Thank you? Today, I'm thinking about the issue of thanks and how we express our sense of gratitude.

I recently listened to a tape of a radio show on which I was a guest and heard myself lamenting that I never went back to a teacher in high school who praised, according to him, my talent. That simple sentence of praise played a role in turning my writing interest into a skill, a vocation and subsequent awards that I would win. The sad part is I never went back and said thanks. (Thank you, Father Gregory, O.S.B.)

Allow me to divulge a prejudice. I still think, though I don't have a double-blind scientific study to prove it, that offering praise, a kind word, ranging from the simple thank you or “great job,” is still one of the most potent yet often neglected ways to reward employees. And I'm referring to the heartfelt thanks we recognize as sincere and not the perfunctory, disingenuous thanks that some people offer because a self-help or management book told them to do so.

Recently, I witnessed a very smart, retired owner of an international consulting firm treat a member of his company like a child when the employee asked a support staff member to fetch him a book. He asked politely, but when she handed it to him, he said nothing. As she walked away, this expert said: “Say thank you.” Everyone in our group laughed, of course, but he made the point, with his friendly tone of admonishment. The expert then said: “I remind people [to say thank you] just like I do for my grandchildren.” A classy moment for the former owner and a lesson I hope the consultant remembers.

The key to this effortless approach is its immediacy and, I believe, something much more than a few thoughtful words. It's that YOU NOTICED. Everyone needs some recognition, unless you're possibly a hermit or J.D. Salinger. As the author of a book on public relations (Wacky Days), I've always maintained that some public recognition of a good deed, superior performance or earning an award can be conveyed without a sense of braggadocio, hyperbole or smothering the act in bad taste. But public acknowledgement goes a long way toward making an employee feel good when there is recognition of an accomplishment, especially if it appears in the media.

An easy, quick way to do this is to acknowledge their accomplishments within your own company, publicly, using your newsletter or other communications vehicle.

Or send a press release to the daily and weekly newspaper where the employee works AND also to the outlets where he or she lives. And don't forget to send the photo.

Here's what I found after casting a net for interesting ways companies say thanks:

  • Cam Brown, founder of Salem, MA-based King Fish, “has 18 employees and rewards them with ski trips, profit-sharing and other tangible incentives. Plus, nobody bats an eye when an employee leaves early for a soccer game or a recital. Cam's established a job-share within King Fish: two of his employees share the responsibility of one so that they can make more time for home life.”
  • Memphis-based Carlisle Corp. encourages members to join Weight Watchers and provides everyone with a personal trainer, from the receptionist to the chief marketing officer.
  • • Los Angeles-based JS2 Communications says: “We've all been there: you wake up in the morning and you just can't motivate yourself to get out of bed and get to work. At JS2 Communications, full-time employees are eligible for two paid “I Just Don't Wanna Get Out of Bed” days. These days give employees the opportunity to wake up in the morning and decide that they just can't get out of bed, whatever the reason, provided they have no meetings or conference calls scheduled for that day.” This doesn't affect vacation, holidays or sick days.

In the end, it's not really that difficult, is it? Say thanks, then show it in a manner that befits your temperament, style and budget.

Tomorrow, I'm taking my editorial assistant to lunch at a very expensive restaurant. And I'm even going to pay for it.

HVACR Distribution Business welcomes letters to the editor. Please send correspondence to: Tom Peric', Editor 2040 Fairfax Avenue Cherry Hill, NJ 08003 856/874-0049 or e-mail tsperic@penton.com.