How to Write Great Thanksgiving Letters to Employees

Thanksgiving is one of the biggest holidays on the calendar for many American and Canadian workers. Although the countries have their celebrations at different times, both are similar and include rest, time off from work, family and good food.


Sending a positive Thanksgiving message to employees is an effective way to connect with the people who work for you. A Thanksgiving message also offers a way to keep in touch with colleagues at other companies with whom you may not interact regularly. Even a brief note expressing warm holiday wishes can improve the sense of community among workers at your company, boost morale and encourage the teamwork that makes businesses effective. 


Before you write a happy Thanksgiving message to employees, it’s helpful to put some thought into how to do it right. When you write a note to coworkers, colleagues or employees, you want it to be received in a positive, friendly tone. It’s also important to maintain the appropriate boundaries, no matter how warm the content is toward your closest associates. Business letters, however festive, aren’t the same as notes written to personal friends and loved ones, and the diversity of modern workplaces can make mass holiday communications tricky at times. 


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Benefits of Thanksgiving letters to employees

Thanksgiving letters to employees aren’t absolutely necessary for a business, but the benefits they bring make them worth considering. In addition to the general positivity that holiday greetings help create, well-written Thanksgiving letters give you an opportunity to recap some of the good news the company has had over the year. Writing Thanksgiving letters is also a chance to make contact with employees on a personal level that falls well within the healthy boundaries of a professional relationship. Thanksgiving is particularly well suited to this kind of message, since the holiday lends itself to almost every level of familiarity, from the purely secular messages of goodwill to respectfully religious messages of thanks among coworkers you know well.


Elements of a good Thanksgiving message to employees

Even though Thanksgiving messages at work lend themselves to many approaches, there are a few elements that all holiday greetings should have in common. First, your message should be brief. The point of a professional Thanksgiving message is to let employees know they’re in your thoughts, and overly long messages can dilute the effect you’re going for. Second, Thanksgiving letters should name the occasion, and address the recipient by name. Even if you’re sending a message to everyone at your company, it will always mean more to someone to see their own name at the top of a personal communication, rather than the generic “To: All Employees.”


It’s helpful to open with your best wishes to the recipient, include whatever good news is current, and above all keep the message positive. Your company’s Thanksgiving message is no time to break bad news or reinforce the company’s rules, as you might in a company-wide memo. Instead, remember that your workers are probably on their way home for a vacation, and try to send them off in an upbeat mood. You might consider including a note about your own plans for the holiday, and close by wishing the recipients well no matter how they spend their long weekend.


Sensitive issues to watch out for

In the past, there was hardly a need to consider different sensibilities when sending a Thanksgiving message to employees. Thanksgiving, as it’s observed in the United States and Canada, is a public holiday with strong Christian roots. In a workplace where all or nearly all of the workers adhere to this tradition, it can seem odd if your letter doesn’t at least mention faith and prayer. In a larger or more diverse office, however, people of different backgrounds may find such messaging off-putting or at least less impactful than you hoped. While you probably mean well, opening your letter with a prayer or detailing the meaning of the holiday in your family’s church can strike the wrong chord among non-Christian employees and even Christians who prefer to keep their religious practice out of the office. 


Religious differences aren’t the only sensibilities to consider in your letter. While it’s unlikely that non-Americans will be offended by getting a Thanksgiving letter from you, they may not be familiar with the holiday, and a greeting that’s out of the ordinary could take them by surprise. Consider doing a bit of exposition about the tradition of the holiday if you have a large number of employees from places where Thanksgiving isn’t observed.


Finally, remember that every person who gets your letter is an individual who has a life of their own, which may be very different from yours. Most people find talk of home, hearth and a loving family heartwarming, but a single or childless employee could have a hard time connecting with a message that goes on unduly long about such things. If this is a sensitive subject for someone in your office, such as a parent who’s recently lost a child, it can be hard to predict how they will feel reading a glowing portrait of your own home life. There isn’t a single best approach to this, but it never hurts to keep the diversity of religion, culture and personal circumstances in mind while writing your Thanksgiving letter to employees. 


Examples of effective Thanksgiving wishes to employees and colleagues

Status is another consideration for your letter. The message you send is naturally going to be different in a small business where you’re all old friends, versus the message in a large corporate environment where relationships are strictly professional. Your message is also likely to differ based on your relationship with the recipients. For example, the letter an HR manager sends out is probably going to be somewhat different from what the CEO sends, and a team leader can send a more personal note to half a dozen immediate subordinates than an office manager can to a company’s 1,200 employees. These examples may help you get a feel for the kind of letters that are typical and appropriate for various business relationships.


Thanksgiving message from boss to employees

Company owners and senior management tend to send messages to larger teams than lower-level staff do. Thus, it’s probably okay to make this kind of letter less personal, more formal and somewhat general in its approach:


Dear [Name of Individual Employee]:


Happy Thanksgiving, and congratulations on another great year at [Name of Company]!


With the holiday season upon us, I’d like to personally thank you for helping us celebrate another successful year in business. It’s customary in this season to take a moment and reflect on all the blessings we have that make our lives as good as they are. My own thoughts are on family, mine as well as yours, and the extended family we form together at our work.


I hope you enjoy your time away over the holiday weekend, and that you come back with stories to share about the great time you had with the people closest to you.


Warmest Regards,


[Your Name]


Thanksgiving message from a junior employee to a supervisor or executive

Thanksgiving letters don’t just go out to lower-level employees. It’s usually appropriate to send a message up the chain, wishing the higher-ups a happy holiday as well. For messages like these, the right tone to strike is respectful and professional, but careful not to be exaggeratedly deferential or flattering.


Dear Mr./Mrs./Ms. [Name of Manager]:


Happy Thanksgiving, and thank you for another great year!


As the whole team heads out for the holiday, I thought I’d write just a short note to let you know that you and the rest of the leadership team are in my and my family’s thoughts/prayers this Thanksgiving season. While we take time to think about all the good things we enjoy together, I want you to know that my work at [Name of Company] is one of the things I am most thankful for.


I hope your holiday is as pleasant and thankful as my own will be, and also that you spare a minute to reflect on what our company and our work means to all of our team and their families at home. Thank you for all that you do.


As always,


Best Holiday Wishes!


[Your Name]


Thanksgiving message between coworkers

Peers or near-peers who work at about the same level of seniority can be more casual in their Thanksgiving messages since no major hierarchy issues exist between them and the boundaries are less pronounced. In this case, the balance of your letter will vary based mainly on the closeness of your relationship with the recipient, rather than their job at the company. Below is an example of a more formal peer-to-peer Thanksgiving letter:


Dear [Name of Peer]:


Happy Thanksgiving, and thank you for a great year working together!


As we wrap up for the long holiday weekend, I wanted to reach out to you on a personal level to let you know how much I appreciate you as a coworker. It’s good to know I can always rely on you to do a great job with your team/on our projects/around the office. 


This time of year, we turn our thoughts to family, friends and the good things we all share. I just want you to know that your hard work is one of the things I and my team appreciate throughout the year.


Warmest Holiday Regards,


[Your Name]


Thanksgiving message to a colleague working elsewhere

Sending a Thanksgiving message can be a great way to stay in touch with former coworkers who’ve moved on to other workplaces, as well as to renew connections with professionals in your field whom you’ve never worked with but may know from training or a professional event. These letters should generally stay away from giving too much detail about your company’s internal affairs, but a high-level overview of the positive news can strike a good note and help remind the recipient of who you are, where you work and where they may know you from:


Dear [Name of Colleague]:


Happy Thanksgiving!


Ever since we met at [Name of Event/Training Class/Company You Worked at Together], you’ve been in my thoughts, and I want to take this holiday season to reconnect and wish you well. In the Thanksgiving season, my family and I try to remember the many people we’ve met over the years who have had an effect on our lives. While you may not realize the positive impact you’ve had on others, you’re certainly in my thoughts and prayers this season.


Hoping you and your loved ones have the very best of the season,


[Your Name and possibly contact information]


Sending a Thanksgiving message in a professional setting

As you write your Thanksgiving greetings this holiday season, you should strive to convey warmth, positivity and friendship in a professional and businesslike manner. This can be a tricky balancing act, but with a little forethought, your Thanksgiving message to employees and others can strike the right tone and strengthen the professional relationships you’ve worked to create over the years.


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