It’s Sad But True: Don’t Expect to Get a Thank You in HR

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I am coaching a young HR leader who reports to a founder/CEO.

She doesn’t have a mentor or a direct supervisor. She is leading an unusually big project for a woman her age. I have been hired to help guide her through the next few months. It is a neat assignment.

This woman is tough and focused. She is working with men who are nice enough to hire a coach on her behalf but not always nice enough to say please and thank you.

For some reason, this matters to my client.

Don’t wait around to say thank you

So, I gave her this big lecture about how most people are never properly thanked for their hard work.

How do you thank the guy down at the filtration plant who fishes out tampons from the water intake? How do you thank the crew that picks up roadkill from the side of the highway? How do you thank the young woman who picked your blueberries or the young kid in Bangladesh who sewed your clothes?

The way you thank people is by doing good work yourself and not looking for a thank you.

When you get a chance to pay it forward and say thank you, do it — but don’t wait around for a letter of thanks to come your way.

So I lectured this young woman — while sounding like an old person — and caught myself in a weird moment of self-awareness. I wasn’t giving her a pep talk. I was giving myself a pep talk.

The world is full of lazy and ungrateful chumps, men and women who constantly take and never offer anything in return. There are people who would ask me for $5 out of my purse before crossing the street and picking up a $50 bill on their own.

For most, it’s not about praise but a paycheck

But you know what? Sometimes I’m one of those chumps.

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I miss opportunities to say thank you. I take when I should be giving. And to repent for my sins, I’m burdened with working harder than necessary (at times) and enduring the presence of other lazy morons.

That’s life.

We don’t work hard and make good choices for thank you letters and praise. We work hard and make good choices for a paycheck.

The sooner you embrace this concept in life, the easier adulthood becomes.

I told this young woman to get off the phone with me and go thank her CEO for being a nice guy. She is lucky to have someone who cares enough about her career to invest time and money in a coach.

And if anyone wants to send me a thank you letter for no damn reason whatsoever, do it. It’s long overdue! My email address is

This was originally published on the Laurie Ruettimann blog.


Laurie Ruettimann (LFR) is a former Human Resources leader turned influential speaker, writer and strategist. She owns a human resources consultancy that offers a wide array of HR services to human resources leaders and executives. Check out her LinkedIn profile here. You may know Ruettimann as the creator of The Cynical Girl and Punk Rock HR (retired), which Forbes named as a top 100 website for women. You may have also read her book, I AM HR: 5 Strategic Ways to Break Stereotypes and Reclaim HR. (RepCap Press, 2014.) 


2 Comments on “It’s Sad But True: Don’t Expect to Get a Thank You in HR

  1. Thank you for this post, Laurie.

    I think it is fair to say most everyone has had moments of waiting-for-thank-yous, with accompanying feelings of umbrage of varying degrees when we believe we aren’t getting all the public appreciation we feel we are entitled to.

    Flipping the perspective and giving thanks to others makes for a very effective antidote to such feelings, in my experience.

  2. I’m sad to have to float the gender card here; but I must. I have worked with men most of my career; yes they always enjoy the greeting card or memo of funny antidotes to liven up a boring day. But thank you notes, for all levels have simply gone by the way side like party invitations and birthday cards. Men, respectfully are more sentimental then women; however, they believe strongly in the right place and the right time.

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