Thursday, January 25, 2007

"Thank you" or a raise? what would you choose?

This post over at Church of the Customer blends nicely with another item. You need subscription to WSJ online to view the story they link. Seems lawyers - the partners anyway - need some training in common courtesy. Simple phrases like "thank you" and "nice job" must to be added to training? Huh?!?! The associates have been turning over(30%) in a job that pays $160,000 per year. Who says basic human dignity is passe'.

Matt Asay gives a real life example on his blog AC/OS - My comment suggests it tells a great deal about our deep desire as humans to prefer "thank you" over "have another dollar". Appreciation trumps more $.

I've been holding this item in draft for a couple days. Link over to Harris Interactive (Harris Interactive Inc. All rights reserved, of course) and reference the top article - Trends & Tudes (Jan. 2007) "A New Approach to Tempering Materialism" in pdf form. I don't have any kids but lord knows I love 'em. Please don't tell them that - I have a reputation to uphold. For the most part, I think they get a bum rap about being more materialistic than adults. Lets face it - this 21st century of abundance has made many of us materialistic. Ipods, Blackberrys, faster machines, digital cameras, coffee at 2 bucks a cup. Luxury! We got STUFF!...and lawyers have even nicer stuff :). One could argue that our time of abundance is quickly ending - global warming - but that is for another day. Admit it - each of you, dear reader, has some degree of materialism. I know I do.

The Harris research suggests the problem isn't materialism itself but how the teens and tweens view the things they possess. Feel free to insert "adult" anyplace you read "kids". Materialistic kids without gratitude are not very generous - sort of like the law partner who neglects "thank you". Less materialistic kids - you know some - are generous and often grateful for what they have. When kids with lots of things have a sense of gratitude they are no less likely to be generous than kids without lots of stuff.

This creates an opportunity to focus efforts on encouraging children to be thankful and grateful for things they have rather than keeping things out of there hands. It is possible that being appreciative may increase children's ability to take the perspective of others and thus increase their level of empathy and pro-social behavior. Teaching thankfulness can alleviate some of the harmful social effects of materialism.
Let's say this extends to adults, too. And not just lawyers. Let's say that thankfulness IS a learned behavior and it can be taught. Law can be a ruthless calling but look at Lincoln for an example of how great a person can be - with a little gratitude. And then lets imagine a community of gratitude. All of this ties into huge ethical questions on happiness. Perhaps a little Aristotelian.

For inspiration about our future as human, read the Harris Interactive editorial view in the left rail of the study.


The Hairy Beast said...

The Beast has three whelps whom he fostered for three years and then adopted. They came to him with everything they owned in a single garbage bag and they were FAR more materialistic for the first year than they are now, eight years later.

Affluence does not automatically translate into obsession with wordly goods, often it does the opposite.

It is odd that we should see this demonstrated by lawyers, of all people - that's like being taught the morality of vegetarianism by a crocodile.

BobG said...

Excellent analogy Beast - now I go to bed laughing - probably dream of crocodiles and broccoli.

Rob said...

Yup, I agree! How I'm valued as a worker contributes far more to my happiness and sense of purpose than the salary I'm paid. Sadly, my company pays well, but often forgets to note the contributions of the front-line folks.

And from a different, but similar perspective, I've seen time and again that the more I feel valued as a customer, the less how much the service costs seems to matter.

I used to pay more for my dry cleaning - and drove further out of my way to drop it off - simply because the folks at the cleaners always remember my name and cheerfully greet me. Lo & behold, now those nice folks even offer - at no extra charge - home pickup & delivery. And their deliveries are often accompanied by little personal notes. Do I mind paying a bit more? No sir, it rarely even crosses my mind.

BobG said...

Thanks for comment Rob - isn't it funny how the little matter the most! Cool that you have dry cleaning delivery now