Don't Be a Turkey in How You Communicate Appreciation to Your Staff

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Now is the time where managers and supervisors are encouraged, even bombarded, with suggestions of how to communicate appreciation to employees during the Thanksgiving holiday season.

So it begins to feel less like a choice and more like a requirement for managers to give thanks.

As a result, some clueless managers try out activities that won’t be received well. They don’t really get how to do appreciation. But they try anyway and find that their clueless actions seriously miss the mark and wind up offending their staff.

So here are things to avoid followed by the best way to approach thanking employees:

Related: 5 Powerful Ways to Give Thanks to Your People

The "I’m off. You’re not. Enjoy the weekend!” message. On the way out the door (around 3 p.m. on Tuesday afternoon), the manager calls out, “Have a good weekend! Enjoy your time off!” He is taking off Thanksgiving as well as Wednesday and Friday though the rest of the team will work Wednesday until 5 p.m. and all day Friday. Some staffers will be on call over the weekend. 

While the clueless manager thinks he has been pretty good for remembering to encourage the staff, the employees are seething with anger.

A card that invites, “Who is this person impersonating the supervisor?” A supervisor who is usually gruff, cold and angry sends each staff person a flowery personal card of appreciation laced with superlatives. The message is so inconsistent with the manager's typical behavior, the note seems to have come from a different person. Perhaps the supervisor's spouse picked it out.

The “I want to be authentic” excuse. On Wednesday at 4:55 p.m., a supervisor sends a group email to the entire team stating, ”I don’t want to seem inauthentic, so I decided not to do anything for you for Thanksgiving or send a message I didn’t mean." Being an authentic jerk isn't the answer to the situation.

A “let’s reaffirm the true meaning of Thanksgiving” note with a schmaltzy gift. A supervisor leaves a gift on each desk with this note: “I think we have lost connection to the true meaning of Thanksgiving so I wanted to give you something that reminds you of its true meaning.” The gift is a set of two bobble-head Pilgrims.  

The hidden agenda, "adopt my values” email. A manager writes a brief thanks to staff, followed by a long diatribe against the traditional Thanksgiving meal: “I just wanted to make sure you know that eating meat isn’t good for you. Turkeys are mistreated. Americans are obese and need to eat less." 

Managers should save pontificating for another time.

Related: How to Write an Unforgettable Thank-You Note

It would be wise not to show appreciation through any of the above methods. But here are some suggestions for sharing appreciation appropriately with your staff, should you choose to do so.

1. Give individualized thanks.

Tell employees, “Thanks for all you do.” Be sure to give each person one specific example of what he or she does that makes your life easier and why it is important. (“Jen, thanks for faithfully sending in your reports on time. I really appreciate it because this makes it easy for me to generate my reports on time, as well. Thanks!”) A global, generic thanks is meaningless. If you can’t be specific, don’t say anything.

2. Listen to employees' plans. 

Stop by a person's workspace and ask if he or she has a minute to chat. Sit down, get the person's full attention and ask about his or her plans for the holiday. The next step is key: Listen to what they share. Then say, ”I just wanted to stop by and let you know I hope you have an enjoyable and restful holiday. I hope you enjoy the time [doing whatever they described].”  

3. Offer help.

If you have time and see that staffers are frantically trying to finish up a task before leaving, see if you can help in any way. Be aware, their first response will probably be “No, that’s OK. I’ve got it covered.”

Ask again, saying something like “No, really, I have a few minutes and I’d be glad to help you get some things done so you can get out of here.” A little practical help when people are running late can be hugely meaningful.

It doesn’t take much, but a few minutes with some attention focused on your team members can make a memorable impression.

Related: In Hilarious Video, Ad Agency Thanks Employees by Letting Them Do This...For, Like, a Whole Minute