Everyone likes to be appreciated for the work they do—especially creatives. There is something about putting ourselves into our work that feels a little vulnerable. Our creative work reflects our taste, our values, and our view of what’s good. Appreciation validates that we are making a contribution and are an important part of the mission.

This time of year we focus on appreciation, so here are some reflections on what makes appreciation really land.

How to Say Thanks

  1. Be Specific
    It’s nice to hear a general “thanks” or “good job” but if the comments are really specific, it means so much more. Consider the difference between these two statements:

    General: “Nice job on the Chapman account. Thanks for your help with that.”

    Specific: “I appreciate how you paid special attention to the color details with the Chapman design. When you notice the client’s priorities during meetings and ensure that your work addresses them, it demonstrates that you care for our clients. I appreciate that.”

  2. Highlight Values
    Gratitude is an opportunity to align around values. For example, if you are working on responding quickly to customer requests, you might include that.

    “We’ve been working on responsiveness with clients, and I noticed that last week you got back to Susan right away, even though you were juggling multiple projects at the time. Thanks for making this a priority. You’re upholding our value of customer service by responding to her quickly.”

  3. Point to Character
    Most people receive accolades for behavior, but behavior is really a reflection of what’s going on in the heart. Look for opportunities to highlight what’s behind the behavior.

    “When you waited and let Frank talk more about why this project was so important to him, I noticed how patient you were. This patience was rewarded as it gave him time to surface his motivation for working on this, and that changed the direction of our conversation. I appreciate your sensitivity to his perspective and the way you honored him by giving him some space, instead of jumping in to defend your work.”

  4. Say It Early and Often
    Most people don’t complain that they are over-appreciated. So why wait until Thanksgiving to offer a word of encouragement? Experiment with little bits of gratitude sprinkled throughout the week. And notice the effect this has with your co-workers.
  5. Vary the Approach
    Spoken affirmation is a great way to start thanking people. But it’s not the only way. Consider some of these other methods to express your appreciation:

    • Write a card or note of encouragement.
      It’s a tangible reminder that can sit on the desk or hang on the office wall, having a longer impact than spoken words.
    • Give them quality time.
      Some people feel valued when they have an opportunity to connect relationally outside the work setting. For a special thanks, take time out of your busy schedule to treat someone to coffee or lunch.
    • Give a little gift.
      Even if you’re on a tight budget, you can find or make something small and meaningful that expresses your appreciation for a job well done. To make it personal, find out what they like.
    • Give a pat on the back.
      Or it could be a warm handshake or a hug, whatever is appropriate for your workplace context. In an office where most people face the computer all day, it’s nice to have some human interaction.
    • Thank individuals and the group as a whole.
      Sometimes you’ll focus on certain workers to appreciate their particular efforts. Other times, you’ll acknowledge the whole department or committee for what they achieved together. Using both approaches will help individuals feel personally valued while also fostering team spirit in your organization.

Thanks Keeps on Giving

Saying thanks is free, but it’s not automatic. We must value appreciation enough to pay attention and notice what our co-workers are doing that makes a difference. When we express genuine appreciation in a way that resonates with others, we foster a positive working environment, increase motivation, and improve morale.

Thank you for taking the time to read this!

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