Thank your colleagues.
Every now and then a colleague does something amazing: Saving your sales opportunity with a well-placed phone-call; fixing your malfunctioning operating system; or rewriting your report overnight, making it ten times better, and giving you all the credit.
It’s rare, and when it happens, your colleague deserves a reward. A beer or flowers are a nice idea, but think of a professional reward, one that gives a career boost which is really worth something.
Your professional thank-yous, if given publicly, are worth money, in the form of increased earning potential. Though I can’t promise you how many dollars each thank-you will get for your colleague, I do know that a $10 more salary per month is $120 per year, and that’s probably more than any gift you might buy.
It is very hard for employers to find people with a work-ethic. They can test for knowledge and interview for people-skills, but they have no way of knowing who Gets Things Done. When you make your thank yous publicly, as on your blog or Twitter, you make it easier for good people to get poached by opening up the knowledge of people who know them the best.
Today, social capital for strong professionals stays locked up inside the office walls: Co-workers know who’s good, but no one outside the office does.
Giving thank-yous is as important as getting them; we need more mutual support among co-workers. Professionals should not be working just for a boss’s praise; they should be working to build a reputation among their colleagues and in the job market.
When you say thank you, be specific. Recommendations tend to be composed of generalities like “Fred is a hard-working professional with top operational skills.” Few people have the time and writing skills to write a full, high-quality recommendation. But short, specific thank-yous are easier to write, and they give real information: “You kept the database running when our web-traffic spiked. Thanks!”
By using Twitter, LinkedIn, or Facebook, or your personal blog, you also identify yourself as the sender of the thanks, showing that you stand behind your word.
Just give your thanks, and the thanks will come back to you. Robert Cialdini, the expert on the psychology of influence, has described a Law of Reciprocation: Do something nice for others, and they feel obligated to return the favor, if only to balance out the debt. But more than that, when others know that you give thank-yous, they learn to appreciate your social skills, to see you as the local expert about the best professionals in the office.
Beyond Thank You
There’s a step beyond thank-yous. When you find that a colleague deserves your thanks so many times that just saying “thank you” is not enough, offer to serve as a reference, to be contacted if the colleague ever looks for a job. Even better is to publicly declare that you stand behind your colleague.
This is normal in the academic world. Professors list respected professors as references. The references don’t agree to do this easily: Their time and their reputation are valuable. They’ll let their name be listed only if they truly believe in the person they’re speaking for. But in the business world, this sort of collegial backing is rare.
Professional reputation is a type of social capital. Inside the office, it doesn’t help you get a new job. Help your colleagues capture this social capital by thanking them and offering to serve as a reference. Set up a culture of collegial support, and don’t be embarrassed to gently ask a colleague to give you a public thank you or to serve as a reference.
If we do this right, we’ll have what doctors and lawyers already have: A professional culture driven by the professionals, for the professionals.
How do you make your colleagues thank you? And whom did you thank today?
Photo by iqoncept.
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