Six Ways to Show Gratitude That Go Beyond the Basic “Thank You”

Sure, it’s a little cliché to think about gratitude at this time of year, but that’s one of the most helpful aspects of seasonal observations; they remind us to do things we may have forgotten in the press of daily demands. Just like the switch to daylight savings might prompt you to change smoke detector batteries or the first day of spring suggests it’s time to purge your closet, November brings the perfect reminder to think intentionally about the many things for which you feel grateful.
This Thanksgiving season, consider taking that feeling a step further and get a little creative in how you show your gratitude at work. While a sincere “thank you” never goes out of style, finding unique ways to show your appreciation can increase the impact of your gratitude, and provide a sense of novelty and enjoyment for you as well. Here are a few ideas to get you started.
  1. Highlight the person, as well as the act. Being specific about what you appreciate that someone has done is always a good idea. But the same principle can be applied to talking about the person herself too. That might look something like, “I so appreciate the way you reach out to new team members and make them feel welcome,” or “Thank you for having the courage to share your honest feedback with me,” or “The enthusiasm you bring to the team helps all of us think bigger.” 
  1. Go beyond the obvious. Every day, there are people who make your life better, sometimes without even realizing it. Acknowledging them enables them to feel seen and valued and even shows you as a caring and observant leader. You might go out of your way to recognize the security guard for her warm welcome and smile. You could let your daycare providers know how much your confidence in them enables you to focus at work. You might even give your mother-in-law a call to let her know how much you benefit every day from living with the caring person she raised. 
  1. Offer to return the favor. Expressing gratitude is not a transactional endeavor where you keep score and tally up who owes who. At the same time, when someone has gone out of their way to help you, it can be powerful to pair a thank you with a sincere desire to do something for them in return. When you offer a couple specific suggestions, it will transform your words from polite small talk to a bona fide desire to give back. You could invite someone to lunch as a thank you for how they transformed raw data into fabulous graphics. Or offer to let others go early on the day before a holiday while you hang in until the end of the day.
  1. Write it down. A hand-written thank you note is a time-honored tradition that makes an even bigger impact today when most communication is digital. But it doesn’t have to be formal to get someone’s attention. Your hand-written thank you can be as simple as grabbing a brightly-colored sticky note, writing a few words of appreciation and attaching to a colleague’s computer before she arrives. Or pick up two lattes on your way in and scribble a note on the cup before delivering it to a valued team member.
  1. Make something tasty. Whether it’s a chocolate chip cookie, your famous chili or your grandmother’s salad dressing, when you say thank you with something that required an investment of your time and talents, it means even more to the recipient.
  1. Spread the word. When you recognize someone’s contributions publicly, you not only show your appreciation, but can also spotlight their unique talents and showcase behaviors that are sought and rewarded in your environment.
The data on gratitude is extensive, from research showing it is the single best predictor of personal resilience and well-being, to its power to boost immune function, lower blood pressure and decrease stress. Expressing gratitude in creative ways can also make it fun and engaging. So go ahead and give in to the spirit of the season and give thanks — in ways simple, predictable, novel, outrageous and even corny. 

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