HR Insights

Thanks a Lot: How to Show Your Appreciation at Work

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Greta Cline, CFO
Greta Cline
Partner, CFO/COO
November 14, 2023

How do you say “thanks” at work? We’re moving into the holidays, when the atmosphere around the office becomes a little more festive and you begin to wonder how – and if – you should offer some sort of gift or token of your appreciation. At That’s Good HR, we have the scoop on what’s appropriate for gestures of gratitude and how you can convey your appreciation to your employees, coworkers, and colleagues.

First things first – who gets the thanks?

Ideally, company gratitude flows in many directions during the business year. Have you ever received a heartfelt thank-you note from a coworker after you completed a difficult team project? How did it make you feel? Jotting down a few words on a Post-it®️ and a giving you coworker a cup of their favorite coffee can make them feel valued and part of the team.

Things get a little trickier when it comes to the holidays. As we approach the season of gift-giving, people may be wondering if they should be offering tangible items of appreciation to their coworkers or employees. What about management? Have you been knitting your boss’ blanket since January? We hope not, because traditional etiquette says that gifts should flow down in the corporate power structure. In other words, your boss might be handing out gift cards to thank employees during the holiday season, but you shouldn’t feel obligated to reciprocate.

Coworkers, on the other hand, may have fun exchanging inexpensive gifts during the holiday season. Our advice? Ask your management to establish firm guidelines now for gift giving and stick to them. If employees are exchanging $25 gifts, stay at that price point. Going overboard can make people feel uncomfortable, and that’s counterproductive to the message you want to convey. (As always, nobody should be forced to participate in any gift exchange.)

How to convey your thanks through words

In this season of thankfulness, we recommend starting with the written word. Emails are great – and they’re handy when it comes to your remote colleagues – but a handwritten note of thanks indicates that you thought the recipient was worth the time it took to write a message and seal the envelope. So, what should you be writing on those little notes? Even if you’re not much of a wordsmith, here are some ideas to get you started:

  • Focus on their strengths: “I appreciate the way you always work hard to make our team projects a success” or “Your cheerful attitude is contagious and keeps me smiling even during the challenging periods.”
  • Use good examples: “You always bring exciting ideas to our meetings” or “Your extra work made our last project shine.”
  • Add some motivation: Everyone can use a little inspiration, especially when they are struggling. Validating those challenges and offering a boost may go a long way: “The last month hasn’t been easy, but know you are appreciated for all you bring to the workplace.”

OK, but what if I’m the boss?

When you’re in management, gratitude takes on another layer of meaning. Those notes of validation are great during the regular business year, but the holidays have you thinking it’s time to go the extra mile. While it may be tempting to default to the staff pizza party, we know you can do a lot better than that at conveying your appreciation. Consider these options for giving thanks to your employees who make your business a success:

Cold hard cash: Cash is impersonal, right? Tell that to the employee who’s struggling to keep up with his expenses during the holiday season. A little extra money in the paycheck says “thank you” better than a slice of stuffed crust pepperoni pizza with extra cheese.

The gift of time: A day off can be a gamechanger for an overstressed employee. Not every company has the flexibility of offering an extra day – or even an extra half-day – to employees, but if yours does, consider offering it as a token of your gratitude.

Special activities: Team-building activities can lead to employee camaraderie and cooperation. Before you book the bowling alley, consider combining the spirit of the season with the season of gratitude. Ask employees to suggest favorite charities and organizations that need your help during the holiday season and organize an outing for anyone who’s interested.

How about a nice coffee mug?

Go online and Google “gifts for business,” and you’ll see pages and pages of gift ideas and tokens you can purchase to show your appreciation. Be careful, though. You don’t want your recipients to believe they’re only worthy of some small token. Our advice? Make it personal and fun. Spring for cookies with the company logo in the icing. Pick the nice water bottles over the cheap plastic ones. Ask yourself if you’d like to receive this same gift and be honest. If you know that tchotchke is going to wind up in the junk drawer, skip it and consider something else.

There’s a lot of emotion and appreciation wrapped up in a thank you gesture. Make sure yours is sincere and heartfelt during this season of gratitude.