Astronaut Neil Armstrong wrote one of the best employee thank-you notes of all time to the crew of engineers that made it possible for him to walk safely on the moon in 1969.
Mental Floss includes Armstrong’s letter in a list of “11 Amazing Thank You Notes From Famous People.”
The letter, addressed to the Extravehicular Mobility Unit (EMU) engineers, is an excellent example of how to thank coworkers or employees. Not only is Armstrong’s letter heartfelt and humorous, but he keeps it succinct.
Armstrong packs a lot into 113 words. See how he does it below, then read on for tips on writing your own employee thank you notes.
To the EMU gang:
I remember noting a quarter century or so ago that an emu was a 6 foot Australian flightless bird. I thought that got most of it right.
It turned out to be one of the most widely photographed spacecraft in history. That was no doubt due to the fact that it was so photogenic. Equally responsible for its success was its characteristic of hiding from view its ugly occupant.
Its true beauty, however, was that it worked. It was tough, reliable and almost cuddly.
To all of you who made it all that it was, I send a quarter century’s worth of thanks and congratulations.
Neil A. Armstrong
He nails it, right? Armstrong’s only misstep is tardiness. He wrote the letter in 1994, for the 25th anniversary of the lunar landing.
That brings us to the first rule of employee thank you notes:
Step 1: Be Timely…
Be timely in sharing your gratitude. Don’t save it for a once-a-year blowout. If an employee performs well in February, a thank you in July will have less of an impact than a quick and prompt note of appreciation on March 1st.
But if you are late in writing your employee thank you notes, rest assured your gratitude still matters. “Don’t feel embarrassed,” advises Southern Living. A late thank-you is better than none at all.
Step 2: …But Wait to Say “Thank You”
Starting the first sentence of a thank-you note with “Thank you very much” is a rookie move. You’ll risk sounding like an 8-year-old writing to grandma. Instead, use the first few sentences of your letter to tell a story and establish the bond you feel with the recipient. Here are some questions to get you started:
- What do you remember about meeting this person?
- What was your workplace like before this employee arrived, or before their hard work made a difference?
- Is there a specific moment that stands out from your time working together?
- Do you share a harmless inside joke with the members of your team?
- What have you noticed about the employee’s unique approaches?
Step 3: Use a Friendly, Chatty Tone
It’s obvious that Armstrong still feels close to his lunar landing team. Even 25 years later, he affectionately calls them his “EMU gang.”
Chattiness and humorous self-deprecation make his letter fun to read and certainly don’t take away from the overall professional, grateful tone. Armstrong essentially talks about life or death — he could have died if his spacesuit malfunctioned — yet he still manages to balance appropriate solemnity with a light tone.
Try writing exactly as you would speak.
4. Keep the Recipient’s Personality in Mind
How you express your appreciation depends on the recipient’s personality. It takes all kinds to run a successful business, and Inc.’s Geil Browning has tips for thanking the various personalities in your workplace.
Step 5: Don’t Gush
If you’re supporting your “thank you” with examples of why you’re appreciative, hyperbole isn’t necessary.
Business News Daily reports that appreciation motivates employees to work harder. How does that work? Even the most seemingly confident people harbor doubts about their own abilities or their value at work. Everyone, from grocery baggers to top managers, wants to do well and feel proud of their work. Employees are energized by your positive, specific impressions of their work and will appreciate seeing it through your eyes.
Specifics speak louder than generic gushing (which can also sound insincere), so keep your letter understated.
Step 6: Finish with a Heartfelt “Thank You”
At this point, you’ve established why you’re appreciative. All that’s left is the “thank you.” No need to go on and on. Keep it short and sweet. If appropriate, add a line about the future and your appreciation going forward.
Step 7: Make it a Habit
Practice makes perfect. Writing employee thank-you notes will get easier the more you do it. Gratitude is like a muscle that needs flexing to grow. As a daily habit, writing thank you letters helps spread a culture of gratitude across your workplace.
Take inspiration from Douglas Conant: during his time leading Campbell Soup, the CEO wrote some 30,000 handwritten thank-you notes to employees, suppliers and customers. Sitting down with pen and paper was built into his daily routine, according to a USA Today profile. He wrote up to 20 letters in a day and maintained that handwritten notes carry, “a personal message that gets lost in e-mail.”
If 20 letters a day sounds intimidating, try one per day, or one per week. For even more impact, enclose with your letters a small, practical gift like a gThankYou Certificate of Gratitude.
For an in-depth guide to building a vibrant, everyday culture of workplace gratitude, download our FREE eBook, “Transforming Your Workplace with Gratitude.” You’ll be amazed at how easy it is!
About gThankYou, LLC
Turkey Gift Certificates and Turkey Or Ham Gift Certificates by gThankYou! are two of America’s favorite employee gifts and can be redeemed for any Brand (Turkey or Turkey Or Ham), at virtually any Grocery Store in the U.S.
gThankYou, LLC provides company leaders with a variety of easy, meaningful and affordable ways to recognize and reward employees, holiday time or anytime. gThankYou! Certificates of Gratitude and our free Enclosure Cards are personalizable including incorporating your company logo. And, nearly all orders ship same day.
gThankYou, LLC (www.gthankyou.com) is based in Madison, Wisconsin. Contact: Rick Kiley, Chief ThankYou! Officer, gThankYou, LLC at firstname.lastname@example.org or 888-484-1658.
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