How Do You Thank Your Coworkers Without Breaking the Bank?

October 6, 2007

Every quarter things get really busy at my job and everyone works like mad to get things done on time.  Teams stay all night and work weekends, it really sucks for the people involved.

Since the majority of people are salaried employees, there is no incentive for staying late and working insane hours.  As a team lead, saying “thanks a lot, I really appreciate your help” tends to ring hollow quarter after quarter.

Of course the nice thing to do is treat them to a dinner or lunch or buy them a gift card.  But if you figure you have 10 people to thank @ $10 for a meal or gift card, that’s $100. Multiply that by 4 times a year and you’re looking at spending $400 a year.

Why do I struggle with this? We all just worked a lot of overtime without pay to ensure the company earns more money, why are we the ones paying each other for recognition? The current company recognition program will earn anyone submitted a crappy metal pin.  Frankly, I’m almost insulted every time I get one.  So my evenings and weekends away from my family are worth a tacky pin?

Is there any way to show your co-workers and team members you appreciate their hard work without shelling out money from your own pocket or is that the only way to make a genuine gesture?  What non-cheesy techniques do you use to express gratitude to people at your job?


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Ben Edwards, the founder of Money Smart Life, saved up enough to buy a Nintendo back when he was 12 years old. When he used the money to buy shares of Wal-Mart stock instead, he knew he wasn't like the other kids... His addiction to personal finance has paid off for his family and now he's helping you to afford the life that you want. Check him out on the web at Google Plus, Twitter and Facebook.

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6 Responses to How Do You Thank Your Coworkers Without Breaking the Bank?

  • Government Employee

    My “company” offers up comp-time, but being in an environment that allows you to slack off without getting fired causes serious strain on those who actually perform above and beyond. We’ve recently started a program called the “Hero award”, in which one employee will submit a recommendation for another to receive the award based off of going above and beyond their daily tasks. The problem with that is it’s still a popularity contest as some people are getting awards for taking a problem to the next level and solving it while others are getting them for, well, “watering my plant while I was on vacation” or “cleaning out the microwave in the break room”. This not only is annoying to listen to and makes me wonder if they did this during work hours or on their breaks, but it also takes the value of the hero awards that others have earned.
    The “crappy pins” and “cheesy awards” don’t offer anything to keep people motivated to work hard.

  • MoneyNing

    Actually treating everyone to lunch or dinner doesn’t make them feel good. You should talk to them one by one and let them know how much you appreciate their hard work. When review comes, you should mention it again. As long as you really feel appreciative, they will sense it.

  • The Financial Blogger

    “comp” time is pretty to make up for a small team. We always do it after a big rush. The key is to have everyone in the team agree and then, the manager just forget to put the absence on paper. Therefore, it becomes a “sick day” and the Company policy is not hurt 😉

    Sometimes, you have to bend the rules if you want to keep your employees happy. If you don’t have fun at work or don’t feel rewarded, then working become a real pain!

  • kitty

    Comp time is probably the best. Do you have power to tell the employees to just take a day or two off? If you cannot do that can you persuade your manager to have some group picnic in a local park (during work hours) with everyone bringing something to eat. We often have those.

    Our company has a much better recognition plan. To start with, our managers usually have no problems claiming a group lunch at a local restaurant as a business expense. At least during normal times when the company is doing OK and there is budget for such things. In better times, we even had group movie trips after lunches – during work hours. But… Ours is a Fortune 500 company. All a manager/team leader needs to get a group lunch paid is the approval of his immediate manager. As long as the department has money, the approval is easy to get.

    We also have ranking and evaluation first witin a group, then across all groups, and these are really important for bonuses and raises. The best way to reward employees is to get them better evaluations.

    In addition, if our projects are successful we can get some serious awards – my last one was $1500. The highest one I’ve got was $2500.

  • Ben

    sixpack, I totally agree comp time is a great answer. The problem I have is the “official corporate policy” says we can’t give comp time, sucks doesn’t it.

  • sixpack

    What we do is give people ‘comp’ time and take a half day off when it gets slower. They usually appreciate ‘getting out early’ on a Friday when they aren’t expecting it.