With the holidays nearly here, seasonal celebration and gift giving are right on the horizon. Yet, navigating office space emotions can be a bit tricky. Some people are naturally gifted at expressing emotions and carefully weaving around any potential social faux pas. Other people may find expressing or receiving emotions a challenge: They may need to work up the nerve to share, or may quietly worry that they’re sharing too much.
If you’re wondering how to deal with celebratory feelings this holiday season, remember that it is essentially about expressing thoughts in a way that creates a comfortable atmosphere for everyone involved. To find out how that works in practice, we asked 15 members of Young Entrepreneur Council to weigh in on the best ways to express gratitude, be it to coworkers, employees or friends. Here’s what they advise:
1. Keep It Timely and Straightforward
Don’t wait for the right time to express gratitude. The best time to do it is when you first get the feeling. Besides, the incident is fresh in the mind of the other person too. While a personalized gift might be misconstrued, especially if you don’t know the other person well enough, a straightforward yet heartfelt thank is never out of place. Don’t forget to mention why you’re thankful.
2. Don’t Make It About Yourself
Sometimes expressing emotion is tricky, but when you’re thanking an employee you should remember not to make it about you. Getting lost in a long-winded story about why something means the world to you and getting deep into your own feelings will make employees feel awkward. Keep your emotional stake brief and to the point, and instead focus on why what the employee did is so awesome.
3. Take Them Out for Coffee
Buy them a coffee and let them know how much you appreciate them while getting to know them better. This is a great opportunity to turn a co-worker into a friend. Sometimes we’re so caught up with work, that we need to relax and connect with our colleagues.
4. Send ‘Thank You’ Notes
An ideal workplace would provide you with outlets to give praise to co-workers and peers. In our work environment we have established the ability to send anonymous thank you notes for those who wish to be more reserved with their gratitude; and allowed others to do public kudos for a spin on the big prize wheel. However, when in doubt always reference an Emily Post book for proper etiquette.
– Heather Francis, Elevate Funding
5. Send Them the Perfect GIF
Sometimes we fail to give gratitude because we overthink it. Instead of stressing yourself out about the perfect way to give thanks, just do it! One tip is to find a great GIF and send it to them with the thank you note. This will lighten the mood and make them smile.
6. Know Your Team
Knowing your staff and how they like to be appreciated is key to the praise being accepted. While some people like an overt acknowledgement of their achievement, others are quiet and may be embarrassed by your remarks. Being professional is key, but understanding your team well enough to know their communication styles is also important.
7. Don’t Give Advice, Just Listen
Avoid giving advice. Advice is cheapareand everyone wants to tell others what to do. Come from a place of empathy and be a good listener. If someone wants to share an emotional state, ask them indirect questions, allowing them to open up without being pushy. Offer advice only if you are asked to, but err on the side of the non-confrontational exchange. Listening is the best skill you can acquire.
8. Let Their Boss Know
One of the best ways to express gratitude to a co-worker is to let their boss know as well. You can give them thanks publicly or send them an email and CC their boss. This can help them in future reviews if their boss knows that the employee is going above and beyond, becoming an asset to the team.
9. Respect Physical Boundaries
When expressing emotion, it is important to respect physical boundaries. In a professional setting, err on the side of caution and avoid physical contact — unless your profession is football. Even in a social context, remember that not everyone will receive a physical expression from you in the manner you intend for it to be received.
10. Increase Soft Skills
Increasing soft skills is always recommended. Microexpressions, tone changes, coaching etc, are all skills that can be learned. Also we do a lot of Love Language tests for our team members. This lets the whole team understand how someone individually likes to be appreciated. Avoid using physical touch in the workplace, as powerful as it can be, it may get you in trouble.
– James Guldan, Vision Tech Team
11. Print Up Cards to Share
My company wanted to make it easy for team members to express gratitude to each other without a formal digital system. We printed up small cards with a person’s avatar (everyone at our company gets a custom, stylized avatar) on one side and the word “THANKS” on the other side. People leave them on colleagues’ desks. This quick way to express thanks has helped normalize the praise-giving process.
12. Give Them a Shoutout in a Meeting
During an appropriate time, in a team meeting, shoutout the co-worker that helped you. They will appreciate the public recognition, especially if their boss is present. The key is to make your shoutout authentic and finding the best time to give it.
– John Turner, SeedProd LLC
13. Create a Safe Place Using Digital Tools
As the business owner, create a safe place for employees to thank one another. There’s tools that allow employees to give each other stars partnered with an explanation for the stars. It has helped our whole team share gratitude peer to peer in a safe place and way. We’re also a distributed agency, so by using a tool it makes it easy and reduces the emotional hurdle people need to overcome.
14. Embrace Vulnerability
Expressing emotion, such as gratitude, can be surprisingly intimidating, especially because it makes you feel vulnerable. My advice is to accept that feeling of vulnerability as a strength. Let down your guard to say “thank you” in a genuine and detailed way. As Dr. Brené Brown notes, vulnerability is the birthplace of trust and engagement. Even a small “thank you” may lead to something powerful.
15. Be Genuine and Humble
Expressing gratitude should never be a hard thing, correct? Well, as great as it is to shower those who deserve it with praise, some people find it challenging to express these types of emotions. My advice is to always show gratitude to those who deserve it no matter how challenging it is. Be genuine in your feelings, concise, and don’t make it all about how much you’ve benefited from their help.