Ask Miriam | It’s Not Too Late to Rectify a Forgotten Thank You

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flowers with an attached thank you note
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Dear Miriam,

Back in May, a colleague at a satellite office helped me arrange a meeting in her space. She went above and beyond my expectations and helped the day go smoothly in all the best ways. After the meeting, I made a list of all the things I needed to do as follow up, including thanking her. Well, I just found that list again, and “thank Barbara” isn’t checked off. Before finding the physical list, I was sure I’d written her a note, but now I can’t trust my own memory. What should I do?

Signed,

Grateful But Forgetful

Dear Grateful,

For her sake and, even more so, your own, you need to thank her now. Whether this ends up being an additional thank you doesn’t matter, and you’ll probably never know, but since there’s any doubt in your mind, you need to clear this up.

You don’t want to send a repeat of a handwritten note saying that same thing as last time, if there was a last time and, frankly, it sounds like for all she did for you, a handwritten note may have been insufficient anyway. The protocol for such things likely depends on office culture, so don’t do anything extravagant or out of line with appropriate expectations, and certainly there’s no need to let on that you’re feeling guilty for waiting so long.

Send her flowers or a fruit basket or cookies — anything that can be easily delivered without seeming ostentatious — and include a note that says, “Thanks for being such a dependable colleague from afar,” or, “With much appreciation and best wishes for a great fall,” or “Happy end of summer, and many thanks,” or some combination thereof. If you previously sent a note, this is still a nice touch and shows you getting things in order now that the summer is over. If you didn’t send anything in the spring, this is appropriately conciliatory for waiting so long.

In addition, depending on the hierarchy within your workplace, if Barbara has a supervisor or if there’s someone in HR who records employee compliments, reach out to say what a great support she was in May. Compliments never expire, and her higher ups would likely want to hear what an excellent job she did in helping out a colleague. It will also make you look good for being thoughtful and conscientious.

Finally, though you didn’t ask about this specifically, allow me to tell you: You need a better system for your to-do list. There should never be a question of whether you complete one of the items that you need to get done. There are dozens of programs, apps and methodologies for recording tasks, so ask around among your seemingly highly competent colleagues and find out what works best for people in your field. Then thank them promptly for their recommendations.

Be well,

Miriam

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