My previous post about the shortage of thank-yous in the workplace was spurred by a Wall Street Journal article (titled “Showing Appreciation at the Office? No, Thanks”) listing a variety of fears and concerns that cause some managers to withhold expressions of gratitude.
One of the fears discussed was that of embarrassing employees, since some people dislike being thanked in group settings or even in private.
I believe the article really exaggerated the extent of this potential risk while ignoring a related consideration that’s much more important.
While people with a distaste for being thanked exist, it’s safe to say they’re a very small minority. And it probably doesn’t require extraordinary skills of perception for a manager to realize if one of those people is amongst their ranks.
The risk of accidentally embarrassing one of these people is greatly outweighed by the benefits of thanking everyone else.
In addition, I’m willing to bet that for most of the “don’t thank me” people, their biggest issues are with public attention and insincerity; but if gratitude is expressed in private, with tact and when truly merited, it will be appreciated.
The real risk of public thank-yous
From my observation, the much more relevant potential pitfall of public thank-yous: the risk of perceived exclusion. For every person thanked, there’s often someone (or someones) thinking, “what about me? I contributed to that the effort, too.”
Perhaps a key consideration is that whenever you thank someone in a group setting, it’s a good idea to include a comment along the lines of: “and I know John had support in making this happen, so if you’re one of the people who helped, thank you, too.”
The fear of embarrassing people is not a good reason to withhold expressions of gratitude when the vast majority of people want them. Plus, per my previous post, it’s healthy to say thanks.