How to handle with a boss who never says thank you…

“As we express our gratitude, we must never forget that the highest appreciation is not to utter words, but to live by them.”

– John Fitzgerald Kennedy

It’s rare to get through an entire career without having to deal with at least one difficult boss. In fact, research from around the world shows that bad management is more likely to cause employee turnover than any other factor.

For Personal Assistant’s, even more so than lots of other professionals, having a strong relationship with the boss is especially important. If all your work focusses on one person, being on good terms with him or her is essential. Unfortunately, because you spend so much time together, your manager may tend to take you for granted. A common complaint among PAs is that their bosses never say thank you.

“Appreciation can make a day, even change a life. Your willingness to put it into words is all that is necessary.”

– Margaret Cousins

However, rather than immediately running for the hills if a boss isn’t appreciating your work, you can try to subtly construct a better relationship. Not all the power lies with the boss and Personal Assistants are often in the ideal position to manage up. Never forget a Personal Assistant is the heart of an organisation, the glue that holds a business together. A committed Personal Assistant is a game changer for a company. You deserve to be recognised and we are only treated in this life how we allow ourselves to be. So…how do we turn this boss on to the benefits of recognising your invaluable contribution?

“You know more than you think – trust yourself.” Dr Benjamin Spock

1.      Find the Cause

Very few people are naturally unpleasant and managers are no exception. If you’re struggling with a boss who seems ungrateful, short-tempered or overly-demanding, try to read between the lines to see what’s causing them to behave that way. If its stress, then pinpointing areas where you can relieve the pressure your boss is under may make all the difference. If your boss is simply careless and doesn’t realise their behaviour is upsetting you, silently fuming won’t make a difference. Instead, ask for a short meeting and explain, calmly and politely, that you are feeling undervalued and its affecting the quality of your work. Many Personal Assistants report that, when they hand in the notice, their bosses are shocked to learn that they’ve been unhappy. By raising the subject early and in a constructive way, you give your boss the opportunity to amend his or her own behaviour.

2.      Be the bigger person

While it’s tempting to punish bad management by becoming a bad employee, the only person you will really hurt is yourself. If you start slacking, shouting back or trash-talking, your personal brand will suffer and one bad boss will hurt your professional opportunities going forward. So, while in the workplace, be positive and professional and respond to every slight by working even more efficiently and proving your value. I recently spoke to a young woman who, although she was struggling with an aggressive and unappreciative boss, continually took the high ground. Others in the organisation also had trouble with her boss and, before long, a manager in an adjacent department offered her a job, specifically citing her ability to work effectively in such difficult circumstances.

“A man doesn’t live on bread alone. He needs buttering up once in a while.”

– Robert Henry

3. Everyone is too busy

Supervisors, managers and employees report that they skip appreciation efforts because they are too busy. Virtually everyone states they already have too much to do and don’t have any time (or mental space) to think about another set of tasks. Busyness is far and above the primary reason people cite for not communicating appreciation. Suggest a lunch, a coffee or a breakfast and be clear about the intention. Let the individual know how important feedback is to you and how much you would appreciate a little of their time to talk through performance.

4. A focus on tasks

Another frequently cited reason for not communicating appreciation has to do with the nature of work and work relationships. By definition, work is focused on getting tasks done. Companies either sell goods or they provide services, and that is the focus of every employee’s day. But accomplishing tasks requires working with other people in order to accomplish the organization’s larger goals. There has to be a balance of working together with others as people (employees are not just “production units” or machines) and getting the work done. Again a gentle reminder as mentioned above will help. Also remember that everyone has different value systems and to your boss saying thank you may not seem important – you need to let them know subtly that you require feedback.

5. Concerns about expressing appreciation

Managers often say: “I don’t want people to begin to expect praise all of the time.” Others voice concerns that their appreciation will be discounted and viewed as inauthentic, like much employee recognition activities that occur organizationally. And finally, communicating appreciation can feel like a bit of a risk — the message may be at a deeper, personal level than some people feel comfortable communicating in an employment setting. So it may be a case of simply trying to understand the behaviours / personality type that your boss expresses. Then google it, research like mad and you will soon find fantastic tools online as to how you get the best from the person that you support!

And most importantly…

The game changing effect of improving your emotional intelligence….. How good is your emotional intelligence? When was the last time you worked on your EQ? Developing our own emotional intelligence makes a huge difference as to how we then get the best out of others. In fact it is the starting point to all great relationships. A wonderful book to kick off with is…

The Language of Emotional Intelligence: The Five Essential Tools for Building Powerful and Effective Relationships: An excellent resource on using EQ to build better relationships with just about everyone in your life, from employees to your family. Jeanne Segal shows you how to use five basic tools of EQ to enhance communication, read non-verbal cues, and diffuse conflicts before they get out of hand.

If all else fails why not leave this 40 point guide to appreciating your employees anonymously on your boss’s desk!

40 ways to show employees appreciation.

Give up the good parking spot

Consider offering the best parking spots in the lot to those employees for a job well done. If most of your employees take public transportation, get them a transit pass for the employee of the month.

Wall of Fame

Another great way to say thank you to your employees is by acknowledging their work and informing the rest of the employees about it. You could create a wall of fame for each recognised employee. Be sure to write below their picture what they did that you are recognising them for. This is also a great way to encourage and motivate other employees, letting them know that all good tasks achieved and accomplished are recognised.

Praise often

Another way to say thank you to your employees is by praising them and praise them quick! As an employer, you have to recognize people as soon as it happens. Otherwise, people would forget and they would think nobody is paying attention.Lottery tickets

You could get a couple of lottery tickets as a way of saying thank you to your employees. It may only cost you a few dollars but you could be handing them a winning ticket!

The gift of wellness

What a better way to say thank you to your employees by looking after their wellness. You do not have to provide monthly gym membership but awarding complimentary passes to a nearby yoga studio or gym may be feasible. Healthy employees are productive workers.

Have fun

Head out after an important lunch and plan something fun. A rock climbing outing, hiking or even a paintball session to show employees that you know they accomplished something special. Try picking something that fits with your corporate culture. This not only is a way to say thank you to your employees but it also encourages employee participation and a great team bonding event.

Recognise good work

Give credit when it is due. When someone makes a project go smoothly, tell the whole team at a meeting or in a group “all staff” email.

Sticky notes

What more authentic way to say thank you to your employees than by leaving notes on their desk or computer monitors. Post a sticky note on their monitor saying thanks and explaining why. It is simple but effective way to say thank you.

Free lunch

A way to your employees’ heart is through their stomachs. Take them on a company paid lunch once in a while and thank them as a team. You could also bring in some doughnuts or cupcakes for their morning or afternoon snack. A meal or snack is a great way to show your gratitude to your employees who have worked hard for you.

Office comforts

Another great way to say thank you to your employees is to upgrade their work space. Do your employees have ergonomic chairs and decent lighting for them to work with? Otherwise, upgrade and improve their work conditions in order to keep things comfortable and efficient.

Trophy baton

Create a fun way to say thank you to your employees. This is interesting and will definitely bring fun, laughter and employee recognition at the workplace. Get a big trophy and give it to the employee you are recognising for the week. At the end of the week, the employee must return the trophy but before doing so, they need to add something to the trophy – like a trademark.

Give the trophy to the next deserved employee of the week and it continues from there. At the end of the year, you will have a trophy with 52 things stuck to it. It will definitely look hysterical but it brings lots of memories. Retire the trophy at the end of the year and put it in your reception area for visitors to the office to see.

Bottle of wine or champagne

Say thank you to your employees by getting them a bottle of wine or champagne that they can enjoy with colleagues (after work, of course) or even at home with their loved ones.

Random gifts

Who does not love surprises? Surprise your employees by giving them small gifts and tokens. You can leave token gifts like movie tickets, candy bars or gift cards on employees’ desks with a note that says, “Thanks for all your hard work. I noticed!”

Stock it up

Stock up the kitchen or the pantry with tea-time goodies and assorted choices of tea and coffee. Most workplace would stock coffee, creamer and sugar for employees but go a step further. Fill the fridge with juices, sodas, fruits, nuts and cookies.

Employee of the Month

You could select an employee of the month and inform the rest of the team during production meeting or announce it via email. Do not forget to mention why they were selected and their accomplishments. This can be a great way to show recognition as long as employees take the award seriously and it comes with real perks like flexible hours or a longer lunch hour.

Acknowledge them in meetings

What a better way to say thank you to your employees by acknowledging them in meetings. When an employee has a good idea, performs above and beyond, secures a big win or account or does something worthy of mentioning – it is always a good time to acknowledge it in front of their peers.

Say it with fruit or cookies

Send the employee a small hamper of healthy, edible fruit or cookies. You can have it delivered to their home so that they are able to share them with their loved ones or in the office if they live alone. It may sound like a simple way to say thank you to your employees but always remember that it is the thought that counts.

Making it official

You could put your employees’ achievement in writing and put it in their personal file. After you write a personal, handwritten note to the employee, thanking them for their effort or accomplishment, put a photocopy of the note in their file.

Magazine subscription

You could also say thank you to your employee by provide your employees with a subscription to any magazine of their choosing. As this gift is often a monthly all year round, employees are often reminded of what they are being recognised for and why are appreciated for.

Training and conferences

You could provide training opportunities to high performing employees or send them to an annual conference they would enjoy, and your business would benefit from.

Email everyone

Not everyone is a big fan of email blasts, let alone receiving them. But in this occasion, email blasting is encouraged. You could send an email to the entire company explaining how impressed you are by your employee for going above and beyond. Don’t make it a daily occurrence though!

Appreciate personal wins

Try and appreciate your employees for what they have done as a personal achievement instead of the things they do for you. If your employee has achieved a milestone in his personal live outside the office, celebrate with them in the office. You could decorate their cubicle with balloons and cards when they achieve a personal win, like completing a marathon, winning a tournament, buying a new home or graduating from a class.

Celebrate birthdays

What better way to say thank you to your employees by celebrating their birthday. Everyone likes to be remembered on their birthday. Celebrate with a cake or take the whole office to lunch and treat the birthday employee’s lunch.

Boss for a day

It may be a little uncomfortable to some but try to swap a task with them for a day. Not only will they get to go through the pressure and stress you would encounter on a daily basis but you would also get to understand what your employees are going through as well.

Concert shout out

Get your employees tickets to see their favourite band in concert as a way of saying thank you to them. For additional effect, you could call the event in advance and see if you can get the band to give them a shout out during the concert.

Picnic basket

Always remember that a way to your employees’ heart is through their stomach (again!), especially if they are sharing it with their partners. Provide your recognised employee a catered lunch in a picnic basket and invite their spouse or partner to enjoy it with them during an extended lunch break. Not only they feel honoured but their spouse will also get to spend some time with them and know that the time at work is treasured.

Pizza party

Have a spontaneous pizza party and cater to your employees’ lunch. Lunch with colleagues are always fun as it breaks up the routine and keeps employees in the office.

Movie Time

You could also say thank you to your employee by provide your employees with a pair of movie tickets, and the time off to go see their favourite movie during the workday. You could even make it as a company event.

Write a note

Write a hand-written thank you note is often appreciated as it adds a personal touch. Employees will know that you took the time out of your hectic schedule to personally write them a thank you letter and that their effort is being acknowledged. You could even mail it to your employee’s home address, where his or her spouse will also see it and know that the time away from home is valued.

Pay attention

Try to get to know your employees besides just knowing their full name. It would be really helpful if you know the likes and dislikes of your employees as this makes rewarding them easier. The extra effort you make for your employees goes a long way and they would feel honoured that you think of them when deciding a way to say thank you to your employees.

Appreciation certificate

Another way that you could say thank you to your employee is by having the entire team sign a framed photo or certificate of appreciation. The employee will feel honoured and realise that their colleagues do not see them as a threat but looks up to them.

Internet famous

Try to say thank you to your employee by making them internet famous. Post your appreciation of employees on the company’s website. Have a photo and description of what they are being recognised for and any client or customer testimonials as well.

Thank you video

You can also create a video recognising your employee’s achievement and efforts. Post it on YouTube for your employee and anyone they want to share it with or send it out as an internal mail to notify their peers on your appreciation.


Let your employees take the afternoon off for a relaxing day of all expense paid manicure and/or pedicure. Allow them to get so rest and relax just before they embark on a new project in the office.

Giving time off

One way to say thank you to your employees is by giving them some time off from work. You do not have to go to the extreme of a whole day off work. Allow employees to leave early or come in a little later. Give an afternoon off to someone whose work has been exemplary. Do make sure that the workload is realistic so that your employees would not be working on their day off or having other employees carrying their workload.

Shopping vouchers

What a better way to say thank you to your employees by rewarding them with shopping vouchers and gift cards. Give them a token or carnival chips for every good task they accomplished and they could trade them for gift vouchers at the end of the month.

Appreciation jar

Have every employee write up a gift, privilege or recognition they’d like (or just use this list) and then put each item into a jar. Have the employee being recognised select their method of appreciation at random from the jar.

Collectors’ gift

Take time to find out what your employee’s passions, hobbies or interests are. Then give them a gift in that field. Collectors are the easiest to do this for—they always love to get that perfect coin or limited issue comic.

Casual Week

Do not just wait for Friday to dress casual. Turn one week of the week into a Causal Week. Change things up by allowing flip flops or allowing your employees to dress down as a fun way of recognising success.

Just say it

The easiest way to say thank you to your employees is to say ‘Thank you’ to them face to face. Try making it a habit of looking at your employees in the eyes and say those two words: “Thank you.”

“Research indicates that employees have three prime needs: Interesting work, recognition for doing a good job, and being let in on things that are going on in the company.”

– Zig Ziglar

Good luck!


Lucy Chamberlain is Founder of C&C Search the multi award winning and innovative agency specialising in support staff recruitment. Founded in 2014 by brother and sister team they have worked tirelessly to be a disrupter in their market space! Talk to Lucy or Ed about their contribution to Tomorrow’s People, visits to number 10 and 11 Downing Street and recently launched projects including The Passion Project.