Sometimes we can feel pressure to buy into the notion that professionalism should be judged against one’s ability to reason and think critically, without the influence of emotion (i.e. weakness). Our world has grown competitive, fast-paced and results-driven, which can also leave us feeling a bit robotic and cold. Most managers recognize that this sort of environment does little to foster potential or morale, but even the best managers cannot fully rid their teams of societal influence.
We must resist the pressure. It is most certainly possible to be a successful professional who communicates with heart and brings warmth to those around them. Our first task of resistance is to intentionally increase the amount of appreciation we show to others.
How often do we think highly of someone and never get around to telling him or her how we feel? Speaking personally, the answer is: all the time! Why is that? Certainly, there’s nothing to lose. Who wouldn’t be flattered to know a co-worker appreciates an action they took or a trait they possess?* Let’s make it a point to acknowledge others with genuine praise before it’s too late. After all, as Mark Twain famously said, “You will be more disappointed by the things that you didn’t do than by the ones you did do.”
The gold standard in showing appreciation are thoughtful, handwritten thank you notes. They are so simple but can really make a large impact. For example, I once left my absolute favorite teacher some homemade muffins and a thank you note detailing his influence on my personal growth. He told me he was so touched by it that he included a copy of the note in his professional portfolio. My simple gesture was very special to him.
There are tons of other ways to brighten someone’s day with a show of gratitude. The following ideas, however cheesy they might be, are an affordable way to infuse some creativity into the recognition of others.
- Purchase Extra brand chewing gum and attach a note that reads, “You’re EXTRAordinary!”
- Purchase Goldfish crackers and attach a note that says something along the lines of, “It’s o-fish-al: I’m casting out a line of thanks,” or, “You’re o-fish-ally the best co-worker I’ve ever had,” etc. (o-fish-al is a clever way of saying official).
- Bring a co-worker their morning coffee with a note that says, “Thanks a latte for ________.”
- Purchase a glow stick and attach a note that says something like, “You GLOW with enthusiasm… and it’s contagious!”
- Get some rock candy and explain to them how they have been you rock, or for something more playful, write “you rock!” and explain why you think so highly of them.
One word of caution: as we embrace this task, it’s important not to overdo it. When we outwardly express appreciation for every little thing it diminishes the weight of our words. Nevertheless, these acts of appreciation can bring a lot of joy to what can often be a very stressful workplace. It is vital not to fear displays of emotion, but to instead seize the opportunity to do so – you might be surprised to find the difference it can make.
*To be clear, shows of appreciation should be appropriate and not cross any boundaries that may make others feel uncomfortable or harassed.