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Didn't Your Mother Ever Teach You To Say, "Thank You"?

Dear Stephen,

I'm the CEO of a medium-sized furniture company. I am not the owner. I work for the owner, who is a creative genius, and I'm here because he needs a smart executive to run the business side of the business, which I love doing. I'm well compensated for making a rich family even richer.

I get a lot of phone calls from executive recruiters about other jobs, all the time—even direct calls from the companies that are hiring.

I think the recruiters call me because I have a certain pedigree; I'm what's known as a "double Ivy", meaning I hold an undergraduate degree and an MBA from an Ivy League university. I'm not showing off, I don't want to fall into that trap of "if somebody went to an Ivy, they'll let you know within 30 seconds of meeting them.", I'm just making a point relating to the story I want to tell you. So regardless of the degrees, I am a good "source" for recruiters because before I took the job that I have now, I was an executive at #Steelcase, so I have an army of referrals from Steelcase and their dealers, who may or may not be looking for their next big move.

I'm happy with my job. In fact, I love it. So, when I get calls from people like you, I always listen first to be sure it is not a better job, and so far, it has not been, so I'm happy to refer a friend who has the required experience.

About half of the time, I learn later on down the road that someone I referred has landed a big job. Here is the thing that irks me: Rarely do I get to hear this directly from the person I referred to, which also means I never hear a "thank you." I'm a big boy – I know I didn't "get them the job"… but I did play an important role as the initial introduction to the opportunity, and I made it known each time to that person that I had passed along their name.

So my question is, what's the deal with manners today, Stephen? Why is "thank-you" in such short supply?


Thankless Networker

Dear Thankless,

Here is the deal, in business today it's very unrealistic to expect a "thank you". Be it a job referral or any sort of gift or favor, I've learned, professionally, if I give a gift or do a favor with the expectation of a "thank you" as a reward, that probably won't happen. If you decide to do a favor for someone, only do it if you can emotionally accept the fact that you may never be thanked for it. If you cannot accept that, don't do it at all. And for what it's worth, to most of my clients, your working for Steelcase is better than a double Ivy!

Let me just tell you that the days of that old-fashioned "Thank You Note" that your mother would tell you to write after receiving a gift or kindness are long gone. If you're lucky, it's been replaced with a text or an email, and most likely not even that.

At The Viscusi Group, we speak to many people each week who are unhappy with their current positions, or who have been fired and are looking for a new job. If we do not have the right assignment for them, we explain how to apply directly on the hiring company's website and upload their resume online. And just as often, we tell that same person that we do not have a client assignment that suits them, but that one of our competitors may have it and they should contact them directly.

I just do it because I think it's the right thing to do and I feel better about myself for doing it, and I think that's what you're going to have to accept. Or, you can be angry about it like I was for years, mad at the person for their lack of common civility, but that will get you nowhere. Eventually, I learned to be satisfied with knowing that I was helping another person and also helping myself.

And let me be clear, this is not a generational thing - so don't dare put it on young people. I recently helped a 55-year-old person get a president's job at a company as a free lead, and the job was even through another recruiter! I never heard a peep. It happens to me all the time. I give people a free lead about a job opportunity, they take the lead and run with it, they get the job, and if I'm lucky I will read about it on LinkedIn.

I do not accept that this is the new normal. It's just called being rude. It's a shame because a "Thank You" can go a long way towards making you feel happy and appreciated and encourages you to continue to help people out whenever you can.

But I will tell you what - this holiday season, we ought to be charitable and help our neighbors, friends, and strangers alike. What goes around comes around, so keep giving without the expectation of a thank you. Oh, and by the way, Thank you for your great question!