when’s the last time you thanked a coworker for being awesome?

When’s the last time you thanked a colleague for being awesome? Or told someone’s manager how great they are?

With Thanksgiving approaching, now is a good time to think about how you show thanks at work. Showing gratitude to colleagues can build stronger relationships and help you get better results in your work.

After all, think about times that you went out of your way to help a colleague. When they made it clear how much they appreciated your assistance, didn’t that make you feel good about the relationship – and maybe make you go out of your way for them in the future? And if you’ve had the experience of helping someone who barely acknowledged your assistance, you probably wondered if your efforts had gone unnoticed – which isn’t exactly a recipe for enthusiasm the next time they need help.

But not only does showing gratitude make people more inclined to help you in the future, it also has a real impact on the relationship itself. People tend to feel warmly and positively toward people who appreciate them. It’s a lot tougher to get irritated with someone who recently told you how much they appreciate your work. And in some cases, showing gratitude can even set you up for long-term strong bonds – bonds that can be a reward on their own, but which can also have real ramifications for things like networking, references, and your overall quality of life at work.

Why not think about the coworkers who have made your work life easier and let them know? You can do this in a few different ways:

1. Tell them face-to-face. You don’t need to issue a formal thank-you note; it’s fine to simply pop into someone’s office to issue a thank-you. For instance: “Jim, I don’t think I ever thanked for helping me with the Miller report last month. I know you stayed late several nights to do it, and your editing made a big difference in the final product. I was so thrilled with how you pulled everything together, especially the ending section, which I know was a mess when I gave it to you. You really worked magic with the language, and I can’t thank you enough.”

(Note the specifics in there. The more specific you can be about exactly what you appreciated, the more valued your thank-you will probably be.)

2. Send a note. So few people send written notes these days, especially in informal relationships, that doing it can make a real impression. If you take the time to write out an expression of gratitude, many people will cherish it forever.

3. Send a note to your colleague’s manager (cc’ing your colleague). If someone has done great work for you, in addition to thanking them, you might consider letting their manager know as well. You can do this about their work on a specific project, or you can write to let them know how generally ___ (helpful/talented/efficient) the person is.

This can pay off in increased recognition for the person, and is the type of thing that’s often mentioned in performance reviews and even taken into account when raises and other rewards are being considered. And if nothing else, it will make the person you’re writing about feel great.

{ 63 comments… read them below }

  1. Elizabeth*

    At least once a week. I can think of 2 this week and 3 last week.

    We’ve made it a semi-formal part of the feedback program in our organization to actively acknowledge when people do the right thing then go above & beyond. The purchasing department stocks note cards specifically for it, and anyone can request them. Getting a handwritten note thanking you for something that you might not have thought of as a major deal but that was for the person who did it for is a really nice boost.

  2. A.n.o.n.*

    I once thanked my boss for being awesome and he had tears in his eyes. This was towards the end when the business failed and he had been pounding the pavement nonstop for three years to raise capital, among other things. I thanked him for working so hard to try and save the business and that his efforts didn’t go unnoticed. He was so touched and I was happy to give him a little recognition. I know he was pretty beat down by the end.

    I always make it a point to thank people. It pays off in the long run and I feel good when I do it.

  3. Sharon*

    I do it occasionally also.

    Mostly I gush over service people (i.e. not coworkers) who go above and beyond. The most recent one that blew my socks off was when I refinanced my house some years ago. After it was all done, I happened to pull up the county tax records and noticed that someone had misspelled my surname when they typed in the data. I figured…. cripes how much headache is THAT going to be to fix? I emailed the tax office asking what form I needed to fill out to fix the problem. Recieved an email back saying she fixed it. And indeed she did! I sent another email to the tax office director and copied her telling him about the issue and how I expected a lot of hassle but instead was met with efficiency and speed – and zero beaurocracy!

  4. Cautionary tail*

    I keep a pack of thank you cards in my computer bag, and even though I don’t use them so often to be annoying, I do use them so I can give super timely thanks for people who deserve it.

  5. Lily in NYC*

    Alison, what a great subject! And I can’t stress enough how it’s really a win-win thing to do. I tend to do it face-to-face instead of writing notes. Another thing I like to do is what I call “good gossip”. I make sure to talk to coworkers about how much I like my boss and just like bad gossip, it tends to get back to the person that you were saying nice things about him/her.

    1. Ted Mosby*

      I’m sure it gets around to other people too, both how you talk about others and how great your boss is (the way bad gossip would).

    2. Bend & Snap*

      I do this too but hadn’t heard that catchphrase!!! Love it.

      I also do it to combat badmouthing.

    3. AW*


      It reminds me of an advice column (I think it was Captain Awkward) that suggested a good way to learn to be assertive was to be “positively assertive”. The idea is that it’s a way to practice saying what’s on your mind in a way that’s less scary/less likely to get pushback.

      I really like the idea of being deliberately positive at work about work, especially in a way that helps your colleagues too.

    4. Lisa*

      It does work! I use it too. If I want my boss to know something, I talk about it with a co-worker in the kitchen when certain VPs or noisy office manager are also around. Managing up without looking like you are since you never technically talked to the boss about anything.

  6. MaryMary*

    A coworker of mine used to have Feedback Fridays. She’d send emails with positive or lightly developmental (“I remember you said you’d like to learn more about X, have you read this article/registered for this class/talked to Jane?”) feedback. If it was positive, she’d cc the person’s manager too. She said it was a great activity for Friday afternoons when your brain is too tired to do anything complex, and she loved ending her week on a positive note. And as the recipient of at least one feedback email, I loved ending my week that way too!

    1. TCO*

      I love this idea. I’m pretty good about giving frequent thanks and praise to my coworkers, but what a nice way to end the week! I might put in a weekly calendar reminder for this.

    2. MarieK*

      Great idea! I’ve been feeling down about my job and worried that it’s affecting others. I’m going to do this tomorrow to end the week on a positive note. Today I saw something that an employee was working on that I was genuinely excited about and it felt good to say something enthusiastic that would motivate her more. I need to remember that.

  7. snarkalupagus*

    Did it just this morning–when someone is awesome I try to fire off an email to them ASAP spelling out the specifics of that awesomeness. Our company has a formalized thanks/recognition program that goes from a certificate you can design yourself, to handwritten notes, to a small gift card or branded swag, as well, but for me, email generally works best because of its immediacy.

    The key elements for me are speed (same business day if at all possible), details of the difference that was made or the particular excellence in service, and above all, copying the person’s or group’s manager. It’s such a pleasure to be able to describe the positive impact of someone’s work in a way that highlights their performance to the people making compensation decisions.

  8. Brittany*

    I did this once but sadly mine wasn’t a great experience! The director of nursing at OldJob seemed really stressed out and irritable lately. I knew she was being pulled in a million different directions and I felt really bad because none of it was her fault, so I got her a nice card thanking her for all she does with a $25 Mastercard inside and told her to “have a treat on me”. She took almost the whole day to acknowledge it and then just gave me a very curt “Thank you”. I wasn’t expecting her to fall all over herself or anything but it left me with a weird impression. A few days later, I got laid off and found out through the grapevine that she had been one of the people pushing me to be a part of that laid off group. That one stung for sure. I don’t regret doing it because if it made her day better, then mission accomplished, but boy did that one backfire on me.

    1. Lily in NYC*

      Oh, how awful! I bet she already had you on the layoff list and felt guilty and weird when you did something nice for her.

  9. ThursdaysGeek*

    When a co-worker goes above and beyond, I often send a thank-you email, and cc their manager. I find this gets me better results from them in the future, since they know their efforts are acknowledged. I wish sometimes they’d do that back for me. When they don’t, it makes me wonder if perhaps I’m really not doing that great of a job after all.

    I’ve worked two places (including CurrentJob) where we have a box to put in notes about people who have done a good job. Once a month those are pulled out and read (publicly), and then one of those gets a token prize ($10 gift card, $20 bill). I’ve gotten that a couple of times at CurrentJob, but since my boss isn’t here, they don’t see that.

  10. Ted Mosby*

    The coworker who trained me at my job has been here for longer than most, and she is considered a super star; I’m more of a straggler. We’ve gotten to be close friends in the year I’ve worked here. The other day, I got some really harsh feed back, and reacted by getting super flustered and making a major mistake. She stayed an hour late with me, first helping me fix it, then reassuring me that I’m not as worthless/dumb as I feel here sometimes.

    I wound up writing her a thank you card just for being such a great friend and coworker. She always knows exactly what to do and say, and I look up to her a lot. Someone did something similar to me once, and I was unbelievably touched.

        1. AW*

          What show is that line from? That line gets quoted in a game called Kingdom Rush but I don’t know what it’s referring to.

  11. Sadsack*

    My company has a peer-to-peer recognition program where we can nominate coworkers to receive a small award when they go above and beyond to get things done. The company provides the recipient with a $25 gift card. The recipient receives an email that includes a personal note about how he or she helped and a list of local restaurants, gas stations, and other businesses to choose from to receive the gift card. I have received a few over the years and I just awarded a couple within the last month. I only award them when I really feel a person went out of the way to help and deserves the recognition. When I have received awards, I have felt like I was just doing my job, but it is always a good feeling to know that my coworkers recognize whatever extra work I did to help them meet their goals.

  12. Bend & Snap*

    My company has a formal recognition program. You can nominate peers and the awards range from a couple of hundred dollars to $1000+. It’s a great, formal, tangible way to recognize people in a way that hits their wallet AND their career track record.

  13. On My Phone*

    I thank them all the time and cc their manager where appropriate. I also don’t assume they can stop what they are doing to attend to me and the list goes on. I just try to treat my coworkers the way I want to be treated…with respect and acknowledgment for a job well done :-)

  14. Brownie Queen*

    I regularly thank all of those who help support my projects by baking brownies. Recognizing and appreciating those who support me has been a big contributor to my success at my job.

  15. Formica Dinette*

    I try to do it at least once a week. Sometimes it’s an email to the person (ccing their manager) to specifically recognize and thank them for something. However, since one part of my job is completing tasks for many people throughout the organization, it’s most often something like this:
    -Melissa emails me an assignment
    -In either my confirmation or completion email I’ll thank Melissa for giving me plenty of notice, being clear with instructions, providing organized materials, etc. And I only say it when it’s true, which is beneficial to me because it helps me look for positives.

    I do wish we had a program more like Bend & Snap’s. A friend of mine works for a company with something similar. They have “thank you” gift card money built into each department’s budget *and* it’s expected that every individual will nominate recipients. The awards aren’t huge (~$50 each), but it seems like my friend receives 3-6 every year. They also get performance bonuses as part of a separate program.

  16. Hephinstine*

    I very much believe in this, and I try to do it whenever I think of it.

    One Friday, I was working late and I felt like I was incredibly unappreciated after a really long day of issues, and right before I left, a coworker from another department emailed me and said “Thank you for all that you do to help us!” -that’s all. I bawled my eyes out at my desk and it made my weekend so much better.

  17. Poppy*

    I’d also like to add that when you are the receipient of positive feedback, keep note of it! I actually have a folder full of compliments from colleagues. When I’m having a rough time at work, it can be very uplifting to browse through them. Written thank you notes are easiest to keep track of, but I’ll also sometimes write down a note summarizing the verbal feedback I received. In addition, I look through this folder before my yearly evaluation because it’s an easy way to keep track of projects with positive outcomes.

  18. KJR*

    Just thought I’d share what we do at my company. If an employee goes above and beyond their job description, meaning they really went out of their way to do a stellar job on a particular project, or handled a difficult situation particularly well, their manager can nominate them for a recognition award. Once per quarter, we have a gathering where everyone who was nominated gets their name put into a drawing for a cash prize. Each nomination is read aloud, and one name is drawn. The others get a certificate of recognition which is then put into their personnel file. It’s gone over pretty well so far.

  19. abby*

    All the time. I am very grateful for my awesome coworkers. I usually thank people face to face or send an email. If the person went way above and beyond, I will email the manager and cc the coworker.

  20. Squeegee Beckenheim*

    This is a great idea! My last job had an overly formalized method of recognizing performance, with a little social network thing where each manager got a certain number of points to allocate to their team members and then you could redeem the points for crap. You could also send goofy little postcards thanking people for their work. The problem was for our office of around 25 people, only the head manager could allocate points and he didn’t really work with me or understand what I did, so there was no chance of him ever recognizing my work. He also basically forgot this thing existed for long stretches of time. It made it so that getting thanked for your work seemed both unlikely to ever happen and pointless if it did.

  21. TCO*

    I used to intern somewhere that had a really informal but nice recognition system. Basically, you could post a quick thank-you note to a coworker on a bulletin board in the main office area. I think those notes were occasionally tossed into a bucket and one was drawn for a prize, but that was secondary to the public recognition. I recognize that not everyone wants public praise, but it was so low-key that it seemed to work well for that place’s culture.

  22. LoFlo*

    Everybody should try to thank their Payroll department.

    Payroll is an incredibly complex task that most people do not comprehend. While most employees are enjoying the holidays the Payroll department has extra work due to year end and shortened work weeks to do it in.

  23. Cupcake*

    I do so all the time, and I admit that the thank yous I get from others certainly encourage me to go the extra mile the next time I work with them.

  24. Another J*

    This is along the same lines so I thought I would post it. I eat out at fast food restaurants a lot and whenever I went to the local KFC and the manager was there at the same time, it would be an awful experience. The manager would scream at the top of his lungs for almost the entire time I would be eating there. Needless to say, it ruined the dining experience. I used one of their company surveys to compliment the workers and noted that the manager would have screaming tantrums that you could hear all through out the small restaurant and even through the drive through. One week later, that manager was gone and the employee turn over dropped. The service has improved greatly because there are no longer two week long hires training the one week long hires. People are staying at this job longer. Moral of the story – those restaurant feedback forms are a good tool.

    1. Another J*

      Meant to say in that post that I complimented the heck out of the workers and thanked them verbally in the managers earshot as well.

      1. EG*

        I recommend these restaurant feedback forms as well, for complimenting or complaining. I’ve gotten great results for both, and I figure that my favorite places can only get better!

  25. Jipsy's Mom*

    This is a bit different, but I had been working to support an individual in our production group a few months ago. I was really impressed with the way Wakeen had handled a long negotiation process with our client – super organized, firm but fair in outlining our position, and we ended up with a balanced contract. I made it a point to seek out his department manager at a training a few weeks later and say how impressed I had been with Wakeen’s effort. His supervisor looked at me and said “That’s great to hear, because he really SUCKS at a bunch of other things and I’ve been having trouble keeping him on track.”

    I wished the floor would swallow me. What does one say to something like that? It was unfair to Wakeen, unfair to me, and made me completely hesitant to ever give feedback to that manager again. I guess in retrospect I should have done the email to Wakeen, with a cc: to the manager. Hopefully he wouldn’t have “replied all” telling me Wakeen really sucks.

  26. Susan*

    My company has a very informal and fun system that allows you to go to a web page (or more likely, create a link to the webpage in irc for people in addition to yourself to click on) and give praise to your co-worker for any reason. If they helped you get unblocked, if they made you laugh, anything that recognizes that they made your day brighter. It is a very key part of the company culture and very heavily used. It also at times is paid out in actual money at the end of the quarter, but to be honest, that’s just a side benefit.

    1. Connie-Lynne*

      Ha, Susan, I was coming here to mention the company I used to work for that had the same thing. In fact, from your description I suspect we may have been coworkers — my first name there was “Elsie.”

      It was also used during review time, you could see how many thank yous you got and comment on particular thank yous during your quarterly reviews. It was particularly useful as the entire company was very distributed with a lot of remote workers.

  27. Elizabeth the Ginger*

    It wasn’t exactly a thank-you, but my coworker left me a donut in my internal mailbox this morning. It really made my day, especially since yesterday was a rough one.

  28. Ketchikan9*

    My staff has a culture of thanking each other. Whenever they feel like a coworker has gone above and beyond to help another, their coworker gives them a raffle ticket. Monthly I draw tickets for prizes: gift cards for coffee, a desk “fish tank”, and miscellaneous odds and ends. I get some prizes for free by tapping into vendors and grabbing stuff the staff may like when I’m at conferences.

  29. Vicki*

    LastJob had ways to do this. There were cards available in the stick rooms that people could use and also a “Bravo” system that worked electronically (sent a Kudos to the co-worker in question and Cc:d their manager).

  30. SanityAssassin*

    All the darned time!

    I actually made a cheeky “Mediocrity Award” for a coworker once, which became wildly popular once others noticed it on his wall. People would do backflips to get one of their own. They were very rare and coveted. Irony.

    1. Monodon monoceros*

      This reminded me of the “Formal Apology” I sent a colleague one time (link in a separate post). These became a funny way of feedback among a bunch of us for a while. I still have a folder with pdfs of a bunch of filled in ones that make me laugh.

  31. Former Professional Computer Geek*

    Pretty much every week. My current job has me editing files on Google docs. We can comment on things and I often use that to say something especially when my coworker (who is senior to me) does something really awesome. He’s more likely to send email. Either way, this is one of many reasons I love my current job.

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