Using This 4-Word Phrase Instead of 'Thank You' Will Improve Work Relationships and Make You a Better Leader

Using This 4-Word Phrase Instead of 'Thank You' Will Improve Work Relationships and Make You a Better Leader Using This 4-Word Phrase Instead of 'Thank You' Will Improve Work Relationships and Make You a Better Leader

It will also improve work relationships and help workers become more productive.

It's a known fact that gratitude can be a powerful leadership tool to help transform workplace culture and deeper connections.

According to Adam Grant and Francesca Gino's research, simple expressions of appreciation and praise can have a powerful impact on motivating and inspiring others. But will a simple "thanks" do the trick?

Not exactly.

Research findings

One of their field experiments focused on fundraising for a university, specifically the critical task of securing alumni donations. If you've ever hit the phones to fundraise, you know it can be brutal since fundraisers often have to deal with rude feedback and frequent rejections.

Grant and Gino wanted to explore how a gratitude expression from an annual giving director could influence fundraisers' behavior when raising funds for the university. Could a simple act of praise lead fundraisers to raise more donations? And what's the magic phrase people may want to hear to go above and beyond?

The study involved 41 fundraisers at a public university in the United States. The researchers randomly assigned fundraisers to two groups: the control group, which received no appreciation or gratitude, and the gratitude group, which the director of annual giving personally visited to express gratitude for their hard work.

Four magic words of gratitude

Both groups of fundraisers received daily feedback on their effectiveness; the key difference was whether or not they received a direct expression of gratitude from the director.

Here's exactly what the director said to praise the fundraisers:

I am very grateful for your hard work. We sincerely appreciate your contributions to the university.

The four magic words that immediately pop out: I am very grateful. Not just a mere thanks or even "thank you." Being grateful--very grateful-- has much more impact and meaning, especially for a thankless job.

So, what happened as a result? While the group without expressions of gratitude showed no change in their average number of calls, those who received the warm, two-sentence expression of gratitude from their boss made an impressive 50 percent more calls in the following week. This underscores the positive impact of simple appreciative gestures like "I am grateful" on employee performance.

The big takeaway

Grant and Gino concluded that when people in positions of authority express gratitude, individuals are more likely to contribute extra work. In a sense, expressing gratitude makes people doing the work feel more valued.

This reminds me of my favorite Maya Angelou quote: "I've learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel." Bosses who make their employees feel like they matter, like they are seen and heard, will intrinsically perform at a higher level. It's human nature.

In other experiments, Grant and Gino conducted, participants also reported feeling a greater sense of self-efficacy, meaning they perceived that they were making a more significant impact on the world around them.

As a manager, it's important to take a moment to thank your employees and colleagues when they excel at their tasks. Simply acknowledging their efforts by saying "I am very grateful" and expressing it genuinely and from the heart can go a long way in boosting morale and motivating them to perform even better.

This post originally appeared at inc.com.

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