Thank You's that stick, not stink, this holiday season

Believe it or not, saying "thank you" isn't as straightforward as you might think. I've certainly been at the receiving end of a heartfelt, but sorely lacking, showcase of appreciation. Nothing feels worse than feeling uncomfortable (or just unvalued!) because of the way someone tries to thank you. So how do you say "thanks!" the right way?

The key is catering to the needs of your recipient. A common misconception is asking yourself "how would I like to be thanked?" and then applying that in a blanket to those around you. As an extroverted, relationship-oriented person, I love public praise and heartfelt words of affirmation. However, I know my logical, introverted friend is cringing at the thought of being thanked in front of a crowd, or being given an affectionate letter. This is especially true in a business setting.

As we approach the end of the year and it shifts into employee recognition season, consider thanking your coworkers and staff according to each of their "ways". We use Identity Mapping as a guide for better understanding our coworkers and relationships, because it's simple to apply and highly effective.

The first step is identifying which of the Four Ways your thanks-recipient identifies most strongly with. Read our post here if you're unfamiliar with the Four Ways. Our handy guide to thanking each of the four Ways is below:

Relationship Way: this particular way wants to be appreciated as a valuable member of the team. They work hard to keep harmony and may be the most selfless of the group, and as a result may not prefer the spotlight. However, this doesn't mean they don't enjoy attention, just not when they're at the center of it.

What to say: "Thank you for how hard you work to keep engagement high on our team" or "Thank you for always making yourself available to lend an extra hand, you are so valuable to our unit"

How to say it: write a thoughtfully worded letter or card, and give a chance for their teammates to include a message as well. Consider highlighting them in an employee newsletter or at the beginning of a meeting. They particularly respond well to personal gifts and words of affirmation that show you care about their interests and personal life.

Logical Way: this Way likes to be appreciated for their key insights and knowledge on a particular challenge. They work hard to make sure information is thorough to solve problems. They are unsentimental but enjoy recognition as it pertains to their performance.

What to say: "I appreciate the extent of information you bring to the table to solve problems, it is valued" or "Thank you, you are someone I can always count on to know the answer or where to go to get it"

How to say it: avoid sentimental overtures of gratitude. Instead, highlight their key project success or the value of their research. You can send out an email to their team or privately thank them, but avoid grandstanding on their behalf.

Action Way: this Way likes to be thanked for reaching the goal (first!) and leading the charge. They work hard to keep things moving – even if it means taking a different path. They are often leaders or enjoy being the center of attention.

 What to say: "Thank you for the energy and pace you keep this project moving" or "I appreciate how you can quickly get on board and motivate others to do the same"

How to say it: this is the Way that responds most positively to public gratitude. Bring them up at your holiday or annual party or showcase them at your next meeting. They are competitive and enjoy the thrill of "winning." If you were to give out a trophy, they're the happiest Way to receive it.

Organized Way: this Way likes to be appreciated for timely and excellent work. They work hard to ensure mistakes are not made and processes and policies are followed.

What to say: "I appreciate that you were able to take my idea and formulate a plan that we can execute, thank you" or "Thank you for being the person I rely on to ensure that we complete quality products"

How to say it: although their goal isn't to "win" things, the Organized way appreciates confirmation in the form of tangible rewards. Consider giving them a certificate of achievement or gift card/cash to demonstrate your appreciation for their work.

It is important that we are specific with our thanks. Leadership experts for years have emphasized the need not to just say thanks for a great job but to be specific to the job itself. What makes the thank you even more powerful is to align it to the way that the receiver will hear it with words that speak to them directly. Giving thanks and truly making each person feel appreciated will continue to motivate them to do good work to be praised for again in the future.

About the Author

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Jennifer Stanford is a sought-after Trust Coach and the CEO of Emergent Performance Solutions, as well as an author and speaker. Her entrepreneurial spirit, combined with years of practical experience gives her specialized insight into business and psychology.

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