Gratitude goes a long way, and you can never show too much of it in the workplace. Writing — or emailing — a thank-you note is a small but meaningful way to acknowledge an employee’s work or a colleague’s dedication.
This small gesture of writing a note leaves a lasting impression. I know that I still keep certain thank-you notes that make me smile to look at long after I was sent them.
But they don’t just make you feel warm and fuzzy, they’re also a smart, tactical way to network — and in some cases, they can make all the difference in getting the job or getting promoted.
Harvard Business Review uses the case study of Tim, an employee at a sales organization who didn’t get a management promotion, partly due to not saying “thank you” in a CEO’s email about his good performance. Some may say this is an overblown reaction, but knowing how to acknowledge other people is a key part of becoming a manager.
“It doesn’t take long to say ‘thank you,’ but it does take caring,” the HBR author Peter Bregman said in his defense of the CEO not promoting Tim to a management job. “Not answering someone’s communication — text or email or phone call — is not an accepted norm, it represents a fundamental breakdown in communication about which I often hear people complain. Tim might be good at certain aspects of his job but he’s not ‘doing his work well,’ if he’s not acknowledging the people around him.”
And more than helping you in your career, thanking and acknowledging the people around you is part of the job of being a good human.
How to write a thank-you note
You can dash off a “I-received-your-email” brief thanks of acknowledgement for administrative tasks, but longer notes around gratitude deserve more than two words.
The Washington Post‘s Miss Manners recommends not starting out a thank-you note with an actual “thank you,” because it makes the personal gesture sound as generic as a Hallmark card.
Instead, she recommends starting with an emotional connection between you and the recipient: “Start with a statement of emotion — that you were delighted that they came to your party, or thrilled when you opened their present,” she wrote. “Then a friendly line about the donors (such as that you remember something they told you, or that you hope to see them soon). A line about your own plans — summer, college or work — is optional.”
Most thank-you notes for job interviews are an easy formula of four sentences: The first one to say you were happy to meet them, the second to thank them for interviewing you, and the third and fourth to share some personal connection or refer to a non-work topic you discussed at the interview, so they can remember you as an individual.
So a good thank-you note would sound something like this: “Dear Thomas, I really enjoyed meeting you and the rest of the team and sharing ideas on the future of the sales operation. Thanks for having me in, and it’s always great to meet another Wisconsin fan. I’ll be at the game on Sunday and hope we get to see them win! All my best.”
It doesn’t need to be longer than a few sentences, but taking the time to write a thoughtful thank-you makes a difference. There is always a scenario where thanks can be given, but it’s particularly polite and needed in situations where someone is doing you a favor.
Someone took you out for coffee and gave you free career advice? Even if you never take their advice, thank them in person and thank them again in a follow-up note. And regardless of whether or not you got the job, always thank your references and let them know about the final status of your application.
Sending a note is not only good manners, it also shows that you’re grateful for the investment and time people have put into your continued success. That thoughtfulness is what separates self-involved employees from future leaders.