NextGen Know-How: Demonstrate Gratitude to Your Employees

White and black male coworkers shake hands and smile at each other holding cups of coffee in an office
Laurie Maddalena, MBA, CSP, CPCC Photo
Executive Coach/Consultant
Envision Excellence

4 minutes

Try these six strategies to show your staff how they are appreciated and important.

The pandemic has impacted people in various ways over the past 18 months, and researchers are reporting that many employees are feeling exhausted, burned out and stressed. Gallup has found in their research that employee wellbeing and engagement at work tend to have a reciprocal effect, although in the beginning of the pandemic, engagement levels stayed steady as employees worked hard to shift how they worked.

Yet 18 months into this major change, many people are reporting a lack of motivation and joy. Adam Grant’s recent article for the New York Times on languishing—a sense of stagnation and emptiness—encapsulates what many people are feeling this year. Grant further describes languishing as muddling through your days feeling like you are in a fog. The emotional, physical and mental toll of the pandemic has negatively impacted wellbeing for many employees. Most employees also report a lack of appreciation at work, which exacerbates their disengagement and decreases productivity.

Gallup reports that lack of appreciation is one of the most common reasons employees leave an organization. High performing organizations have managers who take an interest in employees through regular feedback, appreciation, development and growth. While it’s important to consistently recognize employees throughout the year, now is a great time to ensure you are showing gratitude and appreciation to your employees when some may be languishing, exhausted or stressed.

Here are six strategies for showing gratitude:

1. Company Celebrations

One of my clients, Yazoo Mills, hosts several events throughout the year such as a summer picnic, an ice cream truck in August, and a BBQ lunch in September. They recently had a luncheon catered by Chick-fil-A and gave each employee a $50 gift card to say thanks for their hard work. With the added stress of the pandemic, taking time to celebrate accomplishments brings employees together and gets them focused on the good they have achieved during this challenging time.

2. Hand-Written Thank You Note

Don’t underestimate the value of a thoughtful, well-written thank you note sharing what you appreciate about an employee. Taking the time to specifically recognize an employee (along with a small gift) can reinforce great work and ensure your employee knows the impact of their contributions to the team and the company.

3. Wellness Day Off

One of my clients is offering a “Wellness” day off between now and the end of the year for every employee. Many employees have worked extra hours during the pandemic, and some are exhausted from trying to juggle work and home responsibilities. Even offering an employee a chance to go home a few hours early can be a great way to show appreciation. Recent research has shown that flexibility is one of the most desired work benefits that will keep talented employees.

4. Build in Social Time 

With many employees working virtually during the pandemic, some teams have missed having social time to reconnect. Whether in person or virtually, build in some social events for employees to connect and take a break. Even if your team is virtual, there are many creative ways to have fun and build connections. One of my clients held a virtual wine tasting with a winery in Napa Valley last year for their leadership team. Another client participated in a virtual cooking class with their team.

5. Growth Opportunities

Provide opportunities for an employee to take on an exciting project or participate in a class to develop their skills. Research has shown that millennials and Gen Z in particular value career development. Growth opportunities can also be experiential such as having an employee attend an executive meeting or present to the board of directors.

6. Celebrate Team Accomplishments

Have each of your employees write a list of team accomplishments over the past year and then compile them and celebrate them over lunch. Taking time to acknowledge the hard work and accomplishments your team has achieved is a form of recognition and appreciation.

The best way to show appreciation to your employees are the small, regular interactions you have with them each day. Taking a few minutes to connect on a personal level, saying “thank you,” giving an employee meaningful feedback, coaching someone through a challenge, providing support, checking in, and helping set (and enforce) boundaries (like not sending or checking emails on the weekends or after a certain time of day) are all ways to show daily appreciation. The direct manager has the biggest influence and impact on an employee’s well-being at work.

I’d love to hear the ways you are showing appreciation to your employees. Please share with our credit union community in the comments below.

Thank YOU for your contributions to the credit union movement this past year and for all you do as leaders to support your employees and advance the credit union philosophy of “people helping people.”

Wishing you a wonderful Thanksgiving!

Laurie Maddalena, MBA, CPCC, PHR, is a certified executive coach, leadership consultant and founder of CUES Supplier member Envision Excellence LLC in the Washington, D.C., area. Her mission is to create exceptional cultures by teaching leaders how to be exceptional. Maddalena facilitates management and executive training programs and team-building sessions and speaks at leadership events. Prior to starting her business, she was an HR executive at a $450 million credit union. Contact her at 240.605.7940 or


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