Career Learning: A Little Communication Goes a Long Way

“The five most important words in the English language are: I AM PROUD OF YOU.
The four most important words in the English language are: WHAT IS YOUR OPINION?
The three most important words in the English language are: IF YOU PLEASE.
The two most important words in the English language are: THANK YOU.
The least important word in the English language is: I.”
- Anonymous

In an age when common-sense and conventional wisdom seem to be thrown to the wind, it’s appropriate to have a reminder now and then about what we learned in preschool but forgot along the way.


How often do you say “please” and “thank you”? Research tells us that common courtesy on the part of a manager toward his or her subordinates is critical in terms of job satisfaction and lower turnover rates. It almost seems trite to think that a simple “please” and “thank you” can really have such a significant impact on how we feel about our jobs.

Some folks tell me that it doesn’t matter, that they aren’t crybabies who need people to treat them politely. They also feel that others shouldn’t demand such treatment or even expect it from them in return. Even if you’re not the type of person who is capable of being polite and sweet as syrup, you should still have enough character in you to acknowledge when someone does a job well. And you should also make an effort to be humble enough to ask others for their advice and opinions – you know, help others contribute and feel included and useful.

When you compare giving folks a simple “please” and “thank you” to making them feel included and valuable, the former doesn’t seem so difficult, does it!?

Here’s a real-life example:

Once upon a time, there lived a boss who was just horrid in every sense of the term. Her subordinates nicknamed her “The Dragonlady.” The Dragonlady had a deep need for validation of her superiority, which, ironically, came from a very low self-esteem. Every other word out of her mouth was “I this” and “I that” and “I want” and “I think.” She NEVER (and I mean never) gave her team words of encouragement – she honestly felt that she was weak if she thanked a “lesser” person for doing a job they are paid to perform. She never said “please”; she just barked out commands. As far as feeling valued on the job – well, forget that! Her workers’ sole purpose was to follow the leader – their opinions were not sought, and if they offered one without prompting, the old Fire Breather let them have it!

Needless to say, the Dragonlady had trouble keeping her attrition rates below 90 percent. In fact, there should have been a revolving door installed on her department, just to keep pace with the outflow of traffic! Those who stayed were folks who were like-minded and, let’s say, a little “congenially challenged.” Over time, employees from other departments had difficulty collaborating with the “fun bunch,” as they became known. Finally, Human Resources had to intervene with sensitivity training, and that was too much for the Dragonlady. The story ends with a new manager who had people skills and actually said “please” and “thank you.” And so, the kingdom thrived once more.

This is simply another example of how communicating the seemingly “little things” really do mean a lot. Thank you!

troy-behrens-sm.jpgTroy Behrens, Ed.D., is executive director of SMU’s Hegi Family Career Development Center. He writes “Career Learning” for SMU Parents online.

• Send your career questions to tbehrens@smu.edu.

Hegi Career Center counselors are open for questions and comments at their blog.
Hegi’s online newsletter offers career news, tips and more.

About Sarah Hanan

EA-PubAffairs(Periodicals)
This entry was posted in Career Learning. Bookmark the permalink.