My good friend Rich has a big, hilly yard on the outskirts of town. Right after he moved in, a neighbor actually said to him "you know, we take a lot of pride in our lawns around here", and Rich took the hint. He could hire a neighborhood kid to mow the grass for him, but he chooses to do it himself, with a little battery operated push mower, no less. It's a pretty grueling effort for two hours, every five days from May through October. The lawn looks great when it's freshly cut, and Rich takes pride in that.
So I found it interesting when Rich told me that his wife, in their three years of living in this house, had never thanked him for mowing the lawn. There's about one "the yard looks nice" comment per summer, but they come randomly, never in close proximity to a fresh mow. Rich's young kids notice the job well done and compliment their dad, but he feels like his efforts are lost upon his wife.
On the one hand, I can see how this sticks in Rich's craw. He toils in the hot sun to keep the yard looking nice and wants to know that his effort is appreciated.
But at the same time, I can understand what his wife's point of view could be. She knows Rich could hire the neighbor kid; in fact everybody else does. She knows that Rich loves being outdoors, exercising and listening to baseball on the radio. And those two hours of decompression time away from the kids after a busy week doesn't seem all bad to her either. She's never even thought about thanking Rich for doing what she perceives to be something he loves doing. After all, she doesn't thank him for playing golf with me, either.
A couple things are clear to me. First, nobody's right and nobody's wrong. Second, while I might even side with Rich's wife here, it seems like a little communication and a "thank you" is all it would take to permanently bridge this gap between them.
Now I'm not a marriage counselor, but I do manage a small business that very much has characteristics of a big family. And the lessons learned from Rich's situation absolutely apply to us. We work so closely day in and day out, focusing on the tasks at hand that it's so easy to slip into a routine and take what those around us do for granted.
I'm thinking about the social butterfly that coordinates all the birthday lunches, volunteer opportunities and holiday events; and the accountant who always handles the check and figures the tip at the restaurant. They love doing those things that come naturally to them, but that doesn't mean they don't crave a little acknowledgement or recognition once in a while.
It's impossible to predict exactly when or how someone wants to be thanked. But "thank you" is a powerful tool always at your disposal. This week, before you and your office mates go your separate ways for Thanksgiving, thank someone for a job well done. On Thursday, the one who is doing the cooking is probably doing it because he or she loves to cook. Be sure to thank them.They might even thank you for being a good eater.