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Is it okay to give feedback to a direct about not saying thank you after I help them?

I've got a direct who rarely says thank you to me. My feeling is that saying thank you shows that you're aware someone has made an effort to help you, that you appreciate the effort that they made on your behalf (and thus they would infer that you would like them to continue making such efforts), and also a thank you greases the wheels, making things flow more smoothly, relationships more cordial.

So far I've only noticed it in terms of her response (or lack thereof) to me. Perhaps my next step should be to watch and listen how she responds to her peers when they help her? Or can I give her feedback based on my own experience? If so, what would it sound like?

Thanks again for any help!

madmatt's picture

To measure your effectiveness as a manager, many times you need to ask for feedback. The majority of us (managers and direct alike) do not consistently provide enough upward feedback to maximize our working relationships.

Even binary (yes/no) feedback can be better than none at all. I would suggest asking "Did that help?" consistently to start prompting the "Thank you" response from your direct. When the your direct responds to this in any way, be sure to give him or her positive feedback about how you appreciate the response. If you can provide positive reinforcement for the "Thank you" response consistently, soon your direct will learn the habit. You might get a negative response or little response at all to start with, but it is important to see that as a victory, however small and reinforce it. You can then shape up better responses from your direct.

lucaminudel's picture

Here is an idea, next time ask her to help you for something, and then thanks her.

Ah, just my feedback :

> you appreciate the effort that they made on your behalf
this is appreciation, it has much more to do with the essence of a person rather than with performance

> thus they would infer that you would like them to continue making such efforts
this is approval that is, we give it with an outcome in mind

HMac's picture

Let me see if I've got this straight: you've got a direct who doesn't say "thank you" and you're wondering if you should give them feedback?

I agree that being thanked is nice, and I like it when people thank me. So I want to agree with you. But let's look at your reasoning:

...My feeling is that saying thank you shows that you're aware someone has made an effort to help you, that you appreciate the effort that they made on your behalf (and thus they would infer that you would like them to continue making such efforts)...

Here's the flaw as I see it: you'd be basing your feedback on what you think is going on inside their head (awareness, appreciation, inference...), and that's a really dangerous thing to do.

Respectfully, littlejus - and please don't take offense if I'm out of line here: are you sure this isn't just that your feelings are hurt because somebody isn't saying "thank you"?

If there's any chance that's the case, don't turn it into a performance discussion.

Mull it a little, observe her behaviors some more, write out how the feedback would go, carefully using the M-T feedback model - then evaluate it again before you jump in.

-Hugh

tomw's picture

I'd love to know the impact of the person not saying Thank you.

Is that really the biggest and best use of your time with this person, giving them feedback on not saying Thank you enough? What's next, that they didn't wash behind their ears or wipe their feet on the way in?

If there's not a real business impact, let it go.

madmatt's picture

LITTLEJUS,

I'd like to encourage you to not drop this.

A "Thank you," no matter what form it takes is feedback to you or at least can be the start of a dialog about your effectiveness which can help you manage better.

Building a relationship of frequent, open feedback is important to anyone working with their directs (and bosses). This builds trust, credibility, and helps you motivate your coworkers.

Ability to leverage your positive relationships with coworkers ultimately determines your success and can definitely lead to better organizational results.

My advice:

1. After helping, consistently ask, "Did that help you?"

2. When you get a response, any response, consistently tell her how much you appreciate her feedback, why you appreciate it, and that you love to hear what she thinks.

3. If she begins to open up more, reciprocate with your appreciation.

BJ_Marshall's picture

Where are you with this direct on rolling out the Trinity? Have you gotten to the point where you've been doing O3s for a long time, been doling out only positive feedback for quite a while, and even gotten to the point where you've been giving adjusting feedback?

If you and your direct aren't 100% comfortable with the feedback model, I don't think I would step in with something this relatively trivial. I say "relatively" because, while there *may* be value in bringing this up - I'm not convinced there is - I'd be willing to guess you have more significant behaviors to adjust.

Don't let the perfect be the enemy of the good. This direct might also be a really low I or S and not be in tune with these interpersonal affectations. Does it really impact his performance?

BJ

asteriskrntt1's picture

I am more with Tom and Hugh on this one.

What is your job as a manager? To make your team more effective or to get thanked by your directs.

This is like people who stop volunteering because they don't "feel" appreciated or thanked enough. Seriously, are you volunteering because you want to help your organization or as a means to get people to thank you.

Unless the direct's not saying thank you impacts performance, get over it.

*RNTT

jhack's picture

How often have you thanked her? And your other directs? Do you thank them for showing up? For simply doing their job?

You're the boss. You have this big neon sign on your forehead. You probably get paid more than them, to, among other things, give them feedback. Why should THEY thank you for simply doing your job? Shouldn't those thanks come from YOUR boss?

John Hack

littlejus's picture

Madmatt: I like it! "Did that help?" That'll give me the (upward) feedback that I am looking for from my direct to tell me whether my actions are of help to her. I'll definitely give your advice a go, especially as I'm working with her to grow her role quite a bit in the coming weeks and so there is a lot that I'm doing specifically for her to ensure that she'll be ready to take on the new role. Her lack of thanks has been making me wonder whether my efforts are of use to her. So asking flat out if it helps will help me to be more effective. Thanks!

Tomw: I do feel that hearing a thank you is more than just polite form, or mothering people as you quite humorously suggested. To me, there is a need for that kind of feedback described by Madmatt. But, being cautioned against applying the feedback model to inanities is very apt. "Can I give you some feedback? When you don't wipe your feet before coming into the office, here's what happens..." No, I don't think so either Tom! ;-)

Hugh: You're right of course - I can easily admit that there is a part of me that feels hurt, especially where I've put a lot of thought in to planning the support I'm giving her, had to jump through half a dozen political hoops to make it happen on her behalf, and then not seeing any response from her side. But my hurt pride is a driver of my effectiveness: I'm not seeing from her response whether my efforts are valuable to her or not - so I ask myself have I been wasting my time? Is there a better use of my time in relation to preparing her for her new role? Another thing that was really concerning me was what it says about her attitude to the job, since she is in line for a promotion. But maybe you're right again that I'm trying to figure out what's going on inside her head, and that way lies madness. Thanks for the thoughts.

Wmarsha1: Thanks for directing my attention to the DiSc model. You're right, to pay attention to her communication style. Maybe she just isn't aware.

galway's picture

I'd be interested to hear how that feedback might go: "Can I give you some feedback? When you don't say thank you after I've helped you through an issue... it hurts my feelings? I don't feel like helping you anymore? I can't tell if you're actually listening to me?"

My team used to give a lot of negative talks to their directs about trivial matters. Since I've introduced the feedback model I've suggested to them that they consider the effect portion very strongly. If they cannot complete the "what happens" question with a negative effect to professional effectiveness somehow, then the feedback is unnecessary.

The way that I am reading your post, in the same situation I would not give feedback. I suspect that you may be unsure of the impact of the conversation that you just had with your direct, but it's my opinion that the impact will become evident in the change or lack of change in her behavior very soon.

madmatt's picture

Great! Please post back and let us know how it goes...

svgates's picture

I would suggest asking ["Who's a good boy?"] consistently to start prompting the [sit pretty] response from your [puppy]. When your [puppy] responds to this in any way, be sure to give him or her positive feedback about how you appreciate the response. If you can provide positive reinforcement for the [sit pretty] response consistently, soon your [puppy] will learn the habit. You might get a negative response or little response at all to start with, but it is important to see that as a victory, however small and reinforce it. You can then shape up better responses from your [puppy].

;}

RobRedmond's picture

"Hey, may I give you some feedback? When I get in between my boss and you and shield you from something major, tell you about it, and then you don't acknowledge that I did a good job, two things happen. One, I am unmotivated to do it again. Two, I wonder if you are giving positive feedback to your directs and paying compliments to those who are important to us as much as I would like. What could you do differently?"

Or, more casual and short:

"Dude, do I not rock? Where's my positive feedback? I give it, and I want to get it, too!"

MsSunshine's picture

I followed the approach of publicly lavishing praise on people who thanked or gave positive feedback on others in front of the group. I did it myself first. Then in 03s I would suggest that someone publicly thank the person who helped them at the meeting. When they did that, I praised the person they thanked and then thanked the person doing the thanking for sharing that. The body language of both people is amazing sometimes. They sit up straighter, have small smiles, ...

I do strongly believe and have seen that publicly showing appreciation for someone's help has a strong impact on the team's performance. The person thanked is more likely to step in again and help that person. That results in things getting done more quickly and often better. The two people start forging a much tighter and fun relationship with each other. Others see that and just seem to want to be in on it too. So, it spreads. Then they have built relationships to handle tough situations or even conflicts with each other.

It also works well with later having to give corrective feedback.

madmatt's picture

Again, please let us know what you did specifically, and what the reactions were.

littlejus's picture

No great shakes to report yet I'm afraid. But I've begun, at least. And I'm feeling more positive than before, more sure that I'm not wasting both of our time. ...Most recently, after walking my direct through a description of her new responsibilities I almost forgot to ask. Just before closing the meeting then I asked casually if it had been helpful. She turned to me and quite flatly said, "Yes".

"Good," I said. "I'm glad to know it."

Next time I aim to be more ready to ask and then to reinforce to her that her feedback is valuable to me. So far, so good...

HMac's picture

Behavior change is a slow process. NOTHING happens overnight. Think in quarterly, six month and annual periods.

And make sure you're prepared to encourage, model and reward the new behavior consistently for months, quarters, and years.

Anything less is a "fad."

-Hugh

madmatt's picture

She's quite the talker, eh?

I guess a flat "yes" or "no" is a start. Another way to gage might be to ask if she has any questions. Or even better would be to ask "What do you think?"

Unless I'm getting the picture wrong here, there seems to be something bugging her if you just gave her new job responsibilities and she is displeased about it.

littlejus's picture

Unless I'm getting the picture wrong here, there seems to be something bugging her if you just gave her new job responsibilities and she is displeased about it.

That's what *I've* been feeling (and it was this feeling that prompted this post in the first place). But then I've asked her several times, are you sure you're keen on this, is there another way you'd like the role packaged, are you comfortable with taking over, is there anything i can do to make the transition smoother?... and the answer every time has been, "No, no, I'm fine, this is good."

So I've decided to assume that she's just going through a phase of uncertainty, a minor confidence-loss perhaps, and I'm trying to address that with the "Did that help?" approach as well as "Let me know if there's anything else I can do to help." This appears to be working well enough.

madmatt's picture

She may not be, in fact, keen on any of the role she is playing. And saying no thanks to extra help sounds like she has no faith that the help will help.

Somehow in her working history she lost this faith or it never was established.

Keep trying. Keep trying. And keep asking. If she gives you feedback about how you can help grab it and do it immediately (if reasonable). She (and you) will be better off if you build up more history of success in your manager-direct relationship.

Good luck!

Matt

stephenbooth_uk's picture

Saying 'Thank you' is often an experiential/cultural thing. Some cultures use 'Please' and 'Thank You' much more than others and some families and communities within a culture do more than others in that culture. Age is also often a factor, older people seem to use the words more often than the young. I don't think that this is a new thing, I just think that as you get older you learn the value of 'Please' and 'Thank You'. Perhaps she just comes from a community that is much more reticent about saying 'Thank You'.

I see two, complementary, ways forward from this:

  1. Lead by example - Make sure you say 'Please' and 'Thank You' as often as possible and relevant. Over use them even, whilst trying not to sound obsequious. Even if it's just because the person next to you in a meeting has passed some papers to you because it's a 'take one and pass the rest along', say 'Thank you'.
  2. Give feedback - If possible, try to have the first few times you give feedback for times that she doesn't thank someone other than you who helps her. This is to reduce the chances of her thinking that you're only giving her the feedback because you feel personally affronted (i.e believing that it's you that has the problem, not her). Obviously only give feedback on incidents that you have personally observed. Something like "When I see Bob take 10 minutes from his work to help you and then you don't say 'Thank You' it makes me think that you don't appreciate the effort people put in to helping you and that they might not be so willing to help you in the future. what can you do different?"

Stephen

littlejus's picture

Recently our team went out for lunch and at the end of the lunch she turned to me privately and said "I just want to say thanks for all the help." And that was that. I'm also feeling that she's feeling more confident about her new role.

Looking back, I'm glad I didn't say anything to her about saying thank you. Instead I used some of the suggestions presented here, asking her to let me know how I can help her, and double-checking with her if my actions had been of help to her. That helped me to know where to direct my actions to give her the best support in her move upwards.

Thanks again to the community for keeping me focused on the right stuff. Much appreciated!

madmatt's picture

Glad to hear it! Good work!