It's not my job to say "thank you"

Recently I attended a meeting of an organization I support. During the meeting, I was in a conversation with a friend, and the topic wandered to a third person we both had worked with. I was stunned when my friend dropped a bomb: he would never work with that person again.

The intractability of his statement surprised me. Both of these people are highly regarded within the organization, and both are bright, successful people. I’d also been under the impression they got along, and worked well together. I asked what could possibly have happened to create such a rift, and my friend shared the following story:

A few years ago, the third individual (who we’ll call “John”) asked my friend to take a major role in a project he was leading. This project was a significant undertaking and involved thousands of people and major logistical challenges. My friend executed his role in the project for John, and the entire project was an incredible success.

At the project’s conclusion, my friend and several of the project’s other major leaders took great care to publicly thank their teams. A few other people were thanked as well at several different times, but at no point were my friend’s contributions acknowledged. 

John and my friend were both together some time later, and my friend asked him: “Did I do a good job for you? Were you happy with how things went?” John answered that he was — my friend had done an excellent job.

So my friend asked: “If you were happy, how come you thanked everyone else, but never thanked me? It’s really been bothering me, and I thought you were unhappy with my work.”

John answered: “It’s not my job to say thank you.”

And in eight words, John ensured my friend would not work with him again.

Max de Pree has a well-known quote:

The first responsibility of a leader is to define reality. The last is to say thank you. In between the leader is a servant.

John had forgotten that, and it’s deprived him of a valuable asset and resource in my friend.

Heading into 2015, I’m going to make a point to say “thank you” more to the people that help make me successful every day. My friend’s story was a helpful reminder to me that we all thrive on positive feedback, and that no one wants to work with someone who isn’t grateful for the contributions of others.

Thank you to everyone who’s made me a success in 2014 — and I look forward to a great coming year!