Take one thing into consideration before celebrating and thanking your team members. It’s quick, easy, free… and might save you from botching what is supposed to be a meaningful show of gratitude. 

With Thanksgiving approaching, perhaps you’re considering how you might thank your employees. (Or if you aren’t, let this be a friendly nudge. Reams of research suggest that appreciation is key—perhaps the key—to employee engagement and satisfaction. It may, in fact, be more effective than money.)  

Thanking your employees can, of course, be as simple as saying or writing a genuine “thank you.” But one extra step can drastically multiply the power of your words for each employee. 

What is that step? Consider their temperament. Because their temperament determines the specific words and way they like to be celebrated

(If the idea of temperaments is new to you, this primer is a great place to start. Or we’ve published an entire book that will get you fully up to speed.)   

Here’s a snapshot of how each of the four temperaments wants to be recognized. 

YELLOW employees crave: 

  • Fun – These employees feel celebrated by a celebration! They like the energy and festivity of a party (or even just a special lunch) and a few words of approval like, “Our team is so lucky to have your positive attitude. It’s impossible to spend time with you and not feel happy!”  
  • Attention – This doesn’t necessarily mean public recognition. The kind of attention Yellows want is undivided and undistracted—a few moments of genuine connection with you. Stop by their desk, ask about their holiday plans, and offer a genuine, face-to-face “Thank you for your work this year. I hope your time off with family is great.”

RED employees crave:

  • Loyalty – They like knowing you have their back. You could express this in an abstract way: “I’m already looking forward to what we’ll accomplish together next year.” Or you could make it more practical: “Why don’t you head out early so you aren’t rushing to catch your flight… I’ll handle things here.”
  • Credit for Work – They want to know their contributions of time and talent are noticed, so be specific with your praise. “I know you handled the bulk of this project and all the meetings and decisions that came with it. Thank you. I saw how much energy you gave to it.”

BLUE employees crave:

  • Sensitivity – These employees need to feel seen and understood. When you thank them, name what they’ve been contending with. “It’s hard to be a great parent and a great teammate. You’ve given us incredible effort at work during an intense season of family life. Thank you.”
  • Space & Silence – These employees typically do not want a raucous party or public recognition. They generally feel more appreciated with a quiet offer like, “Don’t worry about coming into the office on Wednesday. Start your holiday a day early.”

GREEN employees crave:

  • Feeling of Worth – They want to feel like a uniquely valuable team member rather than one of many who could do their job. Thank them with words like, “No one else could have saved the day the way you did. Thank you! I’m so glad you were ready and willing to help.”
  • Time to Relax – These folks are champions at chilling out. Spend an afternoon away from the pressure of work to thank and celebrate them. “I’d love to treat you to lunch and a round of golf tomorrow. You’ve worked incredibly hard this quarter.” 

Many of us have been on the receiving end of recognition that felt more embarrassing than meaningful. For some people, that may have been a public spotlight when they would have preferred a private note. For others, it may have been the opposite—a one-on-one chat when they’d rather have been celebrated by the team. 

As a manager, how do you know the difference? You consider the employee’s temperament. That allows you to choose words (and actions) that will communicate your gratitude in ways they can actually hear.

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