This time of year, we reflect on the things for which we’re thankful. Our families, health, relationships, even our jobs – the list goes on. While being thankful for being employed might be something that will come to mind, do we practice this in the workplace? If you do, do your co-workers know about it?

Appreciation is one of the most common complaints for many at work – we simply don’t feel appreciated enough. You probably know the feeling. “If they knew half of what I do to keep this place running, they’d be kissing my feet!” When we take a step back organizationally, we have our employees in mind. “How do we show appreciation for our employees?” But we also neglect appreciating our peers and supervisors. Appreciation, or lack thereof, is felt by everyone.

Interestingly, showing appreciation is cheap, effective, and relatively easy. It can be addressed at any time, by anyone. So, I did a little experiment with our own team. While we are all very much “for each other,” I realized I probably don’t express my appreciation often. Sure, I thank individuals for their help with tasks, but that’s common, even “white noise.” It was time to do something different and observe the response.

Using Thanksgiving as the excuse, I wrote each of my co-workers (peers and supervisors alike) a personal thank-you note. They weren’t long, but I focused on how they impacted my life at work in a positive way. It took about an hour to write 12 notes. I arrived early to work the next day and delivered each one to their desks, so they’d be waiting for them.

It was strange, but I felt nervous. Would they think I wasn’t being genuine? Would I embarrass myself, and them? Would they think I was being naïve?

My anxiety quickly disappeared; the initial response was wonderful. Some stopped by my office, others sent messages, but all were gracious and touched by this small act. There were hugs, near-tears, and bright smiles all around. More than half told me, “you made my day!”

Many of these folks I’ve known for a long time, and I’ve never done anything like this. It was a deliberate gesture, and one that was appreciated in return. The exercise not only showed appreciation to my co-workers, but it reminded me that it’s important (and helpful) to put others first – and it will come back around to you.

If you’d like to show your appreciation to your team, here are some tips.

Keep it simple.
There’s no need for grand gestures or expensive gifts. They can have their place, but it’s the little things that add up quickly. You don’t even have to get creative (unless you want to). Simply take a moment to recognize someone for something they did. Even if the whole exchange only lasts 30 seconds, its impact will be great.

Be deliberate.
If you’re like me, saying, “thank you,” is often an automatic response. Go out of your way to make another person feel appreciated. It could be a handwritten note, or speaking to an individual for the sole purpose of saying thanks.

Be yourself.
While doing something out of the ordinary makes the effort feel special, don’t change your style. If you’re not a person who gives hugs, offering a warm embrace might be off-putting for those who know you, but a handshake recognizing a job well-done may feel just as personal. Perhaps you’re more of a doer, and would rather offer a hand so your over-worked employee can take an extra 15-minute break. If you’re the type of person who uses pictures to illustrate your point, send an email with an image that conveys your gratitude.

Think about others first.
Even if you’re feeling underappreciated yourself, shift your focus to others. Not only does it allow you to make someone else feel important, but it can bring some appreciation back to you.

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