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You at Work

There’s Power in a Little Thank You

By Cindy McGovern

Simply saying “thank you” can go a long way toward improving morale, retaining valuable staff members and keeping your clients coming back.

say thank you

Remember the last time a client gave you a handwritten note to thank you for doing a good job? Maybe someone at work has surprised you with flowers, an unexpected gift or a bonus. Has a vendor ever slipped you a gift card worth the price of a cup of fancy coffee, just to show appreciation for your loyalty?

It felt good. It might even have prompted you to keep up the good work. You might have thought back to that gesture when you toyed with moving to a different firm or switching to a cheaper vendor.

A Simple Thank You Can Make You a More Successful Leader

A gesture of appreciation doesn’t have to be a gift. Simply saying “thank you” can go a long way toward improving morale, retaining valuable staff members and keeping your clients coming back. In fact, in survey after survey, more than 20% of employees have said:

  • After not feeling recognized for doing good work, they have recently applied for a different job — compared with 12% of employees who do feel recognized.
  • More appreciation from bosses would make them happier at work.
  • They prefer written or spoken thanks over extra time off or gifts.

Saying “thank you” is a simple but powerful gesture. And it can lay the foundation for a positive relationship with your senior partners, subordinates and peers when the time comes for you to ask someone to go the extra mile.

Say Thank You: Showing Appreciation Builds Goodwill

People appreciate being appreciated. Someone who feels appreciation from you is more likely to return the gesture by agreeing to your requests. They want to let you know that they appreciate you, too.

Professional salespeople — at least the good ones — know this. They keep in touch with their customers long after they have made the sale. They thank them for their business. They check later to ask if the customers are happy with their major purchases. They ask what else the customer might need that they can offer.

It’s all part of creating a “customer for life.” And it’s a strategy you can imitate in an effort to create good working relationships with clients, staff and colleagues.

Consider the late Bob Bergland, a former U.S. secretary of agriculture and member of Congress who later worked as the general manager of an association with hundreds of employees. He was known for making the effort to learn the names of as many of those employees as he could, and for taking the time to stroll around the building every now and then to shake their hands and thank them for their service — by name.

When it came time for him to ask employees to go the extra mile, they were happy to return that goodwill.

I can share a practice of my own that works for me: As a small business owner, I handwrite thank-you notes on fancy paper and mail them in time for Thanksgiving delivery each year to every client, employee and vendor I have ever done business with — even former ones.

When I find myself in need of a favor, a discount or a rush job, they’re happy to help me.

Especially if someone gives you something you really want, like a job, it’s important to show your gratitude. In fact, most hiring managers say they expect a thank-you email from every job applicant who got an interview.

Even if you didn’t get the raise or job you asked for, show your gratitude to the person who spent time on considering your request. And don’t show that gratitude just once. Continue to follow up with everyone who has helped you or considered it.

That kind of follow-up not only sets you up for positive results with this person in the future, but it signals that the professional relationship you want reaches far beyond a single transaction. It says you care enough to stay in touch.

Simple Gestures Can Be Just as Powerful as Grand Ones

You don’t have to spend a ton of money or time saying thank you. For example:

  • A note — handwritten or via email — that includes a specific reference to something the recipient did for you or talked to you about can elevate a casual business relationship to a more important one. (See “Analog Attorney: Handwritten Notes Build Real Relationships.”)
  • After crashing on a deadline, an in-person thanks for a job well done — again, with specific mentions of achievements — lets an employee know that you notice and appreciate hard work.
  • Posting a positive online review for a company or service professional takes just minutes, but its impact can be enormous if it results in additional business for the vendor.
  • Returning a favor after someone has done one for you tells the other person that the relationship is not one-sided.
  • Some sincere words of appreciation can pick up an employee or co-worker who is showing signs of burnout or depression.
  • A gift card worth as little as $5 is still a gift. Hand them out to people who serve you year-round. Don’t wait for the holidays; make it a surprise.

When you say “thank you” to someone who said “yes” to a request, you pave the way for the next “yes.” Follow the lead of the most successful sales professionals whenever someone gives you something or does something for you: Realize that hearing a yes isn’t the end of the deal. It’s the start of the next one.

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Extra Relationship Advice:

It’s simple, says Roy Ginsburg, people who say thank you get more job leads than those who don’t. Here’s his advice on the etiquette of saying thank you  when job hunting: Say Thank You to Stand Out.”

In “How to Keep Referral Sources Vibrant,” sales coach Mike O’Horo has excellent advice on the specific way you want to thank your referral sources (even if the referral didn’t work out).

There are many ways to show clients your appreciation — here’s advice from Ruth Carter (You Don’t Need a Holiday to Show Some Love) and Merrilyn Astin Tarlton (Five Ways to Show Clients You DON’T Really Care!”).

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Cindy McGovern

Cindy McGovern, Ph.D., known as the “First Lady of Sales,” speaks and consults internationally on sales, interpersonal communication and leadership. She is the author of “Every Job Is a Sales Job: How to Use the Art of Selling to Win at Work.” Cindy is the CEO of Orange Leaf Consulting, a sales management and consulting firm, and holds a doctorate in organizational communication. Find more information at and connect with her on Twitter @1stladyofsales.

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