Career & Jobs

How To Acknowledge Your Team And Colleagues In The Covid-19 Era

In a commencement speech at Harvard, Oprah shared the single most important lesson she learned in 25 years of interviewing people for her show. “There is a common denominator in our human experience. What we want, the common denominator that I found in every single interview, is we want to be validated. … I have done over 35,000 interviews in my career and as soon as that camera shuts off everyone always turns to me and inevitably in their own way asks this question ‘Was that okay?’ I heard it from President Bush, I heard it from President Obama. I’ve heard it from heroes and from housewives. I’ve heard it from victims and perpetrators of crimes. I even heard it from Beyoncé and all of her Beyoncéness. She finishes performing, hands me the microphone and says, ‘Was that okay?’ Friends and family … enemies, strangers, in every argument in every encounter, every exchange I will tell you, they all want to know one thing: Was that okay? Did you hear me? Do you see me? Did what I say mean anything to you?”

But how exactly can we deliver that acknowledgement in our professional lives, especially in the new world of virtual work? This article in Learning In Action put it this way “An acknowledgement recognizes the whole of the person, both who they are being and what they are doing. It does so in specific and evocative language that feels true to both the giver and receiver. An acknowledgement is more a statement of a shared reality than a judgement. It focuses slightly more on who the person is being than on what they are doing.” An acknowledgement is a powerful way of saying, “I see you. I see you being who you are proud to be.”

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In the physical workplace, acknowledgement is fairly straightforward. You can stop by someone’s office, poke your head in and say, “Thanks for the creative problem solving in the team meeting this morning.”

It just doesn’t work the same way when everyone is WFH. And because the process for acknowledging someone in the virtual world is less obvious, it’s also less prevalent. But it’s no less vital. You can express your appreciation and gratitude for others when you have no way to stop by a teammate’s cubicle and say, “I appreciate you.”

Texts, instant messages and emails are the obvious choices, but they can seem impersonal. Here are some other ways to express your appreciation so that your words and thoughts will stand out from the standard business communications and have a more meaningful impact on your recipient.

Send an ecard. There are numerous services that allow you to send inexpensive notes of praise and thanks. Paperless Post, Smilebox, Punchbowl, and Open Me are all good options to explore.

Send a group card. If your message of appreciation comes from a group— let’s say the whole team wants to acknowledge the boss for her thoughtful and consistent communications during Covid-19—Group Greeting will help. It allows you to create a digital card and have multiple people sign it. This e-version is actually a lot easier to use than the face-to-face process of having to surreptitiously carry the card from person to person to get everyone to sign it.

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Create a custom message. Canva allows you to put your stamp on your e-message of appreciation with this special set of templates. You can also create a GIF for them by uploading an image or video at It lets you express your creativity and deliver something unexpected. TouchNote is as app that allows you to send a physical card by uploading an image and message. It even allows you to customize the stamp. And of course, using your phone to deliver a thoughtful video is perhaps the closest way to simulate the in-the-moment, in-person message that was so easy and so common at the start of 2020.

Just because you’ve been transferred to the Zoom Zone doesn’t mean you should reduce the amount of acknowledgement you share. In these challenging times, expressing appreciation for others is needed more than ever. By the way, I appreciate you, readers! I’m learning a lot from your comments and feedback this year. Thanks.

William Arruda is a founder of CareerBlast and co-creator of BrandBoost – a video-based personal branding talent development experience.

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