Looking for Thank Yous Revisited

20 years ago, as a stockbroker, I had a client that was very demanding. In an effort to satisfy her requests, I went above and beyond my normal responsibilities, spending an inordinate amount of time on these ‘extra’ tasks, like helping her find lost documents, reading her contracts with other insurance investments and  going over her tax documents. Surely, I thought, she appreciated my extra time.

But you know what? She didn’t. With my expectation for appreciation and her assumption that what I did, whatever I did, was customary, I was bound for disappointment.

I ended up writing an article called, Looking for Thankyous (reprinted below). In it, I examined my motivation for doing things for others.

I’ve had many instances to practice this awareness since, of course, as we all do; especially when losing a client, a friend, a job, an unacknowledged gift, or any form of rejection. It is human nature to have thoughts like, after all I did for him/her, they have no appreciation, I could not have done anymore for them, could not have tried harder, etc.

It recently happened again. A client did something out of the ordinary, potentially taking some business away from me. And, of course, I had done a bunch of additional work for her. Quickly, this time, I realized it was my set up. I created the expectation in her mind that all this extra work was part of my normal services. And when my mind (ego) started making reasons why she should have appreciated all of that, I caught myself.

Was I doing all that additional work for gratitude or approval? Or was I doing the extra work because it felt good to give? In the first instance it is merely a trade, I do this and then you will thank me.

I also notice now, the clients with the huge, fat files, (because of all the extra work) are the ones who roam from advisor to advisor, in search of something maybe no one can give. I’m making a mental note of that.

My potential irritation with her never came to pass. I did that extra work because I enjoyed doing it for her. My ‘reward’ was simply that. There are no strings attached.

Original Looking for Thank Yous 1996

I was recently made aware of our underlying motivations to do good deeds for other people. I work in a service industry and my job is to serve the needs of my clients in an advisory capacity. I have a tendency to do more than the basic description of my job because I do care about these people, and do want to help them in any way I can.

One client in particular was undertaking a major project outside of my normal duties that I was helping her with. It turned out that she became very upset with me because she assumed I would do more, and be aware of more of her situation than I reasonably could. I listened to her complaints and I agreed to do these other tasks for her. My secretary and I then did this extra work.

The next thing I know this client is on the phone with me again complaining and saying I should have done these tasks right off and she may not use my services anymore! To make a long story short, I wrote this lady a letter explaining that this work was extra and not usually part of my duties. I felt unappreciated!

So often during my workday I do get appreciation, smiles, notes of thanks, and contented gratitude. I had become so focused on the thank you I lost my focus of why I do what I do in the first place.

In the true spirit of giving, appreciation is nice, but is this really our ultimate goal? Is not the reward in the act of serving others, period? The resentment really does ruin the gift we gave. It is better to give because we want to serve our fellow man, in my mind this is to serve God.