Gratitude at Work: Say Thank You For….

I regularly run past a local gelato stand in my neighborhood. It’s located on a busy four way intersection. Trash and litter build up on the sidewalks and on the verges. Often, I see the young adults who work the gelato stand out cleaning up the litter. When running by, I usually thank them with just a simple “Thanks.” It’s difficult work running after all! Normally, I get a quick look or a grunt or a sigh as a reply. 

Gelato can show us the right path to gratitude.

The last time I ran by, I decided to try a different tact. I slowed down a bit and said “Thank you for keeping our neighborhood clean.” Both of them looked up at me and smiled. I could tell that they felt recognized for the good work that they were doing. I was pleased that I could make a connection.

I’ve also realized that expressing gratitude in this way opens up more conversations. While walking in the neighborhood, I occasionally see someone tending their garden. If I tell them “Thank you for tending your lovely garden,” then I can make a connection where otherwise it might be awkward. I can follow up by then asking how they planted such a lovely garden or ask about specific plants.

Expressing Gratitude in the Workplace

There is a larger point in the workplace. Many people routinely say “thank you” or “good work” or “nice job” to a colleague or staff member who has completed a task. After all, it’s good to be polite. While that’s a good start, saying “Thanks” doesn’t go far enough. Similar to my gelato stand situation, it’s also important to express what you’re thanking the person for. In that way, the person being thanked knows that you see the work and understand what goes into it. 

You can go even further. You can tell them not only what you’re thanking them for, but also tell them what attributes they showed. Now, not only are you acknowledging the work that they did, but you’re also acknowledging the person themself.

Instead of “Thanks for fixing that thing”… instead try: “Thank you for solving that server so quickly. The customer really appreciated how quickly it was fixed. And I really appreciated the competence and service you always show.”

That is a much more powerful expression of gratitude and leads to much happier colleagues and staff.

Not Expressing Gratitude

Managers are often busy people. They have deadlines to meet, projects to execute, initiatives to plan, lunches to eat, and much more. So often, the day to day human interactions can get lost. The problem is managers who do not express gratitude or communicate well harm the organization. How so? First, the poor manager / employee relationship is one of the largest reasons for someone to quit (People quit their manager is the old adage). Moreover, multiple studies have shown employees are much more likely to quit if they feel underappreciated or undervalued. Thus, expressing gratitude to the team members is part of a manager’s job and their team is most of what makes the manager successful.

Second, managers are responsible for maintaining the culture of an organization. An organization where managers do not express gratitude is much more likely to be a culture where no one expresses gratitude. If no one is expressing gratitude, then nobody is receiving gratitude, and that means that employees are going to be more likely to leave. Thus, fostering a culture of gratitude is definitely in a manager’s best interest.


Managers have a responsibility to create culture in the workplace that attracts and retains the best staff possible. One of the core ways they can express gratitude is by not only saying “Thanks” but by saying “Thank you for…”.