How many times a day do you tell someone, “thank you?” Three? Four? Do you look them in the eye when you say it? Do you mean it? Or are you merely adhering to the social convention of mumbling out a short phrase of appreciation when you know the situation calls for it?
We all know that it’s important to show gratitude for our employee’s contributions. However, it’s easy to forget to say thank you on a regular basis. We rely on things like “Employee of the Month” or the annual “Employee Appreciation” picnic to do the job for us, even though daily expressions of appreciation make a bigger impact.
Why do we do this? The answer is simple: we think don’t have the time. Between balancing work, personal lives, and social events it seems we hardly have the time to thank ourselves. However, even if you don’t have the time to put together a big to-do for showing employee appreciation, there are still several small ways in which you can say “thank you” that will make a huge difference in the workplace.
Try practicing saying thank you for seven consecutive days in seven different ways. Here are some ideas to get you started.
Day 1: Purposely walk the floor of your workplace and give spontaneous praise to someone you see doing something right.
This is perhaps the easiest way of showing appreciation for your employees or co-workers. Just taking five minutes out of every hour to walk the floor and give someone a compliment on their work can make a huge difference. Spontaneous praise is often more genuine than a carefully thought-out emails because of their personal face-to-face nature. Furthermore, spontaneous positivity leaves a distinct impression of purpose in their workday. Often times we get so caught up in the menial tasks of our day, that we begin to feel as if our efforts are fruitless. Spontaneous praise can help ease that feeling and improve overall moral in the workplace.
Day 2: Thank an employee or co-worker face-to-face, telling him specifically how he makes a difference to your company and/or workday.
This is slightly different than Day 1 in that your praise is intentional. In other words, you’re making a conscious effort to intentionally seek out one person and specifically appreciate something they do. Not only does this show that you’re taking a personal interest in their work, but that you’re also taking a personal interest in who they are. This helps foster a sense of community and purpose within the workplace.
Day 3: Divide a piece of paper into two columns.
In the first column, list the names of all your direct reports. In the second column, write something positive that each person contributes to the team. Leave no one out, even if you really have to work to find the positive. Carry that list with you for a week. When you have the opportunity, privately share the appropriate praise with each person on the list. Try to get through the entire list within a week.
This method is great for any work environment for several reasons. First of all, it’s intentional, which as we already discussed is a great way to show personal appreciation. Secondly, it’s long-term appreciation. Instead of simply showing appreciation for one day, this method of spreading positivity and kindness lasts all week. It helps you form a habit of not only remembering to show appreciation, but also to notice the kind of things that deserve it. Carrying around a list of positives for an entire week can open up the doors for you to notice the positive in everyone, which can help improve overall work moral tremendously. Not only that, but when people receive a positive comment, they’re likely to pay it forward, increasing the spread of positivity and appreciation throughout the workplace. And lastly, this method is inclusive. Making sure to include everyone in the list is extremely important in order for this method of appreciation to be successful. If you only express your thanks to a select few, then it will create a sort of clique-tension between groups of people in the workplace. It can also make those who are left out feel as though the work that they do is not enough, which is the complete opposite of how you want your work environment to be. Making an inclusive list of positives about everyone helps foster the idea that you are all a team, and everyone is both needed and appreciated.
Day 4: Go on WOW patrol.
Choose one employee/co-worker who really went the extra mile recently. Gather a group of department heads or other co-workers, and write positive messages on sticky notes. Plaster those sticky notes all over that person’s work area. Or put together a balloon bouquet, a special certificate, and maybe even a few special treats. Gather that person’s co-workers to help you surprise her with celebration of her contributions to the workplace. Or if you’d rather have less fuss, a simple standing ovation of applause for a chosen employee/co-worker can have an equally wonderful impact. Even taking them out to lunch, or letting them leave half an hour early with pay, is a great way to visibly show your appreciation. The purpose of this day is to give someone a big and visible WOW to make their day, and show them how much you appreciate their hard work. Visual displays of thanks not only show that you recognize the difference they have made, but also leave a lasting impression of appreciation.
Day 5: Start a “travelling trophy.”
Find something fun to use a trophy. It could be a rubber chicken, a stuffed animal, or something humorous that goes along with your mission or brand. Give it to one of your team member and tell him specifically why he is the recipient of this award. When an hour is up, the recipient needs to find someone else who makes a difference, and then pay it forward. Keep going all day long and see who ends up with the trophy at the end of the day.
This one is great of obvious reasons. First of all, it provides a visual display of appreciation. That creates a positive message within the workplace. Secondly, by allowing the trophy to travel, you create an inclusive atmosphere among your employees/co-workers. And additionally, if you choose the make the traveling trophy a daily activity, rather than a hourly one, you can make the expression of appreciation long-term.
Day 6: Have lunch with one or two of your direct reports.
Talk to them about their career goals, and where they see themselves in five years. Consider where you might be able to encourage them and help them. If possible, delegate something challenging to them that would help them along their desired path. Then ask for their opinions, no holds barred, about how things are going at work. What are their specific concerns? What are their specific suggestions for improvement? Thank them for their input and try to either appease their concerns, or implement at least one of their ideas. Be sure to give them credit.
Above all else, your employees need to like their opinions matter, and that their voices are heard. Taking the time to take them out to lunch, away from the workplace, shows that you’re making an effort to be approachable. You want to your employees to feel comfortable coming to you with problems, so you can help foster a sense of teamwork and community. Additionally, giving them a chance to be heard in a neutral space will help them feel both appreciated and seen. In a team, every person matters and every person is important, so giving them credit for their ideas is just as important as hearing them.
Day 7: Bring in treats to say thank you to the entire team.
There’s no better way to say “thank you” like four boxes of pizza and a giant cake. It’s a classic show of appreciation for everyone. It fosters positive socialization among your employees and celebrates everything you’ve all achieved as a team. It allows your employees to rest from their work and encourages everyone to take the time and opportunity to say “thank you” to everyone. Go team!