In one of the more memorable scenes of TV drama Mad Men, advertising Creative Director Don Draper (played by Jon Hamm) and his right hand woman / underling Peggy Olson (played by Elizabeth Moss) are having a heated argument over recognition in their workplace. There’s a particular part of their exchange that’s always stuck with me:
Don: I give you money. You give me ideas.
Peggy: You never say thank you.
Don: That’s what the money’s for!
Here’s a Youtube link for those interested in the full drama of the moment. If you watch, you’ll see it only gets worse.
Now, I’ve been fortunate enough to never have worked in an environment quite as hostile as Mad Men’s Sterling Cooper (or have ever had a boss quite like Mr. Draper), but I have felt underappreciated in the workplace. I’ve experienced semi-toxic workplace cultures that loosely followed Draper’s “Money = Praise” philosophy. In such environments, your superiors (and maybe even your peers) often reserve “Thank You” as a response to “God Bless You.”
At OPX, however, the exact opposite is true. “Thanks” feels like the most used word around the office (although it barely beats out “booyah!”). It’s something I’ve noticed ever since I started here in 2015. People at OPX say thank you to each other… a lot.
It could be for doing a good job on a project. It could be for sending a quick email so someone else doesn’t have to. It could even be for something as minimal as sharing a link to a cool article or blog post. No matter the case, OPXers are constantly telling each other, our clients and our collaborators “Thanks for your input” or “Thanks for sharing” or “Thank you for doing that”. It happens in person, it happens over email (usually with exclamation points) and it definitely happens over Slack via a “Pray” emoji or the like. When I think about our core value Be Positive, our culture of “thanks” immediately comes to mind.
It probably sounds really simple, but a lot of powerful ideas are just that simple. When you habitually say “thanks” at the office, it inevitably becomes a part of the culture and begins to permeate into all daily tasks. For instance, I now find myself regularly beginning email responses from a place of gratitude (even if I’m not entirely grateful for the information I’d just received). Often I’ll start with “Thank you for the information/your feedback/articulating this concern”. I realize that part of this is just being polite with my colleagues and clients, but, even more importantly, it’s about finding empathy with the person or people on the other end of the exchange.
That’s what you learn when gratitude becomes habit.
THAT is what the thanks is for.