You’ve Got To Really Know What You’re Thanking People For

Never give a person an empty thank you.

You may have experienced the kind of thank you I’m talking about at some point in your life.

What is an empty thank you?

This is when a manager or immediate supervisor thanks an employee without being fully aware of all that was involved with the task being acknowledged. It is hollow gratitude and means very little or nothing at all.

Simply saying the words “thank you” in isolation of any explanatory comments is not meaningful.

 These spoken or written two words can come across as so very general and awkward.

One person who was thanked for their outstanding action with a general “Thank You” and nothing else said, told me afterwards that it felt almost like an obligation on the manager’s part to say it.

The “thank you” recipient knew the manager had heard what they had done. That was good. However, they also knew this manager had no idea of the depth of time and effort the employee put into getting it done. They had not investigated or inquired further to add more meaning to their thanks.

Making Your “Thank You” More Meaningful

In contrast, I recently experienced a request over the phone from my CEO, Peter Hart, to be on a client call early in the morning while I was away on vacation out West.

This was the first time I had received such a request while being on vacation in over 11 years with the company. It was deemed essential that I be on the call because of my expertise and positive relationship with the client. I felt I could afford to take the hour out of one of my vacation days.

The outcome of the meeting was very successful.

Subsequent to the client call my CEO has done the following:

  1. Personally emailed me with multiple capped “THANK YOU’s!” in the body of the email and specifically acknowledged me for taking time out from my vacation and highlighting the contributions the team and I made to the meeting. This was cc’d to members of the executive team as well as internal client team members.
  2. While I was on a team teleconference call after my vacation, unrelated to the client, where Peter was also present, he took time out at the beginning of the meeting to again thank me and explained to the team exactly what I had done.

Some Thankful Reflections

What can we learn here from this example about making your Thank You’s fully filled with value?

  • Don’t leave work related Thank You’s in isolation without identifying the contribution made.
  • Only say the words “Thank You” as is in the quick polite courtesies of when receiving something from someone, for example.
  • Do your homework whenever you hear that someone has done something significant.
  • Know precisely what a person did to make the impossible happen and then express your acknowledgment of those particular actions when giving your thanks.
  • A well-deserved thanks is always worth repeating.
  • You might start by a phone call, text or email to give your initial thank you. But you also have a second chance to magnify the thank you again whenever you next see the person face-to-face or on a subsequent phone call.

And never forget to use the often-rare experience of sending a handwritten Thank You card or note to let people know of your gratitude for all they are doing for you, the team, your customers, and the company at large.

Question: What do you typically do to make sure your expressions of thank you are not perceived as hollow?

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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