Wednesday, June 30, 2010

A No “Thank You” Culture

The other day I got a call from a very frustrated client of mine. Of course, this client is often frustrated when he calls. You see my client is in a very specialized field, in a job that he loves, with a great boss but he finds himself frustrated by the culture of his small (50 person) company.

It seems the CEO is a subscriber to the “Management Philosophy of the Month Club.” You know the type. They read a book, or worse an excerpt from a book, and suddenly they have a whole new view of management and leadership. Every month or so there are a whole new series of buzzwords, new signs on the wall and new enlightenment for the entire staff. Of course this pattern repeats itself 8 to 10 times a year. The result of this type of fluid management style is a constantly confused organization that is awash in buzz words and unclear as to their real direction. Sometimes these management fads are gone as quickly as they come. Other times bits and pieces stay around the company for months or even years as disjointed credos that haunt the employees like a bad disco tune.

The source of my client’s recent frustration was a company wide staff meeting that he attended which unveiled the newest philosophy of the CEO. As the staff meeting started the CEO talked about people being phony and about the importance of honesty in the organization at all times. He then distributed a two page typewritten document that described the phoniness of the phrase “Thank you.” According to the CEO, the expression “thank you” is an empty phrase with no real meaning, used by people as a pretense of being nice to each other when they really didn’t care about each other at all. He went on to say that he had not used the term “thank you” in years (a concept that had not gone unnoticed by his staff) and now he wanted to eliminate the phrase from their vocabulary as well.

The dictum was simple.

The term “thank you,” “thanks,” or similar phrases were being banned from the business. No member of the team was allowed to use these terms with each other or with the customers. “False civility is out and honesty is in” the boss proclaimed.

As you might imagine, my client was quite upset. He could not imagine working in a place where employees were not allowed to acknowledge or thank each other. Likewise, he could not imagine NOT thanking the customer. My client is a High S personality (Learn about DISC Here) where friendliness and courtesy are commonplace and expected. He was quite distraught. He knew that this might blow over in a month or so, but he also knew that he had never heard the CEO say “thank you” in his 6 years on the job. He feared life in a thankless world of false honesty where signs of appreciation were flatly discouraged.

What does a culture of no “Thank You” say about an organization and the way they treat their employees and customers. I’m curious to hear your comments and thoughts on working in an organization like this.

At ECI Learning Systems LLC, we are dedicated to helping companies get the greatest return from their most valuable asset: their employees. We work with you to align 3 key organizational factors:

• Your Company Culture
• The Leadership Styles of your key managers
• The Expectations of your Employees

When these 3 factors are aligned, you create an energy in your company that improves productivity, reduces absenteeism, increases creativity, and positively impacts your bottom line. Contact ECI Learning Systems LLC today to get your free Workplace Evaluation.

Until next time…..

Dave Meyer
ECI Learning Systems, LLC


  1. Dave,

    When I read this the hair on the back of my neck stood up. Gratitude is one of those universal laws that works in mysterious yet predictable ways. We get more of what we are grateful for.

    As a business leader living in an interdependent world to not be grateful is...(can I say stupid).

    A sincere thank you that is really felt by the one offering and the one receiving is one of the most powerful connectors in the world. Think of how you feel when someone truly acknowledges you and your effort. Feels good doesn't it. How does it feel when a customer says thank you. For me I'm on a cloud for a day or two.

    Having lived through organizations that operated on a philosophy of the month manner my advice to your client would be to say "Thank you," and to keep saying Thank you. This too will pass.

    Thank You for the Post :-)

  2. WOW! Really? I've known several people claim to live by this "honesty first" philosophy and it's usually just an excuse for poor social skills.

    One boss always followed one of his tactless comments with, "I'm just being honest, it doesn't help anyone if I sugarcoat things".

    It still makes me cringe!