Don’t Be a Turkey About Showing Appreciation This Thanksgiving

Team leaders are often encouraged to communicate appreciation to colleagues during the Thanksgiving holiday season. Expressing thanks for a job well done is sure to be received well, right? Not necessarily. At times, clueless managers are at risk for saying “thanks” in ways that won’t be received well. They don’t really “get” appreciation and what the big deal is, but they try anyway, and often their actions seriously miss the mark and wind up being offensive.

Here are some actions to avoid:

The “I’m off. You’re not. Enjoy the weekend!” Message

This occurs when the owner/manager not only takes off Thanksgiving, but Wednesday, and Friday as well, but the rest of the team has to work Wednesday until 5 pm, all day Friday, and some are ‘on call’ throughout the weekend.

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!” While the clueless manager thinks he is good for remembering to encourage the team, they are seething with anger and conclude: “He’s a jerk.”

The “Who Is This Person Impersonating Our Supervisor?” Card

The supervisor who is usually gruff, cold and angry sends each staff person a flowery personal card of appreciation with cheesy superlatives. The behavior is so inconsistent, she seems like a different person. Either they had their spouse pick it out, or they had an out-of-body experience when they bought the cards.

The “I Want to Be Authentic” Excuse

The supervisor sends out a group email to all team members (probably on Wednesday at 4:55 p.m.) “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.”

The “Let’s Re-affirm the True Meaning of Thanksgiving” with a Schmaltzy Gift

Your supervisor writes a note with a gift they leave on your desk: “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

The manager writes an email with brief thanks to staff (“Just wanted to let you know I appreciate you”) but it is followed with 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,…”)

Better Choices

It would be wise not to show your appreciation using these ideas. But here are some suggestions for sharing appreciation appropriately with your staff, should you choose to do so.

Keep it simple:

  • pumpkin

    Tell them “Thanks for all you do” but also give one specific example of what they do that makes your life easier, and why it is important. (“Jen, thanks for being faithful to get your reports to me on time. I really appreciate it because it’s easy for me to pull my information together.”) A global, generic thanks is meaningless. If you can’t be specific, don’t say anything.

  • Stop by their workspace, ask if they have a minute to chat. Sit down, get their full attention and ask them what their plans are for the holiday. Key next step: 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).”
  • If you have time, and see that they are frantically trying to finish a task before they leave, see if there is anything you can do to help. (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 someone is running late can be hugely meaningful.

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



Paul White

Dr. Paul White is an author, speaker and psychologist, who helps “make work relationships work”. He is the coauthor of The 5 Languages of Appreciation in the Workplace with Dr. Gary Chapman and his book, The Vibrant Workplace, will release in April 2017. For more information, go to

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