Expressing gratitude to the people you work with is an important and effective management technique. No need for business school strategies—basic politeness you learned at the family dinner table can be as powerful as anything your old college roommate learned in her MBA program. And it works both with employees and partners and with the people you regularly interact with at courts or agencies or other companies.
A simple, sincere, “thank you,” to a colleague, even when—or, especially when—they were “just doing their job,” is an acknowledgement that what they do takes effort and makes a difference for you. Remember, they could be working elsewhere or doing something in a completely different field. But they are there, with you, helping you to do what you need to do to sustain your firm, to allow you to provide for your family, to help you to realize your goals.
It really is as straightforward as that. Big gestures—parties, awards—are nice and have their place, but they aren’t necessary. Money is certainly important, and you should reward people monetarily when you can and in an appropriate amount. But studies have shown that, especially for the younger generations, appreciation and a welcoming environment can sometimes be a better motivator for loyalty and good work.
Similarly, taking a moment to acknowledge the work of those outside your office with whom you regularly interact is not only common decency, but can lead to relationships that will help you to serve your clients in the future. The process server that has a long list of jobs that day might be more inclined to map his route starting with your case because he appreciates the fact that you took the time to thank him for being available and carrying out what is an essential service for you. He’ll get paid the same amount by everyone on his docket that day; your expression of appreciation could very well be the deciding factor in who he chooses to go out of his way for.
When a simple thank you can be that powerful, consider the impact of a quick conversation. Go ahead and ask the title firm’s receptionist about the kids in the picture on her desk, or the vacation snapshot, or the fresh flowers on her counter. Two minutes of pleasantries can translate into extra patience the next time you realize you forgot to include a document in your closing package or you suddenly need to reschedule a meeting with an inspector.
Law is often practiced in a rush. The matters you deal with are serious and may take a lot of concentration. Your time is valuable and you may feel you can’t be bothered with anyone or anything else around you; certainly not small talk. But such an attitude is a mistake. You do have time to say hello, to say please, and to say thank you. And when you do, you’ll find that your work becomes just a little bit easier in the end.