With the Thanksgiving holiday rapidly approaching, many people reflect on what they are thankful for. However, reflecting on what you are grateful for but not sharing that gratitude with the one who provided it, is a wasted opportunity to brighten someone’s day. William Arthur Ward once said, “Feeling gratitude and not expressing it is like wrapping a present and not giving it.”
Sharing gratitude is similar to providing feedback to employees in that finding opportunities to thank someone should be a regular pursuit. You never know when a seemingly simple recognition of another’s efforts might be just what that person needed at that moment in time. For example, a client I had been coaching shared this story with me. He had been doing excellent work for his clients for a long time. He consistently was given the highest scores in every evaluation. His work was praised to others in the company, but not necessarily to him. The words of William Arthur Ward were coming true. A senior colleague of this successful employee finally decided to send him an email detailing all the compliments and high praise others in the company had been sharing on the weekly leadership call. Within minutes of receiving the congratulatory email recognizing his continuing contributions and consistently outstanding work, he responded with a message that surprised his colleagues. Privately, he had been going through a rough patch in his personal life and the arrival of that email recognizing his contributions, as well as knowing others in the company knew about his great work, lifted his spirits at a time when he needed it most.
With more employees working remotely for an extended time, it is easy for them to feel isolated and as if no one knows they are still making contributions to the company. Whether we realize it or not, the smallest gesture can often make a huge impact. Taking a few minutes to write a simple note expressing gratitude for how someone has helped you or made you feel, can have positive, long-lasting effects. Months later, that employee still talks about the uplifting email he received from his colleague.
Especially now, if you find yourself thinking about sending a note to someone to express your gratitude, or to recognize a job well-done, do it at that moment. Below are a few tips to help get you started:
- Be specific: Rather than simply saying, “Thank you for being awesome.”, identify a couple of things that person has done. For example, “Thank you so much for helping me out with that project last week and for always...” Sharing specific actions signals to the person that the gratitude is genuine and meaningful.
- Share how they made you feel: “Knowing that I have a teammate like you to depend on makes me feel confident that...” If someone knows a specific action of theirs made you feel happy, grateful, confident, the likelihood of them repeating that action (or a similar one) will increase.
- Include a forward-looking statement: “I really enjoy working with you and look forward to...” Looking forward shows the person that you weren’t just trying to find someone to help out in a pinch, but that you value your relationship with them.
These same tips can easily be applied in your personal life as well. Think about the difference between these two expressions of gratitude from one spouse to another:
- “Thank you for everything that you do.”
- "Thank you for helping me with the yardwork and cleaning last week when I wasn’t feeling well. It makes me feel so good knowing I have a true partner and look forward to tackling together any obstacles life may throw at us.”
The great thing about gratitude is that it is free, quick, and can have a big impact if you share it. As Gertrude Stein once said, “Silent gratitude isn’t much use to anyone.”