Strong turkey on plate with garnish. Powerful fowl Baked

By Paul White, Ph.D

Business owners are encouraged (“bombarded” is actually a better word) with suggestions of how to communicate appreciation to employees during the Thanksgiving holiday season.  At times it begins to feel less like a choice and more like a requirement to “give thanks”.

As a result, some leaders are at risk for trying some actions 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 actually wind up offending someone.

Here are some actions to avoid:

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

This occurs when the owner 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 their way out the door (somewhere around 3 p.m. on Tuesday afternoon), the boss calls out:  “Have a good weekend!  Enjoy your time off!”  While the clueless manager thinks they are pretty good for remembering to encourage their team, those left behind are seething with resentment.

The “Who is this person impersonating our supervisor?” card

The leader who is usually gruff, cold and angry sends each staff person a flowery personal card of appreciation.  It is so inconsistent; it seems like a different person.

The “Let’s re-affirm the true meaning of Thanksgiving” with a schmaltzy gift

You write a note with a gift on your employee’s 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.

Better Choices

Here are some suggestions for sharing appreciation appropriately with your staff, should you choose to do so.

Individualized Thanks

*Tell them “Thanks for all you do” BUT be sure and 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 makes it easy for me to pull my information together and get my reports in on time, as well.  Thanks!”)  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).”

Offer Help

If you have time, and see that they are frantically trying to finish up 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 of focused attention on your team members can make a memorable impression on them over the holidays.

Paul White, Ph.D., is a speaker, trainer, author and psychologist who “makes work relationships work”.  Dr. White is co-author of The 5 Languages of Appreciation in the Workplace and Rising Above a Toxic Workplace. For more information go to .