Group Thank You – The biggest insult of all!

In the corporate world, there are times when, as leaders, you want to recognize your team. You understand that people work for a salary but sometimes an additional recognition is desirable.

Ever since childhood, we as humans, appreciate it when we are singled out for praise, recognition or gratitude. This need does not go away in adult life, in fact it remains as strong and as necessary (now for our development, job-appreciation and self-worth) as it was when we were kids.

For these reasons, and many more, I am declaring that the “Group Thank You”, bunching everyone together in a single emailed note, is utterly worthless.

“Group Thank You” is, in fact, the greatest insult of all. Here is why:

Whether working as a team or a small group, each individual believes and hopes that their own unique contribution significantly added to the success of a project. When a leader simply can’t be bothered to define why any one member of the team did something worthy of additional recognition, they are declaring to everyone that actually nothing outstanding has taken place and they ‘weren’t watching anyway’!

When treated as a group each individual’s pride evaporates as it is simply not recognized.

“A big thank you to everyone who pulled together and really made yesterday the success that it was – thanks again you should all be proud” …

…is pretty much the same as saying…

“I actually don’t know who half of you are, or what any of you actually do, but here’s my contractually required statement”.

 However, an email directed at one person recognizing a specific act or contribution pays huge dividends and, as an added bonus, creates long-lasting loyalty.

Now here’s a message that wins points for everyone concerned:

“Sarah, keeping the registration desk going under such trying conditions yesterday was very impressive and I truly appreciate everything you did under all of that pressure.”

Yes, it will take you, as a leader a little more time. It will also require you to actually observe and note what your people are doing and how they are adding to the success of your enterprise. But when you take the time to recognize people in a thoughtful manner, team morale and loyalty rise significantly and the payback for you increases exponentially.

From now on the ‘Group Thank You’ must be confined to the junk folder where it belongs.

  • Steve White says:

    I think, as with most things in life, and particularly the corporate world, there are two sides to this argument. While it is important to recognize individual achievements, it should not be to the detriment of the team and more specifically team morale. There is no ‘I’ in Team remember.
    More often than not in corporate life it requires multiple folks to achieve goals, I.e. teams, be they real or virtual, and by recognizing individuals it could devalue the hard work it is to form, storm, norm and build a performing team.
    I think too much focus on the individual achievements can create questionable behaviours. Like in the MSFT model we both know and love! Of course there has to be a balance but I’m firmly in the ‘recognize the team’ first camp.

    • Mark says:

      Hi Steve – I get your angle, I do – and, you are right, there is still a place for a team Thank you – but my belief is that it should stand shoulder to shoulder with the more individual approach. If we know people love that one-on-one moment, then why deprive them of it? We also know that people hesitate to leave bosses who have forged a personal connection with them – another great reason to take the time and put in that extra bit of recognition effort. Thanks for the comment – I appreciate the time you took on this one.

  • Heather says:

    Thank you for this. So many managers, and supervisors, need to read this.
    I had this happen to me with yearly reviews. My manager told me that he was busy with too many other projects to put time into each review, so he just gave everyone under his supervision the same percentage for a raise. I was disappointed with that answer and really struggled to maintain a positive attitude towards my work. I really felt like- why bother?

    • Mark says:

      Exactly! Yes – I feel your pain on that one! I think that it is mostly a time issue – it really does take more time, more focus to give people recognition that actually counts. I appreciate your feedback. M

  • Jason says:

    I’m going to take this a step further. If you thank an individual or team at the end of a project, you’ve wasted an important opportunity.

    Good recognition is about reinforcing the behaviours that lead to results. You want to recognize throughout a project, hammering home what individuals and the entire team is doing right. When you do that, you tell everyone what is required to succeed and you create an inspired culture driven to succeed.

    Ultimately, you don’t want to focus on the achievement — you want to focus on the behaviours that gets the result in the first place.

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