I’m a mom to a preschool age daughter, and one of the big life lessons we’ve been working on for the past 2 years has been knowing when to say “please” and “thank you.”

There have been times when I’ve felt like a broken record, prompting her over and over again to say those “magic words” whenever she asks for or gets something. It’s been a process to instill in her how important those words are, but I’ve hung in there with my reminders because I’ve seen what those magic words, and the expression of respect they convey, can do – no matter how old you are.

Take the workplace, for example. Have you ever been in an office where it was the norm for people to be civil to each other, saying things like “please” and “thank you” as a matter of routine? It sounds so small and insignificant, but those words have a big impact. When “please” and “thank you” are a part of the conversation – especially when leadership is talking with team members – there’s a tone of mutual respect and of appreciation for people’s contributions that helps define the corporate culture. I’ve worked in that kind of environment, and as an employee, those respectful words went a long way towards making me feel like an important, valued part of the team. This, in turn, helps keep up my morale and makes me want to stay on with the organization.

Now let’s take the flip side of the coin. Have you ever been in a corporate climate where “please” and “thank you” weren’t part of the norm? I’ve been there, too, and I can tell you that it feels pretty lousy to work there. There’s a top-down consciousness of who wields power over whom. There’s an air of simmering resentment among team members. And for people like me – people who want some autonomy and ownership of the work they do – there’s a very real sense of being pushed around and being undervalued.

What it all boils down to is, which would you rather be? Valued and respected, or bossed around and unappreciated?

Given those choices, I think most folks would look to leave a dictatorial environment and seek out one where respect and gratitude were the order of the day.

So if your company is looking at ways to improve employee retention, you can start with something as simple as examining how your managers talk to their employees, and how team members talk with customers and each other. If you find that “please” and “thank you” aren’t part of the conversation, this could give you some valuable insight into why your employees may choose to work elsewhere.

Please leave a comment – let us know what you think!