Shortly after starting to work for an oilfield maintenance company as a swamper (assistant) we were at an oil well lease site and the foreman (boss) said to me:

“Hand me the pipe wrench”

My response was:

“Hand me the pipe wrench what?

He looked at me bewildered and I repeated in a very suggestive tone “Hand me the pipe wrench … what” He smiled and said, “Hand me the pipe wrench … Please”.

Last week’s blog post was about the importance of a leader saying “Thank You”. Does it automatically follow that a leader should use the word please more often?

Not necessarily.

Saying Please and Thank You are niceties, more foundationally, establishing respect within the leader/follower relationship is what’s at stake. When subordinates feel valued the niceties become unnecessary.

How can you as the leader establish respect within your subordinate relationships?

Consider the surgeon to the attending nurse:

Surgeon A “Scalpel please” or  Suregon B “Scalpel”

Which surgeon would you rather have working on you?

It depends. For me, I would rather have the surgeon that has established respect within the relationships with each of the attending team members. Surgeon A may use “Scalpel please” as a matter of acedemic protocol but it caries a condescending tone while Surgeon B may simply and efficiently say “Scalpel” and as the attending nurse switches out from one surgical instrument to another he feels that her demands come from a place of respect that acknowledges each others roles, despite their stereotypical gender differences and power imbalance. I’ll take Surgeon B, please.

As a more trusting relationship develops with my foreman every once in awhile when I hear “hand me the pipe wrench” I will still say “Hand me the pipe wrench … what” which is now met with “Hand me the f’ing pipe wrench or else” but it’s a respectful tone and I gladly hand over the pipe wrench … absent the please.