A Really Radical Idea! Say “Thank You” to Your Boss

Authenticity Gratitude Respect


Key Point: say “thank you” to your boss. Be specific. Be genuine. Coach them on what is helpful to them and you. Don’t worry about being a big boss “suck up.” Just do it. Everyone wins. You may even give your boss a positive, cognitive wake up when you do this. Every boss qualifies …really.

Our bosses are very human and sometimes we find it hard to enjoy working for them very much. We see their shortcomings (blind spots to them?) and have to painfully work around the consequences of their weaknesses. This can make working for them very challenging in even the best of times. Why the heck should we thank them for anything when they often behave in donkey-like ways? By the way, as a CEO, I know my behavior as a boss is less than perfect.

An interesting study by UCLA professor Matthew Lieberman, one of the founders of the Social Cognitive Neuroscience field, was presented at a 2011 neurological conference regarding our ability to mentalize, or predict, other people’s emotional or intentional states. The research highlighted that people experiencing even a mild cognitive load or “stress” find their ability to think about what others are thinking or needing impaired. The trouble is that our ability to mentalize about other people’s thoughts is extremely poor even at the best of times. In today’s work environment the stress load is so darn high that bosses can be less present and aware of our needs than they should be. In fact it takes very high emotional intelligence to apply judgment and empathy in a balanced way even when we are rested and have most things “in control.” This is not an excuse as much as just the way it is.

Character Move:

  1. Become more aware of very specific behavior or actions your boss does well (and yes, even horrible bosses do a few things well).
  2. Personally look your boss in the eye and/or write a personal note and tell them specifically what you want to thank them for. Identify how their behavior positively helps you and others. Email and texting is appropriate and practical but if possible try and make it personal.
  3. Don’t expect anything specific in return or any reciprocity. Just genuinely and specifically say thank you. Don’t be disappointed if they shrug it off. Many of us have not been taught how to receive a thank you well.

Thanking your boss in The Triangle,