Thanking in the Workplace

Thanking in the workplace is a simple, yet powerful gesture that has the potential to bring about significant changes to one’s work and life. That said, many people – including a plethora of leaders and managers – find it a real challenge to express genuine appreciation towards others. In failing to demonstrate gratefulness, we essentially deny ourselves the opportunity to win people’s hearts and reach greater heights.

Quick links

The Importance of Saying ‘Thank You’

The phrase ‘thank you’ is so miraculous, as it embraces one of the most wonderful emotions of a human being – gratitude. These two magical words are like a badge of honor that demonstrates your appreciation of others for their hard work/ help/ commitment – which is hard for anyone to resist.

The effect of thanking does not end there. It also applies to you – the thanks giver. In fact, a study by the University of Pennsylvania has revealed that the act of expressing gratitude provides an instant boost to one’s fulfillment, which could last for up to a month.

Top Reasons for Thanking Others

  • Acknowledging contributions: Saying thank you means you are making a conscious statement that you value what someone has done for you, no matter how big or small their contribution may be. This act of acknowledgment goes beyond a mere exchange of words; it signifies that you are aware of their involvement, and that it has had a positive impact on you.
  • Building relationships: Thanking facilitates relationship-building by establishing a positive rapport and fostering mutual appreciation. As a result, people are encouraged to share their thoughts and ideas – which contribute to enhanced communication and efficiency.
  • Improving motivation & engagement: When gratefulness is openly expressed, it reinforces the value of others’ work, fostering a sense of pride and accomplishment. As a result, people are provided with an intrinsic motivation to continue their high-quality performance. Additionally, the act of gratitude triggers a positive emotional response, leading to increased job satisfaction and a heightened sense of belonging, which in turn amplifies engagement levels.
  • Improving workplace culture: Regularly expressing gratitude establishes a norm of recognizing and valuing people’s contributions – thereby boosting morale and fostering a culture of mutual respect and acknowledgment.
  • Strengthening personal development: As mentioned, saying thank you benefits both the receiver and the giver. By openly acknowledging the contributions of others, one demonstrates their willingness to learn from diverse perspectives and experiences. Being humble and coachable enables us to recognize our own areas of growth and invites opportunities for improvement.
  • Spreading kindness: Expressing gratitude helps set a tone of appreciation and consideration, inspiring others to do the same. This cycle of acknowledgment cultivates a culture of kindness, where people are more inclined to recognize and value each other’s efforts.

Read more: Coaching Culture – How to Establish One at Work


Thanking is the Best Way to End an Explosive Conversation

Perhaps the real power of thanking comes from the fact that it gives people a sense of closure – which allows us to move forward and let go of the past. After all, who can continue being bitter after one demonstrates such a heart-warming gesture (maybe aside from a few rare exceptions)?

Saying ‘thank you’ at the end of a conversation has become an etiquette in modern communication. In this case, you don’t need to think when saying ‘thank you’, it will come out of your mouth naturally and put an end to the conversation with grace.

Thanking in the Workplace

As leaders, frequently saying thank you to your employees makes you happier – as well as motivates people to remain committed to their work. It’s a win for all.

Additionally, sometimes – thanking is also a worthy alternative to apologizing. After engaging in a heated argument/ making a mistake, if you are to mend things with your coworkers, saying something like “Thank you for sharing your input – I was not aware of that before” carries a lot more weight than a blank sorry, and will definitely make the conversation much more light-hearted.

thanking in the workplace

Why Are People Reluctant to Say ‘Thank You’

Thanking is one of the most basic manners that we all learned in childhood – and for good reasons. Whenever we do something for somebody, (like it or not) we all expect gratitude in response. And we definitely feel insulted/ resent others if they fail to do so.

Despite its simplicity, many of us find ourselves struggling to deliver appreciation to those who have helped us/ done us a favor – whether in life or at work. Various research on this topic have been conducted – suggesting a plethora of reasons, namely:

  • Feeling awkward or uncomfortable expressing gratitude.
  • Taking things for granted (especially if you are a manager checking others’ task list).
  • Sense of entitlement or superiority.
  • Fear of unprofessionalism.
  • Fear of rejection or obligation (i.e: we are afraid of owing somebody a favor).
  • etc.

While there are countless explanations for our lack of gratitude, we can safely say that it all boils down to one single cause: EGO.

The main thing with not saying thank you is our inflated sense of self – we are so proud that we cannot stand the idea of performing a submissive behavior like saying “thank you”. For those who are not used to giving compliments, thanking is a self-humiliating gesture that definitely does not align with their excessive need to be me.

In some circumstances, our sense of self not only prevents us from showing appreciation – it drives us to come up with excuses to justify our rudeness.

  • “I was feeling stressed”
  • “They were too rude”
  • “I found their tone of voice offensive”
  • etc.

That’s where the blame game starts – we pass the buck and shift our own responsibility onto others. Nothing productive can happen after that.

Where Do We Forget to Say Thank You

  • Daily interactions: In the hustle and bustle of daily life, we frequently find ourselves forget to say thank you for seemingly “minor things” – such as someone for holding the door open for them. In fact, demonstrating gratefulness for such little acts of kindness will tremendously help to strengthen our relationship with others – as well as contribute to establishing a positive personal reputation.
  • Workplace: Among a busy working environment, employees might overlook thanking a colleague for providing guidance on a project. For example, after receiving valuable input on a presentation, expressing gratitude by saying “I appreciate your insights, they really improved the quality of the presentation” not only acknowledges the assistance – but also fosters teamwork.
  • Family: More often than we may want to admit, family members frequently forget (sometimes even ignore) to thank each other for their unwavering support. We take our loved ones’ assistance for granted – and rarely pay tribute to them, despite how crucial it is to nurturing healthy familial bonds.
  • Personal achievements: Have you ever failed to thank a mentor who has helped you through a difficult time? Far too often, we forget – even neglect – to pay homage to those who have been there with us the whole time, and have lent us the necessary support to reach certain milestones in life.
  • Unexpected acts: When someone goes out of their way to perform an unexpected act of kindness or generosity (e.g: a neighbor brought over a freshly baked pie), expressing gratitude is basic manners – and yet, we often find ourselves failing to perform such a simple gesture.

Read more: Winning at All Costs – Pitfall on the Path to Success


A Step-by-step Guide to Saying ‘Thank You’ – the Right Way

  1. Identify your motives

Sincerity is of utmost importance when it comes to thanking – you need to make sure that your act of expressing gratitude is authentically genuine. Under no circumstances should you let others assume there is an underlying intention behind your behavior.

While we may not be aware of such motives consciously, introspection may help bring them to light. For example, you would like to send a thank you note to a co-worker for their hard work in a project. Let’s stop for a few minutes and ask yourself

  • “Is there an underlying purpose to this thank-you note, or am I genuinely showing appreciation?”
  • “Is it that I really appreciate their work, or just that I want to avoid being deemed as an ungrateful jerk?”
  • “This act of gratitude is meant to make them happy – or just to earn my reputation as being a good manager?”
  1. Know when to say “thank you”

Sending gratitude on time holds an outstanding importance; procrastination makes the act become awkward when expressed. If you delay thanking for something that transpired weeks ago, others might be prompted to question your true intent.

That said, if circumstances warrant a delayed thank-you – or that you initially forgot to demonstrate gratitude, and now have gathered the courage to do so, it’s much better to go for it than to remain silent. Just make sure to provide the context before proceeding. For instance:

  • Not good: “Hey, thanks for helping me out with that project… a while ago.”
  • Better: “Hey, I wanted to take a moment to thank you for your assistance with the project a few weeks ago. Your insights were incredibly valuable and contributed a lot to our success. I really appreciate it!”
  1. Deliver your message

Selecting the appropriate means of communication for expressing gratitude is a decision that should be carefully pondered upon. Opting for written communication, such as an email, text message, or team messaging app, provides the advantage of allowing recipients to revisit and cherish the message at their convenience. On the other hand, verbal communication allows you to “capture the moment”, as well as carries more emotional impact due to the involvement of voice, facial expressions, and body language.

The context of the relationship also needs to be taken into consideration – while a text message may be suitable for a colleague, an email might be better for a client. Additionally, it’s also vital to put yourself in the recipient’s shoe. For example, a call might be effective, but it could trigger the discomfort of an unexpected compliment situation. In this case, you may want to consider delivering your message with a hand-written note.

Practicing Thanking in the Workplace – A 3-Step Exercise

In his bestseller “What got you here won’t get you there“, world-class executive coach – Dr. Marshall Goldsmith – presents a 3-step exercise that one may apply to become better at demonstrating gratitude at work.

  • Reflect on your career and life: First, take a moment to review your career journey, and list the first 25 individuals who come to mind – those who have contributed to your growth and success.
  • Acknowledge unexpressed gratitude: For each of these individuals, ask yourself, “Have I ever conveyed my genuine appreciation for their assistance?” Recognize the instances where you might have missed demonstrating gratefulness to them.
  • Craft thank you notes: When all is done, proceed to writing personalized thank you notes to each person on your list. Make sure to communicate your sincere appreciation for their support and contributions.

Engaging in this exercise forces you to admit that your achievements are a result of collaborative efforts, reinforcing the significance of external contributions. More notably, it provides the opportunity for you to recognize your personal strengths and vulnerabilities – as well as allows you to measure your progress through the influence and aid of those who’ve supported you along the way.

Best Practices for Writing Thank-you Notes

  • Personalize: Customize the note to reflect the unique nature of your relationship with the recipient – as well as their specific act of kindness. In the note, you should mention details about their assistance that you genuinely remember, and why it meant so much to you.
  • Express specifics: Be explicit about what you’re thanking them for. If they offered advice during a challenging time, mention how their insights helped you navigate the situation. Being specific reinforces the value of their contribution.
  • Use their name: The best way to demonstrate gratitude is to begin the note with a warm greeting, using the recipient’s name. This personal touch makes the note more individualized.
  • Use handwritten notes: Whenever possible, opt for handwritten notes – as they convey a personal touch that digital communication cannot replicate.
  • Reiterate: End the note by reiterating your gratitude. A warm closing sentiment, such as “Thank you again for your kindness” or “I’m truly grateful for your support,” should leave a positive final impression.


Dear Emily,

I hope this note finds you well. I wanted to reach out and express my heartfelt gratitude for your support during my job search journey – which has meant the world to me.

Emily, your guidance and advice on updating my resume and preparing for interviews were incredibly valuable. Your insights into tailoring the content and highlighting key experiences truly made a difference. Without your thoughtful suggestions, I wouldn’t have had the confidence to go into interviews and present my skills.

I wanted to let you know how much I appreciate your willingness to help me out during this time of transition. Your generosity with your time and expertise is truly remarkable, and I feel lucky to have you as a friend.

Emily, thank you again for your kindness and support. I’m truly grateful for everything you’ve done.

Wishing you all the best, and looking forward to catching up soon!

Warmest regards,


thank you

Alternative Methods of Thanking

Aside from verbally saying thank you, an act of kindness or reciprocation is also a viable method of thanking others. Instead of using words alone, you can demonstrate gratitude by taking actions that express your appreciation. This could involve doing something thoughtful for the person who has lent you help – such as offering to assist them with a task, preparing a small gift, or supporting them in return.

Quotes about Thanking

Gratitude is the healthiest of all human emotions. The more you express gratitude for what you have, the more likely you will have even more to express gratitude for.

Zig Ziglar

Thankfulness is the beginning of gratitude. Gratitude is the completion of thankfulness. Thankfulness may consist merely of words. Gratitude is shown in acts.

Henri Frederic Amiel

The roots of all goodness lie in the soil of appreciation for goodness.

Dalai Lama

As we express our gratitude, we must never forget that the highest appreciation is not to utter words, but to live by them.

John F. Kennedy

Feeling gratitude and not expressing it is like wrapping a present and not giving it.

William Arthur Ward

Final Thoughts

The simple act of thanking in the workplace is often underestimated – yet it holds significant power in transforming team dynamics and paves the way for one’s sustainable growth. When gratitude becomes ingrained in the organizational fabric, it cultivates an environment where innovation flourishes, collaboration thrives, and productivity soars. As leaders, learning to say “thank you” is not only basic manners – in fact, it is a vital catalyst for excellence and fulfillment.

Other resources you might be interested in:

ITD Vietnam is part of ITD World – a top ranked provider of Talent & Leadership Development, Executive Coaching, Corporate Training & Consulting services.

ITD Vietnam




Let's see how our coaching, training & leadership development solutions may bring a difference to you and your organization.

Let's keep in touch

Stay up to date with the latest insights into Coaching, Leadership & HR Management - as well as with ITD's upcoming leadership training programs and workshops.

Latest posts