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This week, my message for IT managers, technicians, and support pros everywhere is a request: Give your thanks to at least two people you work with—including at least one colleague and one end user.

We don’t know who we are
Recently, I sat in a meeting where the head honcho made a long-winded “way to go” speech for a manager who oversaw completion of an important project. After a big round of applause, the manager interrupted the meeting and said, “Uh, just a minute, I have something to say.”

I thought, “Might as well have handed him an Oscar, because he’s going to thank everyone in the whole company for helping.” But I was way off.

The manager thanked the big boss for the kind words and said, “There are a lot of people who helped get that job done, and, um, I want to thank them, and you know who you are.” And then he sat down.

He wasn’t usually so pithy. He genuinely couldn’t bring any of his teammates’ names to mind! He might have been flustered by the applause, and at least he didn’t try to take all the credit himself. But there were many in the room who were tempted to rise up and say, “Hey man, we don’t know who we are!”

The “Smart User” award
An end user where I work recently received a nasty error message from Lotus Notes. I stopped by her desk to check on her phone about the time the help desk tech showed up. This user could have easily clicked through the error message or rebooted her machine, but she did the right thing and called the help desk instead.

I told her she deserved a “Smart User” award because so many users never report serious error messages. (Instead of seeking help, dumb users reboot or unplug-and-replug their machines.) The tech liked the idea so much he went back and made up a Smart User certificate to thank the end user for helping make IT’s job easier. Reporting the error message helped the IT department identify and fix a problem with the server.

Thanks in your own way
Smart IT managers can give credit to their reports, and you can give credit to your coworkers and end users, in a number of ways:

  • In meetings. If you’re presenting the results of a team effort, make sure you at least mention the names of the people who contributed to your report. Nothing rankles coworkers like not getting a mention.
  • In writing. If someone helps you do your job or makes your professional life easier, thank them in writing. Write an e-mail to that person’s boss, copy your boss, and blind-copy the person you’re thanking.
  • In person. What are you waiting for? If you find yourself thinking, “Wow, thank goodness for that person,” go and visit that person and say, “Wow, thank goodness for you.” That’s all. You don’t have to have any other reason for a short, face-to-face visit.
  • In food. You can’t go wrong by saying thanks with the gift of food. Write “Thanks for all of your help” on a card and bring in a few dozen doughnuts, bagels, or cookies.
  • In gift certificates. The next time you’re in your favorite restaurant or bookstore, buy a bunch of $10 or $20 gift certificates. Then you’ll have them when you feel the need to give a coworker or an end user a small token of your gratitude.

Get your own thanks
This thanks thing goes both ways. How many times has a user gushed over a service you’ve provided and said, “I just don’t know how to thank you!”

I know how. I say, “If you want to thank me, just send a note to my manager.”

If you use this approach, don’t get overzealous and try to tell the user what to say. That’ll ruin the moment. Be proud of the job you did, but be respectfully low-key when you ask for the note.
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