It started with a turkey. In the early days of a start-up company I once worked for, a plump turkey was a small thank you token given to employees around the holidays. The turkey-giving practice lasted maybe three years, until the growing size of the organization necessitated its change. And while enhanced benefits emerged to replace that poultry gift, I found it amazing that the missing turkey still appeared as a resentment issue five years later in employee forums.

Similarly, I was astounded when I recently heard employees grumbling at a company that provided a daily complimentary hot breakfast to employees. Turns out their well-intentioned gesture was not met with thanks, but with complaints. Not enough organic fruit, too many high carb selections, no green tea, and limited options were frequent murmurs. So, it was no surprise to me that the management team decided they\’d had enough of complimentary breakfasts.

The squeaky wheel does indeed get noticed, especially when there are no counter comments to balance the perception. While most of us appreciate a positive work environment, a thoughtful boss, and a grateful company, we often take those components for granted. How many times have you expressed your gratitude for something you liked at work?

“Whatever gets rewarded gets done” is a common workplace axiom. But too often we think this philosophy happens only one way – from management to staff. The truth is that we train our bosses how to treat us.

We encourage the withholding of information when we break their confidence; we limit their thank you gestures when we have an entitlement mentality; and we reduce the possibility of flex time or work from home options when we fail to produce the expected results. And when we do appreciate the extra time off, the additional benefit, or the gift card but we don\’t say so, our silence “trains” our bosses not to bother.

Current articles tout how the lack of employee appreciation from management is negatively impacting turnover and employee engagement. And that\’s true. But, what we don\’t hear is what a lack of appreciation from employees is also doing. You see, managers find it disheartening to have their well-intentioned rewards met with complaints; frustrating to discover their thank you gestures unappreciated; and irritating to find a sense of entitlement prevailing. It\’s no wonder it\’s easier not to make the effort.

But people who are winning at working, at all levels, approach work relationships as important relationships, understanding that successful ones require focused effort from both parties. These efforts include open dialogue, mutual respect, and honest exchange. And people who are winning at working know the secret to any winning relationship is appreciation, gratitude, and a thank you now and then, no matter which side of the desk they sit on.

(c) 2008 Nan S. Russell. All rights reserved.

Author of Hitting Your Stride: Your Work, Your Way (Capital Books; January 2008). Host of “Work Matters with Nan Russell” weekly on Nan Russell has spent over twenty years in management, most recently with QVC as a Vice President. Sign up to receive Nan\’s “Winning at Working” tips and insights at

Nan Russell has spent over twenty years in management, most recently with QVC as a Vice President. She has held leadership positions in Human Resource Development, Communication, Marketing and line Management. Nan has a B.A. from Stanford University and M.A. from the University of Michigan. Currently working on her first book, Winning at Working: 10 Lessons Shared, Nan is a writer, columnist, and speaker. Her career insights column, Winning at Working ( ) regularly appears on over eighty websites; and her life-reflections column, In the Scheme of Things ( is published in six states and Canada. Her work has been selected to appear in several anthologies. To sign up for Nan's free eColumn(s), or read more about Nan or her work, visit: