Wanna get far in your career? Show gratitude.

Nobody gets anywhere by themselves.

Noor Ali-Hasan
May 8 · 4 min read
A photo of Big Sur, California, overlooking the Pacific Ocean and a mountain range in the background and a green hillside with trees in the foreground.
I’m grateful for Big Sur, CA. Photo by author.

I recently wrote about the top 5 interview mistakes I see UXers making over and over again. I ended that post reminding people to send a thank you note after their interviews. That got me thinking about gratitude in general at work.

Not enough people show gratitude at work. And they should.

The reality is that nobody gets anywhere in life without a lot of help from a lot of people. When I look back on my career, there were different people who were more senior than me who opened doors for me. They saw something in me and gave me different opportunities that helped me learn something new, take more responsibility, try on a different role, and eventually keep progressing and growing in my career. These people didn’t need to do that but they did and I’m grateful for those opportunities and relationships.

Showing gratitude doesn’t take a lot of work and won’t cost you anything. But the benefits to your career are huge. Saying thank you shows that you value the people you work with and you value their contributions. When I think about some of the strongest and best leaders I work with, they’re the ones who consistently show gratitude to their teams.

Not saying thank you just makes you look like an entitled jerk. Nobody likes working with jerks so the more gratitude you show, the stronger your relationships with your colleagues are going to get. And when a new opportunity or assignment comes up, who do you think is going to get the role? The person who’s an entitled pain in the ass or the person who’s grateful?

A simple authentic thank you in person or over video chat is all you need to do. And for bigger favors, you can always write a short email saying thank you. Not sure when you should say thank you? Here are a few examples:

  • Did a colleague help you out with a project? Say thank you.
  • Did someone connect you with another colleague? Say thank you.
  • Did a colleague give you an opportunity to present your work to another team? Say thank you (better yet, send an email thanking everyone for their time and follow-up with next steps and/or your presentation slides).
  • Did you get a bonus? Say thank you.
  • Did you get assigned a stretch project? Say thank you.
  • Did you get promoted? Thank your manager and your management chain for advocating on your behalf. And thank everyone else who recommended you for the promotion. They all took time to advocate for your promotion — you can take time to write a few short emails.
  • Did you get an opportunity to interview for a new role? Send a thank you note (this is also a good way to address any concerns that came up in the interview or follow-up with relevant work samples).
  • Did someone give you feedback? Say thank you.

Not only is saying thank you good for your relationships at work, it’s also good for you. There are countless studies on the mental health benefits of gratitude (see this article from Harvard and this one from Berkeley). I’ve been using Self journals almost everyday for several years (to help me organize my days and work on my personal and professional goals) and one of the practices I do with the journal almost every morning is write down at least three things I’m grateful for. I do find that even on the bleakest days, thinking about everything I’m grateful for in my life gives my days a more positive outlook.

There’s nothing stopping you from showing that type of gratitude at work.

I want to clarify one thing about gratitude, especially for any women or people of color reading this. Showing gratitude doesn’t mean not being assertive at work or not asking for what you deserve.

You can be grateful and still question why you were passed up for a promotion. In fact, that type of feedback is critical for your development. And if you’re not getting the feedback you need or if it’s not actionable or concrete, find another job.

You can be grateful and still negotiate your compensation (HBR has some great tips on negotiating job offers). And if your compensation package isn’t what you expected, you can be grateful and still express your concerns. A lot of managers at larger companies don’t have a lot of say in what you get paid (generally they’re working within the limits of budgets and salary bands for each role, level, and performance rating) but your manager should be able to explain to you why you’re getting paid what you’re getting paid.

As always, good luck — you’re going to crush it!

Just remember to say thank you. :)

This post includes affiliate links to Amazon.

Noor Ali-Hasan

Written by

I’m a UX research lead at Google, where I help teams design and build desirable and easy to use products. Outside of work, I love art, Peloton, and Lego.

UX Research Journal

Writings on starting a career in UX research from Noor Ali-Hasan, a UX research lead at Google with more than 15 years of experience in the field.

Noor Ali-Hasan

Written by

I’m a UX research lead at Google, where I help teams design and build desirable and easy to use products. Outside of work, I love art, Peloton, and Lego.

UX Research Journal

Writings on starting a career in UX research from Noor Ali-Hasan, a UX research lead at Google with more than 15 years of experience in the field.

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