How to thank people (co-workers, friends, ...)

Thanks, Acknowledgement, and Appreciation

Everyday we accomplish things at work. And many accomplishments are the result of help from others. Our parents may have taught us to say “Thank You” to people who do things for us. We may even remember to do that. But what we need to do is to appropriately acknowledge the help that other people are to us. The key is to understand how to do that.

When you think about how to tell someone else about how they helped you, there are a two parts to think about: 1. How much do you thank them? 2. Who do you tell about what was done and how?

As an aside, it is equally important to be able to accept thanks. The default reaction to being thanked seems to be statements to the effect of “It was nothing.” or “Don’t mention it.” This trivializes the thanks and looses an opportunity to build deeper trust. The best reaction is to accept the thanks.

1. How Much

The most useful model of acknowledging help (from an individual or a group) that I have found has three levels: Thanks, Acknowledgement, and Appreciation. The model was invented by Gabriel Acosta-Mikulasek, a master manager, mentor, and dear friend.

Which level you use depends on the circumstance. Most of the time you would use Thanks. Appreciation is for those who make a great difference. You will see more as you read on.

1.1 Thanks

Thanks means thanking the person/people for what was done. This may seem obvious, but it takes some thinking. To help you or make a difference for you, the person actually did something. What was it that they did? As an example:

“Thank you Mark for doing the Newsletter. For figuring out what to put in the newsletter, getting contributors, following up to get the content, then pushing the content to all of us.”


A statement of Thanks:
• Addresses the person/group that provided the help by name
• Specifically says Thank You
• Gives specific examples of the behavior/actions/deliverables that resulted in the Thanks

1.2 Acknowledgement

The second level of thanking is Acknowledgement. This level includes everything in Thanks (1.1), and adds an acknowledgement of the difference their help made for you.
As an example:

“Thank you Mark for producing the Newsletter, and all the activities that go into that... Figuring out each issue, identifying writers, and chasing content.Writing an article was the forcing function to put down on paper this thinking about thanks. More than that, it allows me share it with a large audience. This is meaningful to me because my passion is sharing knowledge and practices that let people live better lives.”


An Acknowledgement:
• Includes all the elements of a Thanks
• Includes specific statements about the difference the help or activity made for you.

1.3 Appreciation

The highest level is Appreciation. This form includes everything in an Acknowledgement as well as your attempt to say what you think it took for the person/team to be a help to you. You are Appreciating the time, money, resources that others use for you. This is not something you do every day.

A newsletter example is a bit trite, so I will share an Appreciation I gave my mentor:

“Thank you Gabriel for teaching me so much about how to manage people. You have enabled me to become a teacher and manager that others want to learn from and work for. This feeds my passion for making a difference for people.I know that you can be a contribution because you are always learning. You are always seeking new ways to do things. And you spent many years before we even met becoming the person who could teach me.”


An Appreciation:
• Includes all the elements of an Acknowledgement (and Thanks)
• Includes your interpretation of the effort that the other person took to be able to help you the way that they did.

2. Who Do You Tell

Clearly you want to tell the person/team who provided the help. The question is more about what setting. Do you take them out for lunch? Do you stop by their cube/office? Do you ask them to stand up in a large meeting? Do you send out an email to a larger group?

There is no good answer for this question. I have found one of the best answers to be, if I were the one being thanked, what would be appropriate? You can also talk to your manager or co-workers.

The most important thing is not getting the “who do you tell” right, but giving the thanks in the first place.

One effective practice that Gabriel introduced was thanking others during our regular team meetings. The person giving thanks stood, named those they were going to thank, those people stood, then the thanks was delivered.

3. Summary

The best summary I can give is, say thank you. Say it often. Pay attention to those who help you and people will want to help you more. It is almost never wrong to give Thanks, at work, at home, anywhere (how often have you thanked a grocery clerk?)

And remember to at least say “You’re welcome” when people thank you.