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Colleagues clinking glasses

When was the last time you hit a significant milestone at work and did something to celebrate? Or simply celebrated the fact that you’d made it through another day on a difficult project?

I don’t think we do that enough, so here are 15 ways that you can celebrate success at work with your team.

1. Meal out

This works well on teams with fewer than 20 people in my experience. A meal out with 150 work colleagues (although I have attended a couple of those) turns into a big event where you only sit with and talk to your friends.

The host doesn’t get round to chat to everyone and it kind of defeats the object of a personalized thank you. Also, it’s fiendishly expensive to take people out for dinner these days. However, for small teams it can work well.

2. Drinks out

Drinks out cost less than a meal and work better when there are large groups of people involved. On one project we hired a private area in a pub and they catered with bar snacks too. We actually got a lot more food than we expected, which was great.

We chose a pub near the office so people could get their easily – it was a five minute walk. I thought that was important as often people are in a rush to get home from work and I know I wouldn’t be prepared to take too much time out of my home life to hang out with people I already spend the best part of my day with.

On one project we had too many people involved to take them out for drinks so we bulk bought bottles of wine (and some soft drinks too) from the local cash and carry. Then we made personalized gift vouchers. You can read more about this attempt at thanking people on a budget here and find out why it didn’t work out so well .

3. Say ‘Thank you!’

It costs nothing to say thank you, and it’s my belief that you should do so as often as possible. You can never appreciate people too much. And you don’t have to wait for a significant milestone to do so. Just say it whenever.

You can also email a thank you message. Some people will appreciate this more as they can file it away for their end of year review more easily than if you had just said it.

4. Time off

If it’s within your power, offering time off works well. If your team have had to put in a lot of unrecognized overtime to get to the point where you are now celebrating success, then try to recognize that by giving it back to them as time off in lieu.

5. A letter from your sponsor

Many people like to know that those higher up have recognized their efforts and appreciate them. I once got our CEO to write letters of thanks to a large team who were instrumental in getting one project to the next significant milestone.

It meant a lot to people to know that he was aware of what the team had achieved.

6. Gift vouchers

Gift vouchers can work well and can equally fall flat. I once got some vouchers for a shop that was miles away and inconvenient to get to. Not a great gift.

However, many vouchers today can be used online as well as in real stores. Gift vouchers can be a bit of a cop out but they are good on large teams and let people choose a thank you present for themselves.

7. Company scheme

If your company runs a staff recognition scheme then use it! Many companies have schemes that offer small gifts to individuals and teams based on their contribution to business success. If it comes with a certificate then that’s even better.

8. Supplier gifts

Back in the days before the recession hit, suppliers often had a lot of free samples to give away. You might be working on a project with a vendor who still has got a budget for giveaways.

I once bought gift bags (and didn’t charge them to the project budget, in case you were wondering) and then commandeered the best freebies I could from a range of vendors. We got umbrellas, USB keys, nice pens and I can’t remember what else. Then I filled a bag each for the team.

I have no idea if they appreciated a bag of what was effectively free stuff but I still use my free umbrella.

If a supplier helped you get to this point, there’s no harm in asking them if they will contribute to something to help celebrate the success achieved.

Celebrate success quote

9. Gift from you

If you can’t get the money from your company or a supplier for a gift, and (importantly) you can afford it, think about giving your dedicated team members something from yourself.

I have bought my team gifts before: again, bottles of wine. I chose wine from the year that they started on the project – it was a project that ran for several years and we had worked together closely over that time.

10. Bowling/Games

Ask my team what they don’t want to do and they’ll say bowling. But it works for many teams, and I don’t mind it myself. It’s a fun, not too expensive way of marking the end of a project or a successful completion.

Plus, games like bowling have the added benefit of competition. We bought cheap ‘medals’ and a little trophy so everyone on the winning team could have a souvenir to take home and the triumphant winners could put the trophy in their office area.

Try this: An office or WFH scavenger hunt .

11. Picnic

I think this has only ever worked for me once, on a team away day and we were doing it as a team building exercise rather than an end-of-project celebration. Still, it is something to consider, and quite cheap if everyone brings a dish.

We played outdoor games too, like rounders and frisbee.

12. Coffee card

I wish people celebrated my successes by giving me a gift card for Pret! I’d even take Starbucks.

If picking up a coffee on the way to work is part of the fabric of your team then this would be a welcome small treat. You don’t need to load it with much money for it to be worth a couple of coffees.

13. Comedy club (or theater)

A bigger, but less food-orientated outing is to take your team to a comedy club. When we did this (it was a team Christmas outing rather than a celebration) it was a great night. Some of the acts fell flat, but others were fantastic. We created a shared experience too so it doubled as a team-building event.

If comedy isn’t for you, think about a trip to the theater or even a ghost walk (or other guided walk) around your local area.

14. A book

Why not thank you team for a job well done by buying them a book? How about this excellent book, Shortcuts to Success to help them manage their work better? Oh yes, I wrote that!

15. Ask them

If you don’t instinctively know what your team would like from this list – or you can’t tell if they would like any of them, then you don’t know your team very well. That’s OK, it happens. Especially on big teams.

The best way to find out how people would like to be thanked is to ask them.

Yes, it takes away some of the spontaneity but in my experience people would much rather get something they want than something they don’t value. Most individuals will appreciate the fact that you care enough to thank them in a way that is meaningful to them.

Which of these have you tried?

How to celebrate success at work

More ideas!

Team Engagement Tactics


Step-by-step instruction guide and training videos on two different ways to engage and have fun with your team! Learn how to create an interactive team map AND how to set up an online countdown calendar.

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