When someone you know or work with receives a promotion, taking the time to send a thoughtful congratulatory message is important. On the other side of the token, if you receive a promotion, you should take the time to show your gratitude by thanking your boss. In this post, we’ll dig into promotion etiquette, including how to congratulate someone on a promotion and how to thank someone for a promotion.
Before you congratulate anyone on a promotion, consider their communication preferences. Someone more timid and humble might not appreciate being centered out in front of others, even if it’s for praise. Be mindful that not everyone likes the spotlight.
If you are congratulating a colleague, you may know more about their personal communication preferences based on past team building exercises. Personality tests such as DiSC, The Big Five, or Enneagrams give you an inside look at how your colleagues prefer to communicate.
Even without personality tests, there’s quite a lot you can glean based on your colleagues’ communication tendencies. How does your colleague engage with you in person? When you send an email, do they often call you back by phone? If you’ve never spoken to them on the phone, they may dislike that form of communication, or even suffer from phone phobia. Consider how your colleague would prefer to receive a congratulatory message instead of reverting to your own personal preferences.
A lack of honesty or authenticity in your congratulations will be noticed. Don’t overdo your message and be sincere in your congratulations. Overpraise may come across as disingenuous, especially if you don’t often communicate with your promoted colleague.
If you don’t think they are the best choice for the promotion, don’t say that you think they are. Instead, focus on what you can say honestly. What do they do well and what will they be able to offer this position?
Ensure your congratulatory message has nothing to do with you. If you are sour about not getting it yourself, don’t let that show through your message. If you stand to gain from their promotion, don’t use the congratulations as a means to help yourself advance.
Keep your congratulatory message simple and straightforward, with no mention of yourself. This isn’t an opportunity to network, and it’s not the time to ask for favors.
If you congratulate someone in person, be mindful of the others around you. Be courteous of other people’s wishes for promotions—onlooking coworkers may feel disappointed about not getting it themselves. You never know how other people around you are feeling about the promotion, so whenever possible, aim to congratulate your colleague privately.
Congratulating a friend on a promotion can be less formal, but your congratulations should still be genuine. Even with trusted friends, it’s important to always consider how they prefer to communicate. Don’t call them if they would prefer to receive an email or text message. If you know they value face-to-face interactions, take the time to congratulate them in person.
Put effort into giving a personal congratulations that doesn’t come across as generic or superficial. Be specific. Why do you think they deserve the promotion? What specific traits or attributes will they bring to the position? Depending on your relationship, you may want to suggest a way of celebrating, either with their favorite coffee, drink, or treat
A colleague's congratulatory message should be professional and sincere. Sending congratulations to a colleague for promotions or other job successes shows your support—just so long as you are genuine.
Avoid calling out the promotion in front of other colleagues; if nearby coworkers were also hoping to get the promotion, it could further their resentment. You also don’t want to center someone out if they don’t like receiving attention in public settings. Choose to message them directly by email, Slack, or phone, depending on how they usually communicate with you. If you do it in person, take them aside to congratulate them privately.
When congratulating a boss or manager, ensure you keep yourself out of it. Don’t ask for anything, and don’t use it as an opportunity to get ahead. Keep any potential benefit to yourself far away from your congratulatory message.
Your message is not a networking opportunity or a chance to ask for favors. Focus on their success and what they will bring to the job. If you’ve worked with them personally, you can be more specific about the strengths they have to offer. Just be sure you don’t go overboard giving praise that could come across as insincere.
After you receive a promotion, say thank you to show your appreciation. Your boss doesn’t have a lot of extra time, so keep your thank you message simple and to the point. Personalize your message with something specific about the opportunity. You could mention what you are looking forward to most or what you hope to bring to the position. Remain humble, sincere, and respectful.
Consider how you should communicate with your boss before jumping to your most comfortable method of communication. How do they prefer to communicate, and what would be the most effective use of their time? If you know they prefer to speak by phone, give them a call. If you usually communicate by email, thank them that way.
Sending a thank you message by email is quick and easy, plus it won’t take up much time in your boss’s busy schedule. An email is casual while still being a little more formal than a text or direct Slack message. Send your email as soon as possible, but take the time you need to craft a meaningful message that has been edited and reviewed multiple times. When thanking your boss or manager by email, ensure you take extra care editing your message. Typos and grammar mistakes won’t look good after they have just decided to promote you. Use a spellcheck tool, such as Grammarly, and have someone who isn’t a colleague read it over if possible.
If you know your boss isn’t good with emails or they receive far too many, a printed letter may ensure they receive your message. Get your thank you letter to them as soon as possible. Take a day or two to collect your thoughts, but not much longer. Check and double check your letter before printing it, and if possible, have a family member or friend read it over to ensure there are no small typos or grammar mistakes. If you are leaving it for them in an open mailbox or on their desk, put it in an envelope first so that no one else stumbles upon your letter before your boss gets to it.
If you choose to thank your boss for a promotion in person, ensure you do it in private. Your colleagues don’t need to hear you talk about your promotion in front of them, and you shouldn’t put your boss on the spot in front of others. Only thank your boss in person if you believe this is how they would prefer to communicate with you. They are likely very busy, and setting a meeting with them just for a thank you isn't a good use of their time.
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