Thank you notes are a mighty force for good in the workplace. We’ve talked before about how important kindness in the office is, and a thank you note is like a little piece of kindness that you can hold in your hand. We’re all pretty familiar with thanking our peers or assistants—there’s even an Administrative Professional’s Day devoted to it. But thanking “up”—aka writing a thank you note to your boss—is trickier. You don’t want to cross boundaries or come across as a fawning sycophant. Here’s our guide to doing it right.
1. Know when a thank you card is appropriate
If you have the right relationship, a “just because” thank you note to your boss may be fitting, but in other situations it could be considered awkward or unseemly flattery. Great reasons to write one:
If your boss has…
- offered you a position or promoted you
- taken extra time to help you through a challenge
- approved an exceptional request (vacation, resources, etc.)
- gone out of her way to offer mentorship or support
…then a thank you note would be a great move.
2. Remember that short is sweet
Your boss is busy, and they want to know that you’re busy, too. A brief but sincere note of thanks beats a long rambling letter every time. This is a thank you letter for your boss, but like everything you do at work, it’s also a reflection on you and your performance. It’s an opportunity to demonstrate your communication skills, efficiency, and common sense while you demonstrate your thanks.
3. Choose wonderful paper goods
The stationery you use really sets the tone. Since writing a note by hand is a special occasion, it’s really worth raising the bar a bit with your paper goods. This is no place for sticky notes and printer paper, as much as we love them. If you’d like to use an actual thank you card, make sure it’s suitable for your relationship. There are countless thank you notes on the market, but sometimes the gushy sentiments inside seem a bit over the top for a work relationship, especially with your boss. You can’t go wrong with quality and simplicity: something like these classic silver thank you note cards get the message across beautifully and have plenty of room inside to write your own thoughts. Fine notepaper (we like cotton or linen) or a blank greeting card with a lovely picture on the front are other fine choices, too.
4. Pick a perfect pen
The pen matters, too! At a minimum, stick to blue or black ink. Generally, fancy gel inks and bright colors are a no-no, though obviously that will depend on your office culture. If you know for a fact that your boss appreciates glitter pens, we’re not going to argue. The next thing to think about is quality. A cheap, scratchy pen that runs out of ink in the middle of your note will drive you crazy. We’re pen nerds here at Cafe Quill (we’ve celebrated National Ballpoint Pen Day if that gives you an idea) and we’re passionate about good writing instruments, especially for writing letters and cards. You don’t need to spend a fortune on a good pen (though you can), but quality does make a difference. A lovely Parker Jotter is a great, affordable introduction into the world of fine writing.
5. Make a draft… or two… or three
This may seem obvious, but we’re all so used to typing, autocorrect, spellcheck, and endless instant drafts and rewrites that sitting down to write a meaningful message by hand can be a challenge! You may find yourself stopping and starting, getting writer’s block, or making silly mistakes and having to start over with a fresh note. Familiarity helps: if you’re most comfortable composing in an email or a Word document, by all means start there. You can fine-tune the note on your computer until it’s perfect, and then copy it by hand onto your note paper or card. This may seem awkward, but it could save you a lot of frustration (and cards).
Knowing how to write a thank you note to your boss will help you strengthen your relationship and do your part to foster an atmosphere of warmth, kindness, and gratitude in your workplace. A thank you note is more than the sum of its parts somehow. It lasts longer than a verbal thanks, and it’s a physical token that speaks of the time you took to express your appreciation. Pretty powerful stuff.
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