Learn To Receive Thanks and Recognition the Right Way

Employees, on average, are not recognized as frequently as they would like to be according to Gallup.

So when you’re being acknowledged for something, don’t negate the very recognition you do receive by giving some weak or negative comeback comment.

You’ve likely heard the following scenarios around you. You might even have fallen into the trap of doing them too.

Someone thanks you for great work you did earlier in the day.

“Thanks so much for the quick turnaround with getting ABC Company’s shipment out the door. I know the ABC general manager will be singing our praises tomorrow because of this.”

But you end up giving a weak reply like one of the following:

“That’s all right.”

 “Don’t mention it.”

“Not at all.”

“It was nothing.”

Reaction To Negative Comments

The only problem is, these responses give a deflating and negative message back to the giver of recognition.

Let’s take a closer look and consider how the recognizing person might feel after hearing what you said back to them.

“That’s all right.” – Not the worst of the various responses but it is certainly leaning towards minimizing what you did with getting the shipment out so quickly.

 “Don’t mention it.” – Reminds me of the Harry Potter books referring to the main antagonist as “he who should not be named”. The inference here is the recipient of thanks is telling the person expressing appreciation not to say anything about the good things they did.

“Not at all.” – It’s easy to get caught up in using generally accepted phrases. This one is a little difficult to fully interpret. However, anything that starts off with a “not” still implies negative feedback.

“It was nothing.” – I have definitely heard this one said way too many times. Think about it, if it was really “nothing” it would not merit being acknowledged. When you tell a thanking person “it was nothing” you are indirectly telling them they are wrong with their positive perception of your actions.


When we give negative responses like these to recognition givers they can probably feel:

  • Deflated
  • Like saying thanks doesn’t mean anything
  • Less likely to give you recognition again
  • Questioning whether recognition is worth giving to anyone else
  • Simply stop recognizing people

Here’s How You Can Respond

Hopefully some of you have either heard Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson’s sing or watched him perform the voiceover singing as the Hawaiian legendary demigod, Maui, in the 2016 Disney animated movie “Moana”.

There’s one song in the movie where he sings a song titled “You’re Welcome!”

In the chorus, he’s telling an ungrateful Moana, “Well anyway, let me say ‘you’re welcome.”

Whenever you receive thanks for something or are recognized for a positive contribution you’ve made you can say some of these far more positive responses:

“You’re welcome”

 “My pleasure.”

 “Thank you!”

 “I appreciate you saying that.”

What you are really saying with each of these feedback phrases is:

“You’re welcome” – You are telling the thanking person that they are welcome to your services, talents and abilities and that you are glad to have helped them.

“My pleasure.” – This is being heard frequently from customer service and hospitality professionals. You are communicating you enjoyed doing what you did and that it was no major trouble for you to do so.

“Thank you!” – Sometimes a simple thank you for the thanks can be all that is needed to positively acknowledge the recognition giver. And if you are tempted to say anything deflating or negative afterwards, just zip the lips and don’t say anything else but “Thank you!”

“I appreciate you saying that.” – If you are like most people, you really do appreciate people recognizing you and acknowledging your work once in a while. Why not tell them so.

And besides these super short and sweet phrases you can always expand upon them if you feel inclined and are confident in doing so.

The message I want to get across is not to negatively reinforce with your poor choice of words other people’s sincere attempts to thank you and recognize all you are doing.

Be willing to teach by your personal example and show employees how to respond when they are recognized and thanked by others.

Question: What examples have you seen of negative comeback phrases after a person has been thanked or recognized?

Roy is no longer writing new content for this site (he has retired!), but you can subscribe to Engage2Excel’s blog as Engage2Excel will be taking Roy’s place writing about similar topics on employee recognition and retention, leadership and strategy.

Please note: I reserve the right to delete comments that are offensive or off-topic.

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