The Strategist

How to say Thank you and show appreciation at work

07/05/2019 - 11:04

One of the deepest human needs is to feel their importance. One way to get confirmation of our importance is to hear thank-yous from colleagues. But in what form do such messages usually take?

Three characteristics

There are three characteristics that contribute to a stronger impact of praise, respect and recognition.

1. Directness

The first element that enhances this kind of communication is directness. Expressions of appreciation or respect are sent directly to the person who deserves them. They do not arise in talks with others. Often, a person who is praised is spoken about in the third person, and this weakens the very message. “I would like to thank Nancy. She did a lot ...” and so on - that is, the words are addressed to everyone, but not to Nancy herself, while she is invited to joyfully “eavesdrop”. It’s probably not so comfortable to contact Nancy directly, especially in the presence of other employees, but this will markedly increase the impact of praise.

2. Specifity

The second element that enhances communication: praise or admiration should be specific. Very often, our statements remain too general, they express a generally good attitude towards a colleague, without specifying exactly what he deserved praise for.

We say something like this: “You showed yourself amazingly at that meeting with the client on Monday. I am so glad that we are doing this project together. ” Yes, the praise is addressed directly to the person, but he still does not understand what exactly he did and why it is so important for the one who praises him. Yes, he will be happy for a minute, just like anyone would be. The trouble is that nothing happens next.

Since this employee is an adult with his own ideas about what is important and valuable, it is difficult for him to determine what exactly he did. Maybe he is valued for his youth or handsomeness: according to the boss, some of these qualities made a positive impression on the client.

If it is important for an employee to be appreciated for his intellectual contribution, emotional sensitivity and leadership skills, he will hardly be encouraged by such praise. Conversely, if people usually note those qualities that he himself considers to be innate or not dependent on his will, such communication becomes much more valuable to him and has a far greater impact. 

We need an exact indication of what exactly the boss appreciates, and what caused the admiration.

3. Attributiveness

The third and final element that gives strength to expressing gratitude and respect is that they are not aimed at characterizing characteristic features of the recipient of praise, but at conveying thoughts of the one who praises.

This element is the most difficult to eliminate, in part because we all tend to move from thoughts and feelings about the words and actions of another person to generalization and characterization of that person.

And vice versa, if we reduce the statement to expressing our own experience, we will keep the interlocutor in complete freedom, we will not drag him anywhere, we will not restrain him, or somehow define. Such a conversation will show your attitude. That is, instead of saying “I admire your generosity”, say “I appreciate how generously you spend time bringing me up to date. You helped me a lot with this.”

Based on "How the Way We Talk Can Change the Way We Work. Seven Languages for Transformation" by Robert Kegan и Lisa Laskow Lahey