Add specifics when you say ‘Thank you’ in email

For sincere expressions of gratitude, spend an extra minute to cite the good deed itself and the difference it made in your day. You’re welcome.

I was once nearing the end of a busy day at work and was just about to shut down my computer, when I received an email from a colleague.

We were in different departments, but I considered her my peer, and, up to this point, we had never had a negative exchange.

I clicked on the email, and read: “You really don’t need to say that. I get enough emails as it is—no need to send one more.”

Confused and not remembering what I could have possibly said to offend her, I went back through my recently sent items and saw the last thing I sent.

It was a simple email with two words: “Thank you!”

In her attempt to reduce the number of emails she was receiving in a day, she was trying to reduce what she thought were frivolous messages—specifically, expressions of gratitude.

For weeks after that, I second-guessed every time I was about to email “Thank you” to a colleague. I became conditioned to thinking that such a simple email was actually a burden, rather than a necessary part of building a positive relationship with someone. I even found myself telling others not to bother with “thank you” because “I get enough emails as it is.”

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She may have had a point.

We’re quick to respond with “Thank you!” to something that someone has done for us, but how often are those two words filled with authentic gratitude? When we respond quickly and almost thoughtlessly, is there true value in those words? It takes two seconds and absolutely no thought to type. (“Said ‘thank you’ to a co-worker today? Check!”)

What are you really thankful for, though?

Expressing gratitude to those with whom you work is one of the most important ways to not only offer encouragement for a job well done and validate their efforts, but build trust and respect.

It contributes to a productive, appreciated, happy team-but only if it means something.

So, we should say “thank you” more often, right? Well, yes and no.

The next time you go to quickly respond to an email with a “Thank you!” think about why you’re thankful, and say that instead.

“Taylor, thank you so much for doing _________ today. It allowed me to focus on _________ which was really important to the client.”

“Heather, I really appreciate your feedback on _________. It’s helping me to see a different perspective I hadn’t seen before about _________.”

“Jeana, thank you for stepping in on that project today so I could take my dog to the vet. I appreciated not having to work late tonight!”

Expressing gratitude can be an important tool to building good professional and personal relationships, but, if done quickly and with seemingly no thought, can seem almost dismissive and shallow.

I’d rather spend an extra few minutes writing more than “Thank you!” than spend an hour deleting emails that say only those two words.

Megan Severs is vice president of client strategy for Geben Communication. Connect with her on Twitter and Instagram. A version of this article originally appeared on

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