#1171: The nicest problem to have: Sending an organization positive feedback about their employees.

Good morning Captain,

I have a really nice problem that I could use help with, which is: how do I send professional compliments?

I work in a healthcare-adjacent field, which is a pretty tough and thankless job 99% of the time. Because absolutely no one is here for the money, I frequently encounter workers, from my own organisation and others, who go above and beyond their work duties and pull off some truly incredible feats in the name of getting a good result for our clients.

I want to make sure that people are being professionally recognised when they do an amazing job, but I’m not sure how to go about this in a way that’s not boundary-crossing or weird. My own organisation has a clear internal process for passing along feedback about other employees via our team leaders, which is great, but when I encounter awesome people from other organisations, how can I best communicate to their bosses that they are great and valuable employees that should be given All The Money and Praise?


– In Need Of An English-to-Corporate Translation

Dear Corporate-To-English,

For everyone considering doing this: Be only positive in your message about the person, if you have critique or suggestion about the company or their services uses a separate message. Also, consider being non-specific beyond “great service,” especially if you sense that this person’s talents mean they are working around/beyond the company’s red tape, since you don’t want to get them in trouble (or find your sweet deal is subject to extra scrutiny).

With that said, I think there are a few ways I can think of to do this that should be pretty simple & straightforward:

1. The organizations’s general mailbox or contact form from their website.

If they do identify a compliments/complaints/customer feedback person, use that address obviously, but the person who has to fish out whatever’s in the general mailbox has to read a lot of gripes, make their day with a positive note!

“Dear ____, this is just a note to say that Melissa in your Amarillo, TX branch gave me fantastic service today. She is always so friendly and knowledgeable and she makes my job so much easier. Best wishes, Your Name/Job Title/Organization.” 

2. A letter on your company’s letterhead to the company’s CEO or head of customer/client services. 

Are you Kind of a Big Deal? Send something like this (or get your Big Deal Boss to send it) to the other Big Deals:

“Dear _____,

Please accept my thanks for your company’s wonderful service around [issue], especially the diligent work of [person] in [department], whose knowledge/attention to detail/great attitude/problem-solving skills/kindness/thoughtfulness/attention to customer needs makes [Your Company] the first place we turn when we need [X kind of goods/services].

Looking forward to many more years of working together, thank you for having people like [Great Person] on your team!


Big Deal/Title]”

Something about paper makes it all more official-seeming.

3. Social media. 

“@Company, thank you so much for the wonderful service today, the client services rep in your Gary, Indiana office is a customer service star!”

4. Ask the person you want to praise directly how to do it.

Especially if it’s someone you interact with a lot, through work: “You are doing such a wonderful job, is there any quick way to let your company know how much I appreciate it?” 

5. Do those ridiculous surveys sometimes if you can. 

Not specifically for you & your professional contacts, LW, but in general: When retail/food service workers give you those “fill out a survey and maybe win a prize” spiels with your receipts, or your cable installer, etc. asks you to fill out an online survey about their work, if you loved what they did consider taking two minutes and doing the thing. If the person is asking you about it, there’s a high chance it makes a difference for them.

Other suggestions, readers?


65 thoughts on “#1171: The nicest problem to have: Sending an organization positive feedback about their employees.

  1. I love this. My work has a very technical component and I depend heavily on our IT experts. Every December I send an email to their Director thanking him and all of his staff for their outstanding work. I typically name the specific people who have really helped me out too. But in my case I know the Director pretty well, so I have his direct email address.

  2. When a phone-based CS rep has helped me out with something particularly thorny, if I’ve got the time, at the end of the call I’ll ask them if they can pass me to their manager. My script goes something like…

    Rep: And that should be it.
    Me: Thank you so much, RepName!
    Rep: Is there anything else I can help you with today?
    Me: Actually, I’d like to make sure your manager knows what a great job you’re doing. Would you be able to transfer me to them?
    Rep: *visibly blushing through the phone* Absolutely! Just a moment.
    Mgr: Hi, how can I help you?
    Me: I just wanted to make sure you knew that RepName is doing an amazing job. I called with [problem], [after having tried X times previously to resolve it], and they [had exactly the knowledge I needed / were incredibly patient / communicated very clearly / perfectly walked me through how to fix it / chased down a bunch of leads / made sure it was actually fixed], all while being [very polite / friendly / funny], which really defused my frustration with the situation. They’re a great asset to your team.
    Mgr: Wow, thanks for letting me know!
    Me: Absolutely! I just wanted to make sure RepName gets the recognition they deserve for all their hard work.

    (Definitely DON’T just say “I want to speak to your manager” unless you want them to panic. Also, side note, my Secret Trick for “remembering” the name of whoever I’m talking to is that I literally just write it down as soon as they introduce themself–in a Notepad file if I’m at my computer, on a scrap of paper if I’m not.)

    1. Oomph I once called and did the “can I speak to the manager?” at a retail location once (to give praise!) but I’m fairly certain I put the employee who answered in a bit of an awkward place (sorry, random Pier One employee I scared). This wording is great – definitely state your (positive) intention if you call!

  3. About those surveys: if you truly appreciated the service and want to give positive feedback, use the top-most rating available, no matter how exactly the survey is worded.

    This is an unfortunate reality; many companies view anything less than top scores as a version of “needs improvement”.

    In a former training job, our post-class rating forms had options from 1-5, and even though a “4” sounds pretty good, we had to keep our average ratings at a 4.5 or better.

    1. Oh yes, FFS, only the top rating if you’re going to do it! Don’t take 2 ridiculous minutes out of your time to give lukewarm ratings!

    2. Seconded!!! I worked for a major retailer, and those survey scores matter more than almost anything else you can do. My department never got to know what the typed comments were, just the average score. That score affected the raises and bonuses for everyone in the store, from the managers to the cart pushers.

    3. I have complained in Currys PC world in the UK that their feedback scale is STUPID. If you give 8/10 or less they get in trouble. This makes me so mad.

      1. Haha I shoulda read all the comments first – I also just railed on 8/10 as being nonsense!!

    4. I hate this system. I mean, I roll with it, but as a disabled person who frequently uses Lyft / Uber, they ask for ratings every time. I don’t want to penalize someone by not giving 5 stars, but that means if someone is genuinely awesome I can’t go beyond 5! I mean, I can tip slightly more, but my tip budget isn’t super flexible for personal finance reasons.

      I really hope somebody reads the written comments / compliments on those apps, because I try to be really positive and specific when someone does something great. I kinda worry they get sucked into the void, though 😦 I feel like there should be an option to give, like, secret bonus stars? And you can only give x bonus stars a month so it doesn’t become suddenly six stars is the goal.

      Same with professor ratings at the end of class in college. Like, unless someone was truly abusive or clueless, I give good ratings, but I really hope they read my written comments because if a professor is truly awesome, “5 / 5” doesn’t really cover it. And especially adjuncts don’t get enough support.

      1. As an adjunct prof, I can say I read every comment and have changed things in my class based on student feedback. Thank you to you and other students who take the time to fill out evaluations!

    5. I will ask, when they tell me about the survey online, “will you get a bonus if you get a good rating?” Then I make sure to go and tell them. Often I’ll do so and make a point of giving their name anyway.

    6. Yes, this, exactly. It’s a terrible rating system but it IS the one that’s most widely used in retail.

    7. And to make matters worse, I’ve also filled out those surveys where they boxes to add comments don’t appear unless you give it a bad rating in certain aspects.

      Which is quite irritating, because sometimes I want to convey a comment like “You should stock this product”, and also give the employees the highest possible rating so they get as big a raise as possible!

    8. Yeah, and I’d also like to note that they MAY be weighting certain questions–“how likely are you to return” and “how likely are you to recommend us to other people”–more heavily. So even if you’re not planning to ever return because you were just passing through the area and live 900 miles away, or it was a once-every-15-years purchase, or whatever, you might want to fib and say you’ll definitely return and also tell all your friends.

      It’s not great to have a situation where you’re like, “boy, I’d love to eat here all the time, but I will probably never pass this way again, so I guess I ‘strongly disagree’ that I’ll come back”, and their manager is like, “dear god, what HAPPENED with this customer that they said they’ll never come back” (or, even if your comments make it clear that’s what it is and no human involved thinks it reflects poorly on them–it drags down their numbers for no reason).

    9. That’s why I won’t do those surveys. I’ll go out of my way to contact the company about an employee that does something great, but I won’t play the “these five choices are really two choices” game.

    10. This- can confirm three different companies view anything less than top customer setvice marks as a poor review for the employee.

    11. Yes, this is important. At [Former Employer] I started getting penalized if my personal score was below 9/10. I had to achieve a certain percentage of 10/10 surveys to be eligible for even a cost-of-living raise. 10/10 was the only acceptable score, anything else was failure. And any single survey below 5/10 required a sit-down meeting with the manager to work out an “action plan” for improvement – essentially probation before firing.

      I only heard anything about typed comments if they were negative.

  4. (Clearly there are times and reasons to give a lower rating, but since this thread is about “how to give positive feedback”, I just wanted to make sure people are giving feedback that will be RECEIVED as positively as it is intended!)

  5. Good suggestions! I also always copy the person I’m complimenting, if I have their contact info, so they have a copy in their file when their performance evaluation comes around.

  6. I have found most helpful if the suject line on all electronic correspondence to the general mailbox reads ‘Thank You’ first. Most of the time you will get an almost immediate response.

  7. Just wanted to second the “fill in the survey the customer service person gives you” think. Customer satisfaction scores are a huge deal to people working in call centre type environments (and it very often is a call centre subcontractor that you will be in touch with) because their management uses them in assessing performance. For the same reason, if I’m having a problem with a company, I will try to escalate that problem to someone who can deal with it rather than taking my frustration out on someone who does not control policy.

    Anyway, it was nice to see this post today; I try to make a point of highlighting when I’ve had good service because I think everybody needs to know they’ve made a difference at work…

  8. I went to the customer service desk at my grocery store once and asked about contacting a cashier’s supervisor so I could tell them what a good job she did. The customer service person immediately wrote down a phone number for corporate and said I could call them 9-5, Monday through Friday. It took a while to reach the Department of Rare Praise, and the guy I talked to seemed genuinely taken aback that I was calling with a compliment rather than a complaint, but I’m glad I did it.

    Anyway, my point is that depending on the organization, you might have to spend a bit more time than expected to make sure your compliments go to the right place, especially if you have to go through people who aren’t on the ground, as it were. I’m glad I did though. Cashiers at my grocery store who get positive feedback get a free lunch from the company and some swag. Totally worth navigating that phone menu to hopefully brighten that cashier’s day.

  9. I am usually wanting to thank people I work with closely, so if your have their email and their bosses’ email, I personally like to send an email and CC boss with a short and sweet thank you with at least one specific example project, etc. to point to.

    And yes, when you fill out surveys, if you had a positive experience, just rate everything 5 or whatever the top rating is, even if well maybe it was technically a 4. The top rating is generally the only thing counted as a positive rating.

  10. I had a job in the summer, during college, that meant a lot to my career hopes. A customer wrote a letter out of the blue to the director to say what a good job I had done. Besides how nice it made me feel, the director was impressed, wrote me a good recommendation, and years later when I ran into them, they remembered me and offered a favor. Unsolicited positive feedback can be a valuable, tangible, long lasting good, so thanks to everyone who does it!

  11. Former Disney World cast member here. PLEASE send in your positive compliments to our social media; we have a great team and it gets updated regularly. Each park also has an in-person Guest Relations that serves the same purpose. My particular department had a running competition where for every time a guest mentioned you on social media, you earned a point toward certain rewards like being able to choose your assignments for the day (it’s random and computerized otherwise but can be overwritten by a manager if truly necessary) and it was also a real confidence booster! But having those guest comments in your ‘file’ is also, IIRC, something that they take note of when making decisions about promotions.

    1. I was just going to come in and say this! At Disneyland, guest relations is located in “City Hall” and I believe at DCA it’s located at the locker rental but I could be wrong about that one. Not every department has little bonuses like Chris’s, but they are definitely used in people’s annual reviews/consideration for promotion.

    2. We just got back from Disney and I made it a point to try and remember names of cast members who were particularly helpful so I could tweet a cast compliment at the proper twitter account.

      Being aware that that was a thing I could do mad me even more on the look-out for little moments of kindness or jobs well-done. (My favorite is still the cast member who recognized our Disneybound outfits and took pictures of us)

  12. I had a corporate representative from Enterprise (rental car agency) call me after I’d given a glowing review to their Dallas-Love Field location (through an internal/company review system). So don’t be surprised if that happens after you give praise where it’s due; the corporate representative seemed fairly pleased/surprised that someone had bothered to contact the company about people doing their jobs particularly well.

    I think it’s not only a kindness to the people who helped you out but also to the employees who have to deal with customer feedback, because so often they’re dealing with angry people who are dissatisfied with [Whatever], and I have to imagine it felt pretty nice to call a customer who was absolutely thrilled with their company, service, and employees.

  13. I ask to speak to their supervisor in these terms:

    Thank you so much Person. I’d like to make sure Employer knows what a great job doing. Typically I would tell your supervisor how well you perform. If there is another method you prefer, or that will reward you better, I’ll do that too.

    Most of the time Person connects me to their supervisor or, if I’m in a store, calls their supervisor over. Sometimes one or both of them asks me to fill out a survey.

  14. There are a lot of jobs where people see you during a crisis but never see that crisis through to a happy resolution — urgent care/ER staff, criminal defense lawyers, child protection workers, university therapists. These jobs are often thankless because they’re about starting the process of recovery from a problem, and then they hand you off to someone else. So if someone like that has made a difference to you in a crisis, and years later you’re thankful, please drop them a line. Email that special professor or that veterinarian or whoever. They may not have traditional customer feedback options, but an email or physical letter can go in their file anyway, and what’s more important to someone in one of these roles is just knowing that their work isn’t in vain.

    1. You know who always hears the start of the crisis, but never the end? Emergency operators.

      1. And privacy laws mean we can’t follow up on a patient after we hand them over to the ER.

    2. Yep. “Hi, you wouldn’t remember us, but you were the person who explained how to develop a plan together for when we’d try each life support intervention and when we’d let our infant die on their own, and we just wanted to say we remember how caring and how direct you made that conversation, and also both kids made it.” He didn’t remember us, but he appreciated it.

  15. Here’s an email I sent a couple of weeks ago after completing a months-long project of moving our telecom to a new provider. I asked the rep for their manager’s contact info so I could let them know what a great job they did.

    Hi ,

    I just wanted to make sure you know how great is. He was there for every step of our move from to . He always had, or could find, the answers, was always available and great to work with. I appreciate everything he did to make the transition as smooth as possible and would absolutely recommend working with because of what a wonderful job he did on our project.


  16. Even if you’re not a Big Deal, a paper letter can really stand out. I’m a copy editor for a university press, and an author once wrote me a thank-you card for the work I’d done on his book, and mailed it to my supervisor with a note saying “could you please pass this on to Grace in your department”. I’m sure he did it that way in order to make sure my supervisor saw it, and I thought it was such a kind thing for him to do.

  17. Is the person you wish to praise on LinkedIn? Connect with them if you already haven’t, and submit a recommendation. Note this is different from the “endorsements” – take the time to draft a two-paragraph description of why that person is awesome at their job in a way that showcases their professional skills. Be specific enough that others reading it can tell this is a legitimate recommendation. I’ve done this a couple of times, and was taken aback by how pleasantly shocked the recipients were.

    If they are truly stellar, you could offer to serve as a reference—as a professional contact—if ever they’re looking to move up/move on (expressing this via personal e-mail, phone, in person, LinkedIn message, NOT their work e-mail).

    Are there any industry awards you can take the time to nominate that person for, or provide a supporting letter (some industry awards require 3 or so letters of support for that person’s nomination)?

  18. There’s also indirect social media, for example leaving a great review on Trip Advisor or similar sites. I’m always very happy to mention on there when a restaurant or hotel doesn’t come up to scratch, and I don’t mince my words, so I also take the trouble to give favourable write-ups to people or organisations that go the extra mile and make life more bearable. Admittedly there are some jobs/professions where it’s not so straightforward to leave feedback in the public arena, but where it’s available it’s a good way of sharing the love.

    [Incidentally I left a glowing comment online about a particular branch of Favourite Coffee Chain where we’d had excellent service, and found out later that it had been mentioned at the monthly Management Review – so even really big companies *do* take notice of their feedback!]

    1. I called Home Depot for something and then called BACK to speak to a manager to give positive feedback (he wasn’t available when I first asked), and the manager told me he was so surprised and pleased, and said that he was going to make a point of sharing my comments to the whole team as well, because it would motivate the other folks too, not just the specific person.

  19. I work around a lot of government and when something goes well I locate the person’s supervisor and email them. It works out great; the stifling bureaucracy likes it and I tend to continue to get good service. I have also done letters, also with good results.

  20. After I fixed a customer’s problem today, he emailed our customer-facing distribution list and said that I am an asset to my company. My boss is on that distribution list. I think I will stop glowing in another day or two. 🙂

  21. Thank your librarian, meter reader, and postal worker too, if they deserve it. Lots of people toil in relative obscurity and get plenty of flack, but few warm fuzzies.

  22. I have sent messages using the regular online contact forms for a company before, and got a response letting me know it was forwarded to the right people.

    If it’s a big company though be really specific – name of the person, what location they were at, the day or shift if you recall, etc, and specifically request that your compliment be passed on to that person’s manager.

  23. Please don’t leave public social media comments with names and locations without permission, especially if your person doesn’t have a common sounding name. That would be boundary crossing for me. Otherwise, these are great suggestions.

  24. Re: those ridiculous surveys – please, PLEASE, if you liked your service AT ALL fill them out and don’t worry about all 5s or all 10s looking “fake” – where I worked, an 8 was considered “neutral” and would bring down your score. And that score was life and death to my team. So again, it does mean the world to hear nice things but if you say “service was great” and give an 8, those people are going to be very unhappy haha.

  25. I work for A Major Corporation, and when a customer mentions an employee by name in a review, that employee is featured in our quarterly newsletter.

    If you work for a big company, don’t forget to compliment your fellow employees in other departments when they go above and beyond.
    To do my job, I often have to ask people all across the country to be my “boots on the ground.” They already have plenty to do without dealing with my questions (“Can you go out front and measure how tall the sign is?”), so I make a point of emailing their supervisors. I copy the employee so they can keep it and bring it out at annual review time.

  26. Lots of people complain. I complain, so I figure I should also compliment. For a phone interaction I do what Eye said (first comment) almost to the word.

    When someone is really great in person, I talk directly to the manager – first choice is in person, next is by phone – its helpful to have that direct connection. If that isn’t available, I go with email or feedback form. I have no idea if it makes a difference in their career (I doubt it), but it seems to make the employee and the manager happy.

    We can all use that.

    In professional situations, I usually both thank the employee of the other organization and mention how wonderful the person is when talking to their superior.

    What a lovely question! Yay to the questioner and everyone else making people’s happier.

  27. I do social media for a healthcare organization, and I love it when I get to share compliments instead of complaints with our teams! We share the generic ones about how this is the only hospital/doctor you’ll ever use, but the ones that name people or even just identify people by their job (“The triage nurse in the ER on Saturday night” type of thing) if you forget their name can really help. All compliments get passed on and it puts all of us — could easily be more than half a dozen people — in a better mood when we get to share or receive those emails.

  28. At a previous job we had a mailroom that was staffed by external vendors from another company. On one occasion I had to make a genuinely massive, time-sensitive, extremely important international shipment and the mailroom people from my building spent HOURS of their day helping me fill out the absurdly detailed customs forms properly, including looking up specific tariff numbers for everything on my manifest. It was tedious and awful and as I hadn’t realized the paperwork was quite so complicated ahead of time, my project would have been sunk without their help.

    So I found out who their manager was and sent the manager an email with my two new mailroom buddies copied about what a wonderful job they had done helping me with this critical project, how I could not have done it without their help, and how much I and my Kind Of A Big Deal department head appreciated their efforts.

    That sort of thing tends to come up in people’s annual reviews, at least where I worked, and was absolutely worth doing.

    They weren’t technically allowed to accept gifts from us but I arranged to have too many donuts one day and begged them to take some off my hands so I didn’t have to lug them all home with me, as was the generally accepted way of thanking them.

  29. If you’re stuck on how to convey thanks upstream (or feeling so awkward about it you’re going to end up not doing it), conveying the thanks directly to the person by email (so it’s on record) may well also do the trick.

    Just be specific, so it’s clear it’s an above-and-beyond thanks, not a routine “Thanks!” in response to a routine email.

    In my workplace, where client thanks are gold come performance review time, we are under strict instructions to forward all client thanks we receive to our managers. (It feels weird doing this – like “Look at me, I’m a good girl!” – but it’s how you get a perfect performance review.)


    1. If I only have contact info for the person I’ve been working with and no way of figuring out who their boss might be, I’ll write the note that I *would* send to a higher-up (just directed at “you” vs. “your employee”) and then explicitly say something like “I hope you pass this along to your manager so they know how great you are!” Not everyone is trained to share positive feedback, or feel comfortable doing it, so I figure that might make it easier.

      Also, on the employee side of this–one of my most repeated pieces of advice (reappearing soon in my next column!) is to collect and save all those nice emails you receive. They can be mood lifters, evidence for promotion arguments, reminders of folks who might serve as references, and any number of other useful things.

  30. Send the person a personal note if you know how to reach them. I work in public service and 99.9% of people I deal with believe me to be “one of those lazy government employees.” So when I get a nice note of thanks from that .01% of the citizenry who are grateful it makes my year. I keep that letter posted on my pegboard for YEARS to reread when I have a bad-citizen-interaction day. Also, send a note to the HR department or management. I know for a fact that two positive letters I sent resulted in raises for the people I sent them about.

  31. I will also add that it can be a good idea as well to provide kudos to your own co-workers. You have the advantage of avoiding pitfalls like the Captain mentioned (saying they did something amazing that is actually against company policy for example), and of knowing what your bosses really appreciate. Plus if you work in an industry with little appreciation (customer service, IRS, bill collecting, whatever), people may well be so upset by the time they get to you that they can’t appreciate your positive qualities and good service… but your co-workers can see it.

    YMMV with this following bit, but at my workplace we have a list of specific things we are rated on, so I try to hit on those if I’m sending a message to a supervisor about another employee’s work. For example, let’s say that efficiency is one of the things we’re rated on. I might say,. “[Colleague’s] prompt efficiency in meeting all of his/her deadlines enabled us to finish this project on time and [modest amt] under budget.” Or if we’re rating on handling difficult customers with tact I could say, “[Colleague] had an incredibly difficult customer this morning who was upset because of a broken [widget], but [Colleague] helped the customer with diplomacy and tact until the problem was resolved. I was truly impressed.” Those sound a bit artificial since I’m not using actual examples, but the point is that you mention whatever it is that the other person did coached in the language that supervisors are looking for so that you have a better chance of helping them out.

  32. In my line of work (health care), sometimes a handwritten card from a patient arrives, thanking a particular person for their help/friendliness/engagement in a difficult situation. It is very appreciated.

  33. I’m a museum docent, and was very gratified when my boss forwarded me an email from a then-recent visitor praising the service they and their family had gotten from two docents, one of whom was clearly me. The other described docent also got the email. I’m not sure if the email was originally sent to our boss (the Museum Education Manager) or someone else, but it reached us. So that can be a good method at some organizations.

  34. If it’s possible to send something written directly to the person you want to thank, that can be really helpful for them come performance evaluation time. They’ll have documented proof of good performance, which can improve their chances of getting a raise or a promotion. The evaluation process I know best begins with a “self assessment,” where essentially I have to make the argument that I’m a terrific employee. Quotes from happy customers about how awesome I am help with that.

    Ideally, I’d hope that glowing comments about a particular person sent to a main mailbox or via feedback forms get forwarded to that person so they have access to it. But some managers are horrid and withhold that kind of praise, so I like to send it directly when I can. I’ve used the approach of e-mailing their manager and cc’ing the awesome person. Obviously, that only works if you have access to those addresses.

  35. I manage a general contact box, and can confirm, the emails that say “thanks for being awesome” (which are never directed to me, personally, but my organization as a whole) vastly outweigh the more frequent ones complaining about something.

    I also once tweeted a grocery store about a VERY excellent cashier they had and to keep him forever. They did respond, and I hope they passed that on to him (I would be more inclined to find their email or website these days, at the time I was trying to be a twitter user and wanted to capture my positive experience before I got home, when I almost certainly would have forgotten).

  36. I wish people would actually give comments about me. I keep hearing about how great I am from customers, but if they tell a manager or corporate, I get a little thing to put on my nametag. (I work at a craft store and I always do my best to help people with their questions, it’s just frustrating to hear or but not have it “official”.)

    1. I think it’s totally fine to cheerfully mention that to customers if they compliment you on your service!

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