Thank you. Two simple words we say numerously throughout the day to people for holding the door open, or for delivering a sandwich we craved all morning. It is easy to say to those who are serving us in some way, but often people find it difficult to say to those they work with.
Mohammed, the chief executive of a financial organisation, sent an email to Sara, an analyst several levels below, thanking her for her outstanding performance at her first project assigned by him. Sara appreciated his email, but never responded.
A few days later, she heard that Mohammed was looking to assign a similar project to one of the junior staff members that could lead to a promotion and a big pay rise.
Sara was thrilled, and wanted to work on the project. She bumped into Mohammed in the lift. He asked her if she had received the email he sent. Yes, Sara said, she did. Why, Mohammed asked, had not she responded? Sara said she did not see the need as he is a busy man.
She was wrong. His encouraging email deserved, at the very least, a "thank you" even if in fact he was a busy man. That was not a good excuse.
The project was not assigned to Sara. Was she disqualified solely because she did not send a response? No. But was her lack of response a reason among a few others to not consider her and instead choose a better candidate? You bet.
But more than often, it is the other way around. Many employees complain about the lack of appreciation and thanks from their managers. Many managers would agree that you should not thank people for doing their job.
However, people are a competitive advantage for any organisation, and retaining good employees is critical. Many surveys show that people change jobs because they did not feel appreciated.
In a study by the Gallup organisation, an employee's direct manager has the greatest effect on retention. Therefore, it makes sense that the most effective recognition comes from the employees' direct superior.
Employees in general are aware if they are doing a good job or not, but that is not the point. They want to ensure that their hard work does not go unnoticed and is being acknowledged by their company and most importantly their managers. They want to know that their contribution to the company matters.
It is ironic how organisations are always on the lookout for rewards or recognition programmes that will maximise their employees performance and ensure their retention.
While a good package and a fat pay cheque are effective, it is vital to keep in mind that they can never replace a sincere "thank you" from the direct manager or supervisor.
When is the best time to thank an employee? Studies have shown that recognition has the greatest effect when it happens immediately after a good performance.
When an employee delivers a fine sales pitch, or does something special for the team, his/her emotions would be rocketing because they know they have done a great job. And if a manager recognises this and thanks the employee at that time, then that will increase the likelihood of that great performance occurring again.
Some would argue that we are all too busy to spend time exchanging thanks. My friends defended Sara, and said that if Mohammed needed so much stroking and was being sensitive about the issue, then he cannot possibly be a good chief executive. They said that with the digital age and flocks of emails, no response has become an accepted norm.
I disagree. It does not take more than a minute to thank someone, but it does take caring. Not answering someone's communication, whether it be text or email, is not an accepted norm, especially in business, where establishing good relationships are crucial.
If you take away the digital element from Sarah and Mohammed's anecdote. How would it look if Sara walked away when Mohammed thanked her? Disrespectful, right?
Acknowledging others is a key aspect of good leadership.
Manar Al Hinai is an award-winning Emirati writer and fashion designer based in Abu Dhabi