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Why Saying “Thank You” Can Help Build Resilience at Work

16 April 2018

There’s a lot to be said for saying a heartfelt “thank you” at work. There is considerable research that shows that, by saying ‘thank you” and meaning it, you can uplift and motivate staff, improve productivity, build confidence, self-esteem and relationships and improve job satisfaction. That’s a pretty good outcome for being appropriately grateful for work done, with the use of two one syllable words. And, it’s far less expensive than the cost of culture change training or team building workshops. Individuals, teams and organisations that have a culture of gratitude have been found to be more resilient than those that don’t.

So why is it that managers are reticent to say ”thank you” to staff for their work or for going the extra mile? One viewpoint is that there is no need to thank someone for turning up to work each day or for doing a job that they are paid to do. That’s fine if you only want people to do exactly what they are paid to do and no more. But, if you are looking for passion, commitment, dedication and quality work from your people, you will get far more engagement by showing gratitude and appreciation for their efforts.

Any “thank you” has added value to the recipient if it’s unexpected and specific. For example, “Roger, I know that you postponed your tennis match so that we could finish the project report this week. I really appreciate that you stayed back on Wednesday evening. Thank you also for staying calm under pressure and producing a document that we are all proud of. Thank you.” What is evident in this “thank you” is the manager’s observation of what Roger had contributed, noting what he did well and how he conducted himself. The manager also acknowledged and showed gratitude that Roger was willing to postpone his tennis match to do what was necessary to meet a deadline. Finally, the high quality of the report also reflected positively on the manager at the organisational level.

Saying “thank you” is also a very useful tool when faced with negative feedback or criticism. Whatever is said, respond with an authentic “thank you”. When Miriam was scolded for not making enough telephone calls to meet her daily quota, she said “thank you” for the feedback. Her reply was authentic. Even though the scolding was inappropriate, the feedback was useful. Miriam’s “thank you” left her manager somewhat taken aback. That was not the response the manager was expecting. More importantly, it gave Miriam time to think through and deliver a measured explanation for not reaching the quota.

Saying “thank you” is a valuable but underutilised tool that can build resilience in organisations. Showing gratitude and appreciation is a great way for managers to engage and motivate their people while demonstrating that they value their contributions. A team mindset of gratitude helps people to connect, to build their capability and to persevere. And, it makes for a happier, healthier team. Connectedness, capability and perseverance are each components of team resilience. When the chips are down, don’t get upset. Rather, first, say “thank you”.

Char Weeks is an Executive Master Coach who delivers the Hurn McEwen Resilience@Work Program for individuals and teams. She can be contacted on Twitter @charweeks or email Her elearning module, Manage Your Energy Rather Than Your Time is available at


McEwen K. Building Team Resilience. Mindset Publications, 2016. St Marys, SA

Morin A. How an authentic thank you can change your work place culture. Forbes Magazine. Nov 2016.

Ledbetter B. The benefits of gratitude: why saying thank you matters. Huffington Post. Dec 2016.