How Not to Express Thanks in the Workplace | TechWell

How Not to Express Thanks in the Workplace

As last Thanksgiving was approaching, I wrote an article about the importance of expressing thanks in the workplace because many work environments suffer from a lack of gratitude.

But there’s more to thanking coworkers than just saying thank you—how you say it can make a difference. I had a recent experience in which a colleague, Bobbi, asked coworkers for some help. I made what I thought was a significant contribution. So did several others.

Afterward, however, Bobbi sent out an email in which she said, “Thanks so much to all of you for your help, especially Marie.” I’ve no doubt that Marie did more than the rest of us, but we each did what we were able. By identifying one person as being especially helpful, she made some of the others feel slighted. If one person’s contributions helped more than those of the rest, let that person know privately. Don’t treat it like a competition with one first-place winner.

Here’s another example, from musician and author Benjamin Zander, of thanking in a way that belittles others. A wind player, appreciating the attention of a particular conductor, said, “This is the first time one of the conductors has paid any attention at all to us wind players.” Zander asked the wind player to rephrase her comment in a way that wouldn’t bring down all the other conductors. Her second effort: “You know, it makes such a difference for us wind players back here when the conductor gives us as much attention as the strings.” So much better!

When it comes to expressing appreciation for a gift given to you, a thank you ideally mentions the gift and says how you have used it or plan on using it. Even if you didn’t like the gift, try to find one aspect of it that you can genuinely appreciate. If even that isn’t possible, at least mention the giver's thoughtfulness.

While you’re at it, steer clear of mass-emailed thank-you messages. It’s irksome to receive a thank-you email sent to a group of people with all names concealed behind a blind cc. It’s a to-whom-it-may-concern thank you that makes none of the recipients feel special. Even if the group of recipients is large, it’s worth sending each one a personal thank-you email so they know you noticed and appreciated their contributions. (Of course, a personal handwritten thank-you note is even better.)

As to whether an emailed one-word “thanks” is appropriate in response to a question you asked or a task you wanted done, opinions vary. Some people consider these one-word messages just another thing adding to the overload in their inbox. Others appreciate the acknowledgement.

What’s your preference?

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January 6, 2014

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