Why “thank you” matters

By on / Negotiation Skills

One should always go into every negotiation fully prepared, but a few very easy steps may help clear negotiation obstacles before the formal process even begins.  Recent research by Francesca Gino, Associate Professor at Harvard Business School and Harvard Law School’s Program on Negotiation-affiliated faculty member, argues that simple expressions of gratitude can yield beneficial returns in cooperativeness and pro-social behavior.

Gino and her colleague, Adam M. Grant, performed four experiments to establish whether expressions of gratitude would produce positive results in those receiving them and how these results would affect those expressing gratitude.   In the experiments, subjects were asked to perform various tasks for a certain beneficiary in exchange for a small amount of money.  After completing these tasks, subjects received acknowledgment for their work from the beneficiary, sometimes with an expression of gratitude included and sometimes not.  They were then asked by the beneficiary to continue helping with the task and to complete a questionnaire.

In all four experiments the subjects who were thanked for their assistance were more likely to help again when asked or even to continue helping when not explicitly asked.  Gino and Grant also discovered that expressions of gratitude created a “spillover effect,” making the helpers more likely to assist new beneficiaries in the future.  The experiments also measured the helpers’ motivations.  The results showed that the helpers were motivated to continue giving assistance because of the feeling of social value they received from the expression of gratitude, rather than from any feelings of improved self-efficacy.

These findings have many implications for anyone who works in a team setting.  For one, that the helpers were motivated based on the creation of a feeling of social value rather than self-efficacy shows that while thanking co-workers and employees for their contributions may not improve their skills, it is definitely a helpful tool for maximizing their potential.  Additionally, the experiments show that just thanking someone for a job well done could not only make it easier to negotiate with that person later on, but also that this is liable to improve cooperation throughout your organization.

Thinking creatively to ensure that each person involved in a negotiation walks away from the deal happy can be challenging. Fortunately, fostering an environment that will promote win-win negotiations is easy.

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