The Power of the Acknowledgement

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I had always assumed that most parents taught their children to say “Please” and “Thank you”. After several years in the business world, I wonder how many actually did.

I’ll admit that in person, most of my colleagues say those magic words. When they’re communicating electronically? Not so much.

2 Types of acknowledgements


There are really two types of acknowledgement that are important.

Gratitude

The most important, and most common is acknowledgement of gratitude.  Saying thank you.

When someone grants you an interview – even if you, or the company decides it’s not a good fit, say thank you.  Thank them for their time verbally at the end of the interview and then write them a note.  A handwritten note may seem old fashioned and slow, but many people still like them.  At the minimum, an email thank you should be sent to each person with whom you interview.

It doesn’t end once you get the job either. When someone helps you out in any way, say thank you. Someone sends you a report that makes your day easier? Someone stays late to help you get something done? Someone spends some extra time helping you learn a new skill?

In every one of those situations it’s appropriate to send a short email thanking them.  If it’s appropriate, copy their boss, so that he or she knows that their employee is going the extra mile.

If you win an award or receive any type of recognition at work. Send an email to your boss thanking her for the recognition.  Did any coworkers help you in the effort?  Send a note or an email to share the credit and to thank them for helping you out.

Expectation management

The second type of acknowledgement is more of a common courtesy. Did someone ask you for a report or some feedback? How did you handle it? You could decide it is low priority right now, but you’ll keep it in your inbox and get to it later in the week.

Chances are that request is more important to the requestor. Your feedback may be the information they need to complete some other work.  How will you keep them up to date?

Many people will simply get to it when they get to it, work on it when they have time, and send the requestor the feedback when they’re good and ready. Meanwhile, the requestor doesn’t know whether following up with you will be seen as a friendly reminder or as micromanagement.

The appropriate way to treat it is to reply to them as soon as you know when you’ll be able to complete the task. If they ask you for a report on Monday and you won’t be able to complete it until Friday, reply right away to acknowledge receipt of their request – they’ll at least know that you received it. Tell them what is involved for you to perform the task and the estimated date you expect to complete it.

If anything changes that will cause a delay in getting the task completed, let them know your updated schedule.

Communication and visibility are rare in the business world. Staffs have been spread thin.  People are expected to do more work in one workday than they did in the past. Workers struggle to keep up with a seemingly endless flow of e-mails.

When someone sends a request to someone and does not receive an answer, it’s unclear whether the person received it, is working on it, or is just blowing them off.

Taking two minutes to send a thank you to someone who helped you out or to let someone know your status can make someone’s day.  If everybody in the organization did it, it would result in a happier, friendlier, and more productive culture.

As always, I welcome your questions and comments.

If you would like to learn more about working in consulting, get Lew’s book Consulting 101: 101 Tips for Success in Consulting at Amazon.com 

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