Is Thank You the New F*ck You?

I’ve witnessed some amazing communication lately. For some reason tacking on “thank you” seems to make some people think they’re allowed to say the most horrendous things. Witness these recent email examples from managers to their teammates:

“…You have missed the mark again. I can only hope that your work will improve so I don’t have to step in. I suggest you shape up or you’ll regret it. Thank you.”

“…We’re behind so you can forget about weekends off. Oh, and don’t think you’ll be leaving early either—I don’t care what ‘personal things’ you have to take care of. Lots of us have families. Thank you.”

“…I don’t know what’s wrong with you but you’d better fix it. I’m getting heat and I certainly am not going to be thrown under the bus because of your laziness. Thank you.”

Given the tone of these breathtakingly bad missives I can only imagine the type of environment these managers have created—and I wonder what kind of “leadership” tolerates this kind of behavior. Clearly corporate suffering is alive and well.

I suggest a simple test for everyone. Before you communicate, ask yourself these three questions: 1) Is it truthful 2) Is it necessary and 3) Is it kind? All of the earlier examples fail the “kind test” and will likely lead to more problems just due to tone alone. Why not stop the cycle of bad behavior and hold ourselves to a higher standard? Let’s bring back civility in our interactions and restore meaning to the phrase “thank you.”

Amanda Mitchell is an executive coach and strategist specializing in helping senior executives deal with disruptive drama within their teams. An advertising agency veteran, she experienced first-hand the business implications of corporate drama both with her Fortune 500 clients and within the Manhattan ad agency she led. She founded Our Corporate Life (www.ourcorporatelife.com) to help executives solve the problems no one wants to deal with. She has been published in Bloomberg Businessweek, and quoted in Fast Company, CNBC.com, and Monster.com. She lives in New Jersey with her family.

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