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COLUMN: Make time to write thank you notes

WHEN WAS the last time you received a handwritten note? 

It may have been recently, as a result of graduation season. Many young people have recently graduated from high school (like at my house!) or college and received gifts to acknowledge this milestone. The parents of the graduates generally are on top of this as they continue to teach their children proper etiquette.

It is also wedding season. So you may have received a handwritten note because you sent a gift to the happy couple getting married. Perhaps one of them wrote you a note. 

Think about the last note you received at work. Have you ever received a handwritten note at work?

Writing notes is almost a lost art, especially in the workplace. But if we understand the impact those notes can have, I think we’d write more of them.

One of your employees does something noteworthy. He chairs a committee that completes its tasks, she undertakes a big project that no one wants, or he writes an article for your company newsletter. At the end of the day, noteworthy is not defined as big. It’s defined as something you want to acknowledge. 

You make the time to write the note. I know that writing notes is probably not an item on your to-do list and does not show up on your Outlook or Google calendar, so you must find the few minutes it will take to acknowledge the thing that your colleague has done.

Notes can be short. You tell the person why you are writing and sign your name. If you want to acknowledge the person who wrote the article for the newsletter, it can be as easy as “Thanks for writing the newsletter article. Best, Lynne.”

While this message fits the definition of a handwritten note, a more personal note would include why you are acknowledging their effort. A second sentence could read, “It’s well written and readers will learn a great deal about (whatever the topic is).”

Better? Sure, but it could still be improved. Why not add a third sentence that personalizes it even more? For example, “I know how you hate to write, but this article will really have a tremendous impact.” You’ve just acknowledged something you know about the writer!

Handwritten notes do not have to be written to people within your office only.

At a recent event I attended, one of the speakers talked about a situation she had experienced. Her position as a salesperson required her to call on an upscale retailer in New York City. Later the salesperson wrote her retail contact a handwritten note thanking her for her time and saying she was looking forward to working with her in the future.

What was the response from the retail contact? She sent the salesperson a note back thanking her for sending a thank-you note. She said she never received them. The salesperson wrote another note thanking the retail contact for her thank you note. 

What’s the best part of this story? The salesperson now has a connection with her prospect, and I would expect the prospect will become a client very soon. And all because a note was written.

Do you want to stand out from the crowd? How can you make a difference in this fast-paced world we live in? A handwritten thank-you note says, “I took my precious time to sit down and craft a couple of personalized sentences to you.”

It can differentiate you from your competitors. Plus, it’s just a good thing to do. We all love being noticed and acknowledged for the work we do.

I challenge you to pick someone in your organization this week and write a note to him or her. You can probably predict his first reaction: Shock! “No one ever writes me notes.”

Second, if you write a personal note, he may melt. He is thinking, “And I thought no one noticed or cared what I did.” You have just cemented a relationship.

Third, he may learn from your action and start writing notes as well. Then more people benefit from the goodwill that is generated.

How long did it take you to have this impact? Less than five minutes. So something that took such a short amount of time can have an almost exponential impact. Seems like an excellent investment of time to me.

Lynne Richardson writes about various aspects of finance and economics that affect our readers. Send suggestions for future topics to