The Importance of Gratitude
by Donald Davidoff | Dec 22, 2021 12:00:00 AM
Those of you who know me well know that I’m a fan of Daniel Ariely. He’s a behavioral economist and author of the seminal book, Predictably Irrational. If you haven’t read that book, get it now!
I subscribe to his weekly email that sends me his Wall Street Journal column. It’s like a “Dear Abby” for decision makers and always entertaining (and usually informative). This past week had a question from someone who had recently been promoted to a position where she would now manage people who were formerly peers. She was worried that it would change her relationship with those people.
This really resonated with me as this scenario frequently happens in our industry. My own experience is that it absolutely does change the relationship and we need to accept that.
Dr. Ariely added some very useful advice based on behavioral studies that I think all of us can use. Specifically, he recommended to make sure that this person continues to express gratitude towards her colleagues. He noted:
Sadly, research has shown that when people get more power, they tend to express less gratitude, even though more power might come with more to be grateful for, such as a higher salary. One study looked at the acknowledgement sections of academic papers and found that authors with high-ranking titles expressed less thanks than their junior counterparts did. A study of Wikipedia editors found the same effect: senior editors made fewer thankful comments than junior ones.
We can’t rule out the possibility that more powerful authors and editors expressed less thanks because they received less help, but he shared the results of a controlled lab experiment on this very topic. As he describes:
Participants were offered help on an annoying task from someone they were told was either their boss or their employee for the task at hand. As in the previous studies, people were less thankful for help from a subordinate than from their manager, perhaps because they felt entitled to help from a lower status worker.
Simply put, those with more power tend to give thanks less often. In this season of gratitude (and challenges), let’s take a moment and thank everyone for their contributions…not just our peers!