Saying Thank You

In the corporate world, it’s easy to feel powerless, but there are things within everyone’s reach which can improve the culture of your team (and taken to its logical conclusion, your company). One of these is taking time to say Thank You.

Our successes in the workplace depend a great deal on those around us. Every day, our co-workers make decisions which impact us. And when that person does something that makes our lives easier, what should we do? We all learned this as kids. We say Thank You.

I know we’re all busy. But make time to say it. Not just “thanks” shouted over the cube wall (though that’s a good start) but something more involved. Tell them why it helped you, tell them what exactly you’re thanking them for. Let them know you understand the effort it took them. Do it in person, or via email, but take the time to do it. It’s not going to cost you that much, and if you need to have reasons to do it, here are some gains you’ll realize:

  • They know they were helpful (maybe they weren’t sure) and are now more likely to be so again, for you and for others
  • They know you are grateful, and will likely help you in the future
  • They feel good about what they’ve done, about themselves, and about you
  • They get a feeling for how it feels to be thanked, and may thank others in the future

The last point is the selfless one, the one with organization-transforming power. By putting that “Thank You” out there, you lead by example, regardless of your authority in the group. Your simple message has the potential to improve everyone’s work experience, not just yours. And if it doesn’t take off, the worst that happens is that people think you’re a kind individual. And that can’t be too bad, can it?

Once you’ve gotten into the habit of saying Thank You, once in a while it’s good to let someone else know besides the person you’re thanking. It makes sense, in cases that stand out, to send a copy of your thank-you to the person’s manager. If you’re their manager, copying your own manager is a good substitute.


  • The person you are thanking knows how important their action was to you
  • That person’s manager has extra information to help with managing that person’s performance
  • You’ve bypassed the entire official recognition system and yet given someone recognition
  • You’ve shown humility and honesty, showing you aren’t trying to take credit for someone else’s work
  • You’ve earned some credibility with that manager. If you ever need to provide more critical feedback about someone to that manager, they know you are not just complaining

The message must be genuine, though. If it’s just a gesture, if it’s a calculated measure to appear humble, to appear grateful, to curry favor … people will see through you. And if there’s anything worse than seeming ungrateful, it’s seeming artificial. Like my mother used to tell me, I don’t just want you to say it, I want you to mean it.

When you say (and mean!) Thank You, in private or in public, you are investing into your relationships and helping lead organizational change. It’s a powerful tool, and we all have free access to it.

1 comment so far ↓

#1 Polly Pearson on 06.17.08 at 9:24 am

Dave — Nice work. I recall Center for Creative Research data that said managers believe they are giving recognition in a 75% positive/25% negative ratio. Individuals believe they get recognized 75% negative/25% positive.

Everyone — moms, dads, managers, etc., it seems, — needs to make extra efforts to attempt mere balance. Thank you for reminding us. Polly