Merge's Blog

To motivate employees, say thank you

ThankYouGround-breaking research on employee motivation conducted by Dr. Elton Mayo in the 1930’s gave rise to the Hawthorne Effect.  In essence, the Hawthorne Effect describes a fundamental concept that may seem obvious to us today: that workplaces are social environments and people thrive in positive and respectful surroundings.

So, as a leader, when you create a positive atmosphere at work, you are much more likely to secure your employees’ cooperation and loyalty, and thus improve productivity and performance. Which begs the question – what specific things are you doing to create such an environment, and motivate and encourage your employees to peak performance?  Well today I want to start an occasional series of posts that focuses on zero-cost or inexpensive ways to do just that.  I’ve got one idea for you today, one later this week, and every so often over the next few months, I’ll add to our ongoing list.  And as we go along, please feel free to add to the list!

So I’ll kick off this series with quite possibly the most (glaringly) obvious one — say thank you!  It’s what our mothers taught us years ago, and it’s as golden now as it was back then.  Now the important word here is “say”, as in verbalize it, put it into words, don’t just think it, say it.  And say it to the employee, not to others!  When you take the time to say “thank you”, you do two things – first, because it’s the courteous thing to do, you create a respectful workplace.  And second, you set an example for others.  If you’re in a position of leadership, then you’re also a role model (whether you know it, like it, or want it … or not!), and when you make it a point to say “thank you”, you establish the accepted behaviour norms on your team.

So … your thoughts — either about saying thank you, or about what else you do to create a positive and motivated workforce.  I’ll be back again later this week, but let’s get this conversation started now.


  • I agree wholeheartedly. They used to make these fantastic “thank you” post-its which I still use and people love them. The one piece of advice I might give to make this even more effective is to try say thank you for things that the employee finds meaningful. We once did an “appreciation board” at a retreat – a great idea when executed well. Of the two managers, I was thanked for my social convening skills and my colleague was thanked for her strong management skills. It would have been better not to thank me for anything frankly.

  • Great advice Rell! For something to be motivating, it absolutely has to be meaningful for the person on the receiving end. Thanks for the very important reminder.

  • So simple…but no one ever does it. Completely taken for granted. The attitude today is somewhere along the lines of “be happy you have a job”. Great motivation and leadership model, would you agree?

    One of my first jobs as a kid was at an ice cream/ restaurant like Friendly’s. The supervisor in charge of us part-timers, (although we didn’t really care for him persoanlly), always took the time to “thank” us each day or night when our shift was over. It affected me because 40 years later, I still remember this.

    Fast forward to approximately 15 years ago, my supervisor who oversaw seven of us, personally called each of us every Friday afternoon. He called us either in our offices or on our cells if we may have been travelling. The call was merely to “thank” each of us for the week’s work. To me… this is and was amazing. Every week…never missed.

    Personally, I don’t need an award, recognition in front of a group, or a monetary bonus…. but treat me with respect, and with sincere thanks, and I will be as loyal as a dog to his master.

    It IS that simple

  • Bill, I’ve always said that “saying thank you” is one of the most effective and inexpensive ways to motivate employees. In fact, as long as it’s specific, genuine, sincere and timely, it NEVER wears out! Thanks so much for adding to the conversation.


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.