Posted: 10 Oct 2011 04:07 AM PDT


Recently we discussed thank you notes to potential hiring managers on a technical women’s list – and it triggered a note about all the other sorts of ‘thank you’ occasions we frequently ignore.

Then I spoke to a group of small business people about performance management – and saying “Thank You” came up.

Many people feel as if polite manners have exited the workplace. We all, of course, see ourselves as the exception!

Saying Thank You to Employees

Thanking an employee for good work is a great way to get more good work. Pretty basic, rarely done well. Now we write articles on those rare executives who do this instead.

Yet this is something you can do easily. And it reaps a lot of rewards. People who feel appreciated tend to go the extra distance to solve problems, treat customers well, and make suggestions.

As a founder or leader your words of thanks carry extra meaning – so don’t be bland and generic.

Thank someone for

  • a specific piece of work,
  • a great communication with a customer, or,
  • saving your bacon on a project.

If you really mean it, they will recognize and appreciate it! Say it simply, and as soon as you can.

A culture of people who say thank you to each other creates a more positive workplace. This, too, starts at the top. But it lubricates the day-to-day work and enhances everyone’s productivity.

One Metro DC organization has formalized this. Once or twice a year there is an envelope posted for every employee, and all other employees can write a note about something the employee did well, or helped them with or whatever – and stick it into the envelope. No mandates but most folks participate. No peeking allowed! The envelopes are all distributed and opened at a small in-office gathering with cookies and coffee. Most employees love it!

Saying Thank You to Customers

OK, you know you are supposed to do this. And “thank you for your business” is probably in your customer newsletter or on your invoices. But really, is that all you do?

Again, being specific is important. If I’m the customer, you need to know me, and have an idea what might be important to me.

When you thank a customer, think about something besides their business.

Is this someone who

  • has referred business to you?
  • serves as a reference you can use?
  • suggested new products or services you might offer?
  • has given you a bright idea that helped your business?
  • introduced you to a service provider you now love?

With customers, a note is much better than a quick chat.

Sure, for a big deal or someone who is regularly supportive, you also might want to send a gift. I give books as one form of this but have also gotten purple flowers, chocolates, and bookseller gift cards. Again, tailor it to the person – and any rules, such as those in government contracting.

Keep It Going

I found it fascinating that social media smarties are now writing actual snail mail notes to each other. See the Wall St. Journal article “Stationery’s New Followers”.

Think of the people you work with – vendors, service providers, consultants, and all. Remember the person who answered your desperate broadcast plea as your systems crashed at the most inopportune time? The folks who helped you research something fast and free? A quick thank you is always welcome.

Uh, and those people you love? My grandfather taught me early that we tend to have it backward – we treat people we barely know better than we treat our nearest and dearest.

And yes, job-hunters, a thank you note – email or snail – to those who help you along the way, as well as recruiters and interviewers, is both a smart way to show that you do know your manners, and also serves as another advertisement for you.

One of the side benefits of a well-done “thank you” is that it goes to your credit as well. So Mom was really right all those years when she told you to say please and thank you properly.

Thanks for reading! Your ideas and comments are most welcome. Yes, I actually do mean that. If you did not read this, and pass it on or comment on it, how would I know if my work was useful? So, thanks! Really!

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