We’ve all had good bosses and bad bosses. Over the years, I’ve found that the best ones are those who take time on occasion to say two simple words: ‘thank you.’

As I’ve said before, at the deepest of levels everyone wants to be loved and appreciated. When you say ‘thank you’ to someone you are letting them know that, indeed, they have self-worth. Employees will stick around a lot longer, they’ll work harder and they’ll be exponentially more loyal if the phrase ‘thank you’ is said regularly. This sounds like it should be common sense, but for many organizations (even some that are perceived as being extremely successful), it is not.

My worst bosses over the years have been individuals who have viewed their employees as cattle. They used people to squeeze as much productivity out of them as possible, and when they were done with them they shrugged their shoulders and looked for the next piece of meat. Yes, if you demand a lot from employees you will probably a lot out of them  — until they quit — but the person who is treated with dignity and respect brings all sorts of intangibles to the table that ‘Worker No. 74562’ does not.

When I enjoyed working for someone, my hardest efforts seemed to flow naturally. I didn’t have to psyche myself up to do my job. I didn’t have to put my “work hat” on because it was essentially “on” all the time. I put in extra hours … simply because. I spent time trying to figure out ways to solve problems during my off hours … because I wanted to. I stuck around after the close of business to do little things that might not be noticed by my superiors, but that I knew would benefit the organization.

With that said, it should be noted that I do not expect people to be babied. Some employees expect to be praised simply for doing their job. That is the wrong answer and, truthfully, there are many people with such a warped perception of what their workplace environment should be.

On a deeper level, saying ‘thank you’ for all that you’ve been given is also very powerful. I suggest saying ‘thank you’ for something every day when you wake up and every day before you go to bed. Once you start — once you become conscious of just how much you have to be thankful for — the list will not stop. You’ll be amazed at just how much you’ve taken your life, your health, your family and friends for granted.

Just as you become a harder worker when you have a boss who says ‘thank you,’ you become a better person when you become thankful for the abundance in your life. Taking a quiet moment every day to acknowledge how thankful you are for a loving wife, a best friend or just a heart that beats will change you. As you become more thankful, you will be become more humble. When you become more humble, you treat those around you with more respect. When you respect yourself and others around you that respect will be returned in spades.

Think about how often you go through the day on autopilot. Eat, shower, shave, dress, drive to work with the radio on to avoid having to confront your own thoughts … work, work, work … and then head home for just long enough to eat and pass out. Turn the radio off on your drive to work and spend more time listening to the commentary in your own head. Evaluate it. Analyze it and, again, be thankful. You will be surprised at just how powerful those two words can be.

In keeping with the theme of this post I will lead by example: I am thankful every day for the friends I have met through this blog and other social media sites. There are individuals, young and old, who I have met online who have made me a better person. You have pushed and prodded me to think about many issues from new perspectives. You have creatively lifted me up when I was down. You have taught me that everyone — particularly those I disagree with the most — is worthy of respect.

Although I sometimes fall short of the lessons you have taught me over the years, I can confidently say that I am a better person for having been in contact with you. I am always striving to improve myself and for your part in helping to keep the ball rolling in the right direction I say it again: “thank you.”

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About the Author Douglas Ernst

I'm a former Army guy who believes success comes through hard work, honesty, optimism, and perseverance. I believe seeing yourself as a victim creates a self-fulfilling prophecy. I believe in God. I'm a USC Trojan with an MA in Political Science from American University.

19 comments

  1. Great article, employees should be treated with respect. Many people say the thing they want the most is a raise but if you look deeper they want recognition and respect. I have had the pleasure of working for bosses that were terrible and bosses that were great, I have also been a boss (and hopefully a good boss). One thing I always try to remember is that everyone needs some kind words because we seldom get them in the world we have today.
    I teach this mentality, a good boss has well trained employees that feel they are valued and respected. In turn a good employee will reflect on the boss. If you have poor employees it is usually a sign of bad management.
    We are all in this world together so we might as well appreciate and learn from each other.

    1. Most of my bosses have been… bad. My manager at McDonald’s in particular was rude, vindictive and always looked for an excuse to blame the store’s problems on me. When customers yelled at me and make ridiculous claims that I screwed up their orders (which maybe happened once), she didn’t come to my defense but instead yelled at me. And I was afraid to criticize her because she was black and knew that if she said something to the corporate higher-ups, it could be construed as “racial harassment.”

      And it wasn’t just me that she treated poorly. She treated the severely mentally handicapped kids who worked there like second-class citizens and called them names. One of my co-workers said he contacted the Department of Labor about it, but they never got back to him. She also yelled at a girl once for “not going fast enough.” The girl’s parents happened to be there and the girl’s mother actually said, “You leave my daughter alone.” Next day, girl gets summoned to the manager’s office and was told “If you or your parents ever criticize me again, you will be very sorry indeed.” So she basically threatened an employee right there.

      I know it happened years ago, but it was recent enough that I still get flustered about it from time to time. My sister and her boyfriend also had her as a manager at a different location, were treated like crap and both recently quit, largely because of her. Apparently my sister even brought up the fact that this manager was rude to me and defended me against the manager’s ridiculous accusations that I was a poor worker.

    2. The “poor worker” accusation is hilarious because I was the hardest-working person there. I always came in on time, stayed late if I had to (such as overnights), came in on days I had off, etc. But never once did I get a simple “thank you.”

    3. It sounds as if you’re moving on and that manager will be stuck with her McDonald’s fiefdom for years to come. I only know you from your comments and your blog, but you seem like a good guy who has his head on straight. If you keep plugging away I think you’ll be just fine. You’ll leave that manager in the rearview mirror, and in time she’ll just be an afterthought.

      Retail is a tough, business. I respect anyone who works with customers on a daily basis. Always right? Well … you should always be professional, but they’re not always right. In fact, they sometimes lie, cheat and steal.

      When I managed a gym I had a woman come in with her little boy and he started goofing around on the equipment. We didn’t allow little kids in the gym (for obvious reasons), and I informed her of the policy. She disappeared, and it turned out that she just dumped him in the pool (unsupervised). The lifeguard was very confused, as it was time for lap swimming for adults. I had the kid, who could barely hold his head above water, get out of the pool and told the mother. I looked up her membership and she didn’t even have a family pass.

      When confronted, this woman said I was “racist.” She said I was only paying attention to her, neglecting the fact that she was the only one in the gym blatantly in violation of the rules. She began yelling and causing a scene, and then I told her if she didn’t calm down I’d call security to take her away. She told me to do so. I did. Five minutes later when security came to take her away she freaked out even more. “You called security on me?!” My response: “I told you what I would do if you continued screaming and then you told me to go ahead and call security. I did.”

      During this time I gave her the director’s name and number. I was hoping the lady did a follow up, given that my supervisor was black. It would have been a shock to my boss to find out that one of the most dedicated employees, who she got along with wonderfully, was racist… The security guys who came to escort the yelling woman away were also black, and afterward they came up to me and basically said, “Dude. Sorry you had to deal with that.”

      Stand up for what’s right. Be tactful. Let the chips fall where they may. It’s served me well over the years and I’m sure it will do the same for you.

    4. I’m glad you stood up for what was right when you worked for the gym. It also sounds like you had good bosses and co-workers there who understood it from your perspective and didn’t treat the angry woman with kid gloves. She sounds all too much like a LOT of customers who think they’re always right, no questions asked. She also sounds a lot like way too many neglectful parents who just will not take responsibility and look after their kids. Dropping him, unsupervised, into a pool during adult swimming laps? Yeesh. Kid could’ve drowned if not for you pulling him out of the pool. Did anyone contact child services?

      And yeah, I try to stand up for what’s right, even if it gets me in trouble. Like I said, I was afraid of criticizing my manager because of the whole race angle, but there were times where I did, and it was never pretty. If a customer was angry at me for some illogical reason (like that douche who wound up challenging me to a fight), she would scream at me for not pampering the customer, tell me to “lose the attitude” if I tried to make my case and would “punish” me by sending me to the grill or out to the lobby to clean.

    5. Like I said brotha, it seems like you’re well on your way to a happier professional life. Not all bosses are like that (that goodness).

      In terms of customers, I’ve always found the “kill ’em with kindness” philosophy works best. If you stay calm and polite and smile while someone screams at you, it often makes them even more upset.

      By the time I was done working at the gym it was a joke: “I’m racist, I hate disabled people, I sexually harassed a woman and I violated of a Supreme Court ruling on identification cards.”

      The sexual harassment thing was a bit scary. Luckily there was another (female) manager who saw the whole thing unfold who backed me up. When the accuser was told that there was a witness and that she was lying, the girl broke down in tears and mumbled something about wanting someone to understand her. That was a real eye-opener for me. All it takes is one crazy person, and if you have no witnesses it’s going to be your word against theirs.

    6. Funny you should mention fiefdom. That’s exactly how she was. She didn’t view herself as the manager of a fast food joint. She viewed herself as a queen, with the employees as her serfs.

    7. Yep. I’ve had some experience with that type of personality before. Just dream bigger dreams and pretty soon you’ll be too large for the fiefdoms of little minds.

    8. You were falsely accused of sexual harassment? That’s pretty scary. Obviously this girl was looking for attention. And in today’s world, all they need to do is ever make up some story and if there aren’t any witnesses, like you said, it’s your word against theirs. These days, you can get charged with “harassment” for simply being nice and holding a door open for a woman. I’m dead serious, too; I remember reading about such an occurrence that took place in the UK not that long ago.

      I have never been accused of sexual harassment, but because I’ve always been careful about what I say to women in public, lest I be accused of it. These days, ANYTHING can be construed as “harassment.”

    9. A woman came up to me and complained a guy took a treadmill she had signed up for. I said, “Let’s go take care of it.” When we went into the cardio room she then said, “Umm, never mind.” That really annoyed me since we had issues with people taking treadmills others had signed up for and because she pulled me out of the office only to back out. Since it was about time to start closing down for the night I told her she could tell me who the guy was so I could stop the behavior, which also caused headaches for my staff, or I could start closing down treadmills with whatever one she got on next.

      She told me I couldn’t do that. I informed her that I could (it was, after all, time to start closing up shop). Then she demanded that I give her the bag she brought that was on the ground next to me. I politely handed it to her. In between that half-second exchange she decided I touched her inappropriately. She called the director the next day to say she was going to file a complaint. That’s when the other female manager came to my aid and said it was a total lie because she was watching everything unfold as it happened.

      Some of these girls were told they were a “princess” their entire life. They were used to always getting their way, and then when they ran into a guy like me — who doesn’t put up with crap — they didn’t like it. Law students were also incredibly annoying…

  2. The only way a company can show its love and appreciation for a worker is with money. A plastic smile, a warm fuzzy atta-boy (girl) may work for a little while, but in the afterglow of fake friendliness if the hand ain’t greener it’s all bs.

    I’ve also witnessed the race card being dealt from the bottom of the deck. The real racists out there are the ones who play those cards.

    1. Well, I guess this piece is predicated on the person receiving the ‘thank you’ to feel as though it’s genuine. Personally, I don’t care about money if I have enough to put a roof over my head and some food in my mouth. I’ve done some pretty crappy jobs that I might still be doing today if people showed more appreciation. I left a very stable job with a great benefits package, in part, because the culture at the place treated people like cogs in a wheel. I took a pretty big pay cut at the next job and … it was probably one of the best professional choices I ever made.

    2. I agree. They’re the ones who promote division through things like the race card.

      And I never even got so much as “good job today” from my manager. My other managers were too afraid to speak out, but it wasn’t until much later (after I had quit working there and had friended a few of the nicer ones on Facebook) that a few of them told me that I was a good employee and were impressed with my work ethic, even if the main manager wasn’t. It was very pleasant to know that they weren’t in lock-step with the main manager and actually appreciated the work I did.

  3. Most employee mistakes are made due to poor management. Who trained the employee? Poor polices also lead to more mistakes so proper training and policies reduce mistakes.
    Blaming never helps but I do like the line “I did not say it was your fault, I said I am blaming you”.
    Accountability is very important, based on you post I think it is clear that the boss did not have the respect of the employees. Respect is earned not forced.
    Fast food is a starting position with starting position managers (ones that are usually new and will make many mistakes). That is one of the reasons the pay level is low (low talent…lower wage).
    Jim Zee, you may be surprised but money does not go as far as you think. Most people would rather have respect and appreciation (that is what studies have shown). Financial gains tend to wear off.

    You may enjoy my articles on the Jedi manager.

    1. Truthwillwin1,

      You couldn’t be more right about money. A bigger paycheck gives temporary relief if the person does not like the work environment, but that soon wears off. Think about all the people you know. How many people do it for “the money”? I’d say almost no one. Heck, what kind of person takes a job to begin with at such a low salary that they’d soon be saying “money talks and bulls**t walks” to their boss? That sounds more like the fault of the employee for not negotiating a proper starting salary than any wrongdoing on the supervisor’s part.

      The type of boss who would honestly tell you he appreciated your hard work is typically not the guy who is going to stiff you on salary. Give me a cool boss and a positive work environment at lower pay over the jerk-boss who pays me a lot any day of the week.

    1. Money matters but it is not the end game. Trust me I have been there done that and deal with this everyday as a consultant. The money wears off and people go elsewhere. The goal is to give them what they feel is fair and provide a good working experience.
      As stated the money is a temporary bandage. Ask yourself this does a raise increase employee productivity….no. Employees might say ” I would work more if I am paid more” but they seldom do.

      Truth.

  4. Hey Doug, Nice article. Sounds like you may have read “The Secret” or seen the DVD. It’s essentially all about that. Anyway, how ever it’s consumed it’s the right message for everyone.

    1. Thanks, adshand. I appreciate it. I think my thoughts are a weird amalgamation of my Catholic faith, motivational speakers I’m fond of and any number of other spiritual videos that have resonated with me. I do actually believe there is a lot of truth to “The Secret,” but I strongly disagree with its conclusion (if my memory is correct). It seemed to suggest the individual is a god, as opposed to a spiritual being that draws its strength from God.

      When I was in the Army I worked for a 1st Sergent my last six months. I went well above the call of duty for that guy and he didn’t say “thank you” one time. Not once. It always rubbed me the wrong way, and ever since then I’ve always made it a point to show those working under or for me that I appreciated their efforts.

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