Do You Really Need to Say Thank You?

John, the CEO of a sales organization, sent an email to Tim, an employee several levels below, to complement him on his performance in a recent meeting. Tim did not respond to the email.

About a week later, he was in John’s office applying for an open position that would have been a promotion into a management role, when John asked him whether he had received the email. Yes, Tim said, he had. Why, John asked, hadn’t he responded? Tim said he didn’t see the need.

But Tim was wrong. John’s email deserved, at the very least, a “thank you.”

Tim didn’t get the promotion. Was he passed over solely because he didn’t thank John for the positive feedback? No. But was Tim’s lack of response one piece of the Tim puzzle that convinced John he should choose a better candidate? Undoubtedly.

Before you accuse John of being trivial or over-sensitive, before you condemn his poor hiring judgment, consider what saying “thank you” represents.

On a basic level, it communicates that you received the email. While there’s a lot of advice that discourages writing “thank you” emails because they contribute to email overload, I disagree. I answer every real email I receive because I want to avoid the recipient’s “Did Peter get my email and what’s he thinking?” angst. It takes three seconds to respond “thanks” and it completes the transaction initiated by the sender.

But an email that contains emotional content — like a compliment — deserves something longer: a real, thought-out “thank you” as opposed to a simple I-received-your-email “thank you.” When you offer a real thought-out “thank you” to someone, you’re acknowledging her effort, appreciating her thoughtfulness, recognizing her intent, and offering feedback on the impact of her actions.

Still, it’s more than that. Those things are rational, but saying “thank you” is mostly an emotional act. It connects one person to another. Saying “thank you” doesn’t just acknowledge someone’s effort, thoughtfulness, intent, or action. It acknowledges the person himself.

Acknowledging other people is a critical responsibility — perhaps the critical responsibility — of a great manager, especially in sales. Actually great manager is too high a bar. I might say it’s the critical skill of a good manager but even that’s understating it.

Acknowledging each other is our basic responsibility as human beings living in community with other human beings.

Go ahead and argue: We’re all too busy at work and in life to spend time exchanging pleasantries. If John needs so much stroking, he can’t possibly be a good CEO. He’s out of touch with the digital age where no answers are the accepted norm. If Tim is doing his work well, that’s all that matters. People are paid to do their jobs and they don’t need to be thanked. Saying “thank you” to your CEO for a nice email is nothing more than brown-nosing.

I would disagree with all those arguments. It doesn’t take long to say “thank you,” but it does take caring. John is an excellent CEO, with a staff, board, and shareholders who love him and for whom he delivers a high growth rate and excellent results. Not answering someone’s communication — text or email or phone call — is not an accepted norm, it represents a fundamental breakdown in communication about which I often hear people complain. Tim might be good at certain aspects of his job but he’s not “doing his work well,” if he’s not acknowledging the people around him. And, finally, saying “thank you” isn’t brown-nosing, it’s nice.

This all becomes more obvious if you take away the digital element. How would you feel if you complimented someone in person and he just walked away from you without saying anything? Weird, right?

Saying “thank you” — sincerely and with heart — feels good. Not just to the person receiving it, but also to the person offering it. And that’s part of work too. It’s hard to remember, as we process our hundredth email, that behind each message is a person..

Tim made a mistake by not appreciating John’s effort or acknowledging his sentiment. I don’t want to make that same mistake.

So, as we approach Thanksgiving, I want to say “thank you” to you. Each week when I sit down to write this blog, I try to express ideas and feelings that make a difference in my life and, hopefully, in yours. And doing that often leaves me feeling a little vulnerable and exposed.

But my feeling of vulnerability is always met with your compassion and engagement. The support I feel from you, my readers, is an unending source of encouragement to keep at it. It is a huge gift to me that you are interested in what I have to say and spend your valuable time reading and commenting on it. It touches me and I am so thankful for it. Thank you, and happy Thanksgiving.


  1. Michael says:

    Thank you for writing such an inspiring article. I like the way you explain ideas to your readers, by telling stories.
    I realize that email is just a tool that facilitates communication, but this better tool should not change how we response or what we response. However, in reality, it has changed the way we communicate, and this is the major drawback of technology.

    1. Saying “Thank you” to someone is not a compulsory but it is a sign of gratitude. Though it is not a compulsory, but it is a big thing to someone who helps you. It means that you appreciate the help of others. Acknowledging someone is very important because it means that somehow you notice the efforts of others and appreciates it even if it is just a little thing. That somehow, there are people who notice their work and that they are doing things right. We have many things to be thankful about. We must not neglect those people who exert efforts in doing things. top essay writing companies

  2. Lisa Gunnoe says:

    When I started reading this I was wondering about “thank yous” on twitter. I generally don’t thank others for retweets and such. Maybe I’m doing that wrong.
    I’m very great at actually sending thank you cards and letters, but maybe I need to take that one more step into the twitterverse.

    If I was in a crowd and someone shared my idea, giving me credit, I would say “thank you”.

    So Thank you Mr. Bregman for bringing back good manners :)


  3. Andrea says:

    Gracias Peter, te leo siempre con gusto desde Perú.

  4. Kathy Palaski says:

    Well written! Thankyou.

  5. Vicky says:

    Your topic make me so impressive because you ask the question in your topic. I like the way you explain your ideas by telling stories. It makes me want to keep reading in your blog. I think email is for people to provide some information and to ask some questions. In American culture, checking email is important every day, but in my culture we actually don’t really use email every day. We prefer to make a phone call to contact people.

  6. Very interesting, analytic and also “authentic” post. And I like the way you told a story (actually two, if one includes your last personal remark) which are not just off topic ways to look authentic or capture the reader’s attention (thus often ending up with the opposite result).

  7. Adil Nemat says:

    Hi Coach Peter,
    Hello! Happy belated Thanks Giving to you & your family.

    You message “Behind every mail, text, message is a person ( we don’t know what the person is going through- is he/she happy, sad, depressed or wants to connect to some one, is he/she is need)”.

    Your article made me cry a lot and reflect back on mistakes

    I want to thank you once again for your amazing article.

    Have a great weekend.


  8. Deb Kay says:

    Absolutely loved your message here – it was spot on! Folks need to take the computer out of the exchange, figuratively speaking, and always understand that there is a person on the other side. Thank you so much for sharing this important message in such a thoughtful way.

  9. ANA says:

    truly inspirational. Thanks. Gracias. Grazie. Merci. Danken

  10. Pat L says:

    Thank you, you’re welcome, nice to meet you, welcome to the team, congratulations – all words that convey such pleasure to the ears of the receiver, but rarely spoken in these days of texting. I discovered SendOutCards over 4 years ago and it has not only changed my life but it has increased my business, my influence with others, my place in the business community and best of all – the smiles that come with the heartfelt cards. I’d love to share SendOutCards with anyone who’d like to know more – it has changed my life and the lives of those who are touched by simple words, like Thank you.

  11. Pat L says:

    Sorry, here is the link to SendOutCards if you’re interested.

  12. Mark says:

    I admire and appreciate the brain your heart and mind work together to communicate the intrinsic dynamics of the human experience and the importance of articulating how and why people matter.

    So much is being lost in the world today, from the digital spilling into the physical. I just want to express how thankful I am and how much I am reminded through your words, that real people with real depth, care and concern exist and that fear of vulnerability, trapped in the illusion of it representing weakness instead of true strength, and illusion of control hasn’t shut down the spirit of truth, goodness and fighters for the light in the world.

    Perhaps it would be great to have a follow-up on this – the value, gesture and symbol of saying “you’re welcome” possesses. If we think about it, many have abandoned this powerful message for “no worrries”, “no problem”, “you bet” etc… ;)

  13. Google sucks says:

    Thanks for writing this tremendous publish..Loved your content articles. Remember to do continue to keep writing

  14. nitin jain says:

    Right. Saying thanks doesn’t take much time and it displays politeness and appreciation.

  15. Andrea Landuzzi says:

    Thank you Peter for this and for all your amazing articles!

  16. STEVEN NATHAN says:

    Spot on, Peter! This article, as well as all of the rest that I have read over the years, is worthwhile reading. You get to the essence of what your message is and have such a personal touch to them that makes them real. I have just two words to convey: “thank you” for your wonderful and insightful articles.

  17. Andy Rogish says:

    Thank you for acknowledging me, as a reader! Your fine article is reminiscent of the Judith Ulmas book, “Grateful Leadership.”

  18. Felicia says:

    Peter this message is timeless and resonates with me each time I read it. I agree that in this digital era, it is important to ensure that we remain connected in a meaningful way. Saying “Thank you” when complimented, whether in person or digitally, is more than good business sense, it also reflects good manners in our global society. I also want to acknowledge that you are successful in expressing ideas and feelings that make a positive difference in my life and through me the lives of others whom I influence. Thank you for re-sharing this message during the week of Thanksgiving!

  19. Karen Moore says:

    Thank you Peter for being so thoughtful and helping to remind me that manners do matter.

  20. Angie Tetteh says:

    Dear Peter,
    Thank you for this inspiring article. And thank you for all the articles I freely get from you which helps me in my daily interaction with colleagues. I often hear them say “she’s different “and that is all thanks to you!

  21. Ana Essex says:

    Thanks for this great reminder Peter. So easy and simple but so little practiced. Moms and Dads don’t forget to teach your kids. Please and thank you goes a long way!

  22. Cindy Fisher says:

    I appreciated this article when you first released it and the lesson is as valid today as it was then. Thank you Peter!

  23. Tolu says:

    I`d say a massive thank you you too. Bless!

  24. Let me first say that I always respond to e-mails with this type of “emotional” content with a brief message of appreciation. I even use emoticons sometimes. That being said, the eleventh paragraph that begins “go ahead and argue…” is a bit disingenuous since rattling off a catalogue of anticipated arguments is merely an acknowledgement that the writer knows these arguments exist, not a refutation. This article does perform a useful service, though, since adherents of those arguments that were quickly skimmed over who find themselves in a “why didn’t you respond” situation in the future can now say “you know, it’s funny you mention that, because I was reading an article online by Peter Bregman that takes the ‘response required’ side of the debate, and….” If “John” had used this type of response, the outcome might have been a little different–it’s not the action that matters, it’s the demonstration of awareness surrounding why the action was deliberately chosen. If I deliberately chose a course of action and had a pre-planned reason or principle behind it, you can guarantee I’d put that CEO in his place. In short, go on the offense.

  25. Lanie says:

    thank YOU for your insightful articles and for sharing your thoughts with us!

  26. Colleen says:

    Thank You Peter. Your words never fail to inspire me to keep truth, respect and trust at the forefront of all I do as a leader. Thank you for the gift you give the word, one article at a time, often at just the right moment.

    Being real and honest takes guts in today’s corporate world. At times, I think those who work with smoke and mirrors are winning. Thankfully, then the smoke clears, and I remember it was all a game. I would not follow a single one of them into a tough situation, because that doesn’t inspire people to do great things or to tackle big problems. That kind of leadership only leads to ruin.

    So please, keep doing what you’re doing and saying. I for one, am eternally grateful.

  27. Cindy says:

    Thank you for everything you do, this was a great article! I’ve been getting your emails and following your posts ever since you spoke at a meeting for Pfizer a couple years ago. Your advice and coaching has made me better as a person and in my career. Thank you!

  28. meri says:

    Thank you.

  29. Peter Klochkov says:

    Спасибо большое за статью!

  30. Dare says:

    Thought provoking article.
    Thanks for sharing.

  31. Artiom says:

    Thank you, Peter. Patiently waiting for your next book here in Russia. Love your posts and find it extraordinary useful that you announce each of them me via e-mail. Be healthy and wealthy!

  32. Ruly says:

    I was cleaning my mail and see your mail title and it grabs my attention. You have always great sayings in how to act with courage yet authenticity in our modern corporate environment. I love your advise. Keep up the good work!

  33. Zack Rosenfeld says:

    Really great post. Now I gonna think when I will say “thank you next time”. My friend is a professional writer at assignmentjunkie and everyday all of these articles, essays, letters. And of course a lot of communicating with customers. I think I should send this article to my friend so he will understand the real value of “thank you”.

  34. Zack says:

    great post, tnks

  35. Andrew Stevenson says:


  36. James Smith says:

    Your article is very educative and interesting at the same time. Thank you for your time in writing and sharing it, and best of luck on your next one.
    I work at a Writing Website called SmartWrite.
    Looking forward to reading more of your articles.

  37. Edifid Digital says:

    Saying thank you feels good to both parties. And I’d like to take this opportunity for writing and share such an interesting article.
    And I also train people on how to work online and make money.

  38. darth vader says:

    Hey thanks for suggesting it to us. As your blogs are really helpful

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