Great Leaders Frequently Use These 2 Words

You’ve heard the old saying, “People don’t leave bad jobs. They leave bad bosses.” It’s true, and more often than not, it’s because they don’t pay enough, but it has nothing to do with salary. Many bad bosses are bad because they don’t pay enough attention to currencies more compelling than money.

To the boss who says, “your pay is my thanks,” think again. A simple and sincere gesture of gratitude is one of the easiest ways to have the greatest impact on your organization. And a simple “thank you” is one of the best ways to keep your employees engaged and productive. Neuroscience explains what happens when someone acknowledges our efforts and thanks us for being a valued member of the community (e.g., dopamine, oxytocin, etc.). Scientific studies have shown that the neurotransmitters released during expressions of gratitude actually help the brain decrease stress and increase happiness and well-being.

Despite the fact that many leaders are reluctant to show their appreciation to an employee just for doing his job, there are documented benefits to both the individual and the organization. According to a wealth of research, gratitude in the workplace delivers:

  1. Increased productivity: Employees feel more motivated to go the extra mile when they feel that they are valued and that their work is appreciated.

  2. Greater well-being: Genuinely grateful people are less stressed with healthier immune systems and take fewer sick days;

  3. Greater mental strength: Genuinely grateful people are more resilient when faced with adversity and better able to solve problems and overcome obstacles;

  4. Contagious positivity: People who feel valued and appreciated are more positive and cooperative with others;

  5. Greater job satisfaction: Employees who feel appreciated take pride in their work and get satisfaction from contributing to the organization.

Everyone wants to know that what we do really matters. 2 little words – “thank you” – goes a long way.  

People work for money but go the extra mile for recognition, praise, and rewards.

—Dale Carnegie


Melissa Hughes, Ph.D.
Melissa Hughes, Ph.D.
Dr. Melissa Hughes is a neuroscience geek, keynote speaker, and author. Her latest book, Happier Hour with Einstein: Another Round explores fascinating research about how the brain works and how to make it work better for greater happiness, well-being, and success. Having worked with learners from the classroom to the boardroom, she incorporates brain-based research, humor, and practical strategies to illuminate the powerful forces that influence how we think, learn, communicate and collaborate. Through a practical application of neuroscience in our everyday lives, Melissa shares productive ways to harness the skills, innovation and creativity within each of us in order to contribute the intellectual capital that empowers organizations to succeed with social, financial and cultural health.

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  1. Absolutely agree.
    Every day at work we cultivate relationships with others: colleagues, customers, bosses, suppliers and collaborators. These are bonds that influence the quality of our professional life, both in terms of results and in terms of satisfaction.
    The desire to be appreciated and valued is one of the attitudes that most affects working relationships. We are happy when others thank us and, in this way, we perform more in daily activities. Various scientific testimonies attest that communicating one’s gratitude to others strengthens team working, a sense of belonging and availability towards the other. On the contrary, not thanking and not being thanked in the workplace makes people feel insecure and undervalued.
    But be careful, for thanksgiving to trigger a mechanism of widespread positivity, it must be a heartfelt and argued “thank you”. If we use this word only as a gesture of courtesy, it is likely that it will have no beneficial power over others and the surrounding environment. Therefore it is good to specify the reason for our gratitude.

  2. Melissa —
    You always get me thinking: “…many leaders are reluctant to show their appreciation to an employee…”

    I’m currently looking at all the things on my desk that I could throw – I focus on my coffee mug – but we just had this room painted and I’m wondering, “Is it really worth it to lash out at bone-headed ‘leaders’ who can’t utter those words”? And I’d be the one having to clean up the mess….

    I guess what I’m really curious about is what stops them? The juke box in my head starts to play George Michael’s song “Star People.”

    Maybe your mama gave you up, boy
    (It’s the same old same old)
    Maybe your daddy didn’t love you enough, girl

    Is that it? Were they mistreated as a child?

    Did you get off on a bad foot, baby
    Do you have a little tale to tell

    Was the “love” they received early on in life only in the form of material stuff?
    Or was love totally absent?

    “Gratefulness” with all the rewards you describe is such an easy idea to contemplate, you’d think some college or university would have built it into their MBA program by now. Nah, let’s do a case study on “earnings before interest, taxes, and amortization” instead.

    • Well, you just made me smile, Jeff! Thank you for sharing your thoughts here. Now, I’ll have that song in my head all day long! It is amazing that something so simple is also so rare. Perhaps one day gratitude will catch on and be a “must-have” rather than a “nice-to-have.”