“You keep using that word. I do not think it means what you think it means.” – Inigo Montoya, The Princess Bride.
Happy Thanksgiving weekend. But wait, there’s a global pandemic, so you can’t visit far off family, and you just spend the weekend watching B-movies while drinking Scotch. Anyone? Bueller?
In light of the holidays, I’ve been thinking a lot about ‘thank you’ – and what it really means to me. I really love my coworkers, so it’s impossible to say thank-you enough. And quite frankly, half of the time I do say it…I don’t really mean it. You know what I’m talking about. Thank you at the office probably only means ‘thank you’ about half of the time. The other half…well, you probably don’t want to know, but I’m going to tell you anyway.
1. Thank you for the feedback.
This is probably my all time (least) favorite office thank-you. Dollars to donuts, if you send someone something, and they say ‘thanks for the feedback’ what they really mean is ‘go jump off a cliff.’ Receiving correction is hard. But it’s generally better to acknowledge it in a specific way. ‘You know what, I didn’t pay enough attention when I posted that article and I completely screwed up your title. There’s no excuse. I’m sorry.’ If someone tells you you’ve done something wrong, be specific. Or say ‘thanks for the feedback,’ and basically tell them where they can actually stick their feedback.
2. Thanks for the email.
I don’t know who says this one, honestly, but I know I’ve gotten it in my inbox. I have never before, in the history of my life, thanked someone for sending me an email. It’s likely because my inbox is where dreams go to die, and I receive more messages than I can properly reply to (I love you all, I swear, but it may take me a couple of weeks to reply to your email with a link to the article I’ve previously written that answers your question). There may be times when it’s appropriate to tell someone thanks for the email. If they’re describing their love for you, or offering you a new job, or telling you they’ve found your lost cat. I don’t know.
3. Thanks for educating me on that.
This one means, ‘you’re a pretentious jerk….thanks.’ People don’t come to work to learn new things. Let’s get that straight off the bat. So if they tell you thanks for the education, you’re in big trouble. Especially if you get this one from your boss.
4. Thanks for following up.
Okay, okay – this one could go either way. Because of the points I made in #2 above, I sometimes joke that ‘if you haven’t followed-up, have you even emailed at all?’ The squeaky email gets the grease, after all. I’m not above a follow-up, nor am I opposed to doing the follow-up. When I get an email follow-up, however, I usually start by apologizing because (A), I’m a woman, and (B), I am actually sorry they had to follow-up to get a reply. I’d say if you send someone a follow-up and they say ‘Thanks for following up’ there is maybe a 50% chance they mean it. The other half, they mean ‘keep your pants on, and wait your turn.’ But, hey – you got a reply, didn’t you?
This is a subject of internal debate in our office. If you’re expecting something from someone, and they send it – do you send them an email that says ‘Thanks’ – or is it okay to ignore it? Because, once again, of the points I made in #2 above, as you can imagine, I don’t send read-receipts (usually). I have a few coworkers who I love, who I know appreciate them, so…I try. But even then – shouldn’t you use an exclamation point?! Is ‘Thanks’ enough? Or should it be ‘Thanks!’? So many questions. If I get a single ‘Thanks’ with no punctuation, I assume the sender is unimpressed with what I just sent. But that’s because (A), I am a woman, and (B) I tend to overthink things. This is another reason not to send ‘Thanks’ emails as read-receipts. Besides, if it has been two weeks, and you wonder if I actually received it, you can always just follow-up.
Thanks for reading this article. Please feel free to send me an email to follow-up or educate me on how much you hated it. And Happy Thanksgiving.