking a few moments to stop and think about all you appreciate in life and ask yourself if you actively show your gratitude for these things? If the answer is no - why not try it out?
Thank you to my wonderful husband for being my biggest supporter and for adding a "Little Book of Gratitude", which has become my journal, to my Christmas stocking two years ago - it has changed my life.