Let’s talk for a minute about thank-you’s. Not the “thank you for passing the salt” but the big, ceremonial ones. The “you are the best team” and “I am so proud to call you my colleagues” types of thank-you’s that you hear in the workplace. As a communications consultant, I am often the one helping execs get their talking points together before big meetings. In my experience, these types of blanket “great job team” comments go in one ear…and out the other. There is no lasting feeling of goodness. They don’t fill the heart with gladness. What’s worse: at times, they are so perfunctory that they don’t feel sincere.
Yet expressing appreciation is so important! And I believe the intentions are often quite sincere. It just doesn’t come across that way.
“Feeling genuinely appreciated lifts people up. At the most basic level, it makes us feel safe, which is what frees us to do our best work. It’s also energizing.”
– Tony Schwartz, Energy Project
What are some effective ways to express gratitude?
Expressing appreciation at work: Four ways to thank-you
- Share a story or real example. Often, leaders are hesitant to call out one person, or one group, for fear of leaving someone out, or for fear of giving the perception of having favorites. Yet a real example is exactly the type of thing we remember. Take us back to the moment when you were stuck, and someone helped you. “Sam called me at 4 pm last Friday to tell me about the issue and at that point the team was already working the resolution.” Also, the impact of spotlighting one person has a positive ripple effect. We all want to celebrate our superstar colleagues. We all want to hear the story of how someone pulled a rabbit from a hat or caught a mistake before it was too late or came up with an idea that turned a project around.
- Put it on the team. This is something I learned in a parenting class that works well in a work setting, in particular with team or project meetings. Ask each person in the room to pick someone to acknowledge. “I would like to acknowledge Sam for fixing my Excel spreadsheets, and for always remembering to bring an umbrella.” What you choose to recognize the person for, and who you recognize, is entirely your choice. In response, the person can nod or say thank-you, but there’s no reply needed. You will be delighted at the variety of comments, and people will be touched at having been appreciated for big and small things. It takes less than 1 minute per person, yet it leaves a lasting glow.
- Turn to the customer. If you have a feedback mechanism, such as customer surveys, share comments of appreciation in the words of your customer. Read a quote verbatim and ask the employee to elaborate on the story. They may not even remember having helped the person, which can be a fun twist. ("I just do that kind of great work all the time!")
- Ask for shout-outs. In a team meeting and with medium-sized groups: Ask for input in advance of the meeting. Create a slide for each comment and weave them into the meeting materials (perhaps at transitions). On Zoom and with large groups: Invite the audience to type a shout-out in the chat. Moderators can read out select comments as they come in, radio-show style. You’ll have a confetti effect – a flurry of good wishes that are a real pick-me-up.
What else works for you?