Expressing Gratitude at Work: How to Do It and Why You Should


Administrative Professionals week just ended and it reminded me how important it is to tell my co-workers how much I appreciate them. I always try to do something special for my team during that week. Some friends think it’s unnecessary; after all, do you really need to thank someone just doing a job they are paid to do? People are generally expected to give thanks in all public areas of our lives, but, for some reason, not at work. True, we don’t deliver a report to the boss at 5:00pm sharp out of the goodness of our hearts; our “thanks” is a paycheck. Fail to complete a job responsibility and we may not see another one. Maybe some people suppress showing appreciation out of concern for appearing weak or raising skepticism of having ulterior motives.

Every exchange in the workplace does not need to be an economic one. A recent leading survey about workplace culture found that most employees believe that saying thank you makes you more likely to succeed, happier, and more fulfilled. The need for a paycheck is only one reason to work, but we also do it for respect, a sense of accomplishment, and a feeling of purpose. But, to get respect, you have to give it. There are easy ways to incorporate giving thanks into your routine.

Thank the people who never get thanked. Every workplace has employees who usually get the spotlight and others who perform critical, but often thankless tasks. Someone has to clean the office and cut the checks. Recognizing them is crucial. It sets the expectations for everyone, improves morale, increases trust, and it makes their contributions visible, thereby broadening everyone’s understanding of what makes the organization run smoothly. That improves everyone’s bottom lines.

Be humble and authentic. Regardless of your position in an organization, gratitude should be a part of your daily work. The best advice I got when I first started practicing law was to always thank support staff. Your success depends on others and publicly recognizing that makes you a stronger and smarter leader. If you wait to express gratitude until you rise through the corporate ranks and become a team leader, you’ll appear inauthentic. Make sure the team around you right now understands that you’re grateful for the many ways they help you each day. Being specific about a coworker’s contributions lets everyone know you’re paying attention. It can also be disarming, but genuine appreciation encourages more effective and supportive comeraderie.

Make it easy to express thanks. Forcing employees to be grateful doesn’t work. Gratitude should be expressed freely and often. Not everyone likes to say thank you in public and some people don’t like to be appreciated in public either, so expressing gratitude in private meetings or emails may work best. Giving thanks can also be incorporated into performance reviews. I block out the last fifteen minutes on my calendar as “thank you time,” which is my daily reminder to stop and let my team know they are appreciated. Reserving the time as a recurring appointment prevents me from scheduling meetings that could make me forget to give thanks. While face-to-face praise may be ideal, an email or phone call works just as well. I like to end projects with a “post mortem” meeting to talk about lessons learned, unanticipated obstacles we overcame, and ways to be thankful for the experience.

Some companies have more public appreciation platforms, like a “kudos” website or bulletin board, where employees can publicly recognize others and do so anonymously. Creating a workplace that fosters and encourages public appreciation helps employees weather the storm of organizational change or other crises. Grateful people are also generally happier and more resilient to stress.

It doesn’t need to be all business all the time. Asking your co-workers about their hobbies and how they spend personal time outside of work is another way of showing interest. I ask everyone on my team for their favorite candy and I send them a package when we accomplish important goals. You can celebrate wins by making the time for coffee or a walk. Or, just ask a co-worker who you see doing something remarkable, “how did you accomplish that?”

I don’t know anyone who doesn’t like or want to be appreciated. What’s not to like? Gratitude doesn’t cost a thing and it encourages repeat performances. You can make someone’s day by saying thank you, and build up your own self-worth in the process.



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