In my non-work time (yes, Virginia, there can be work-life balance), I came across an article that triggered an idea I felt was worth sharing. It’s the notion of what is referred to as “penny poking” – where individuals send small amounts of money to friends, family, co-workers, etc. as a simple act of gratitude or kindness.

During a recently published PayPal (the owner of Venmo) Friendship and Money StudyKoski Research found that of the 1,000 Americans, aged 18-55, who participated, 40% of them send these ‘penny pokes’. Many times, these payments are for things that would otherwise not have been paid or have a price or value attached to them, such as advice, encouragement, companionship, support, and so on.

In this fast-paced world, many of the conversations with our colleagues and clients we service – or even friends and family -seem to be around needing or wanting something: paperwork, meetings, emails, documentation…the list goes on. How often are you stopping – even for a few minutes – to show gratitude to one another for the time, effort, and sacrifices they’ve given to help make you successful?

Now, you may not be able – either financially or operationally – to send actual pennies of thanks, but the currency of gratitude is free, and can have a wonderfully fulfilling and reciprocal effect. From a business (and personal) perspective, social media or SMS is commonly used to broadcast a new service offering, event, or other marketing content. But what if – occasionally – you used it to simply say “thank you, you’re appreciated”? This isn’t in response to them doing anything for you, but merely to send a shout-out of grateful goodness. Yes, you may already send out birthday cards. text messages, or emails to them. I’m talking about a personal and individually-directed acknowledgement of appreciation, when the recipient is not expecting it. A couple minutes a day spent to recognize those who have helped you succeed and grow can save hours or days of business and personal relationship development down the road.

When deciding how and for what reason, take a cue from PayPal’s study by starting with these two simple (but impactful) questions:

  • Which … things do you appreciate most about your [colleagues, clients, or employees] and feel you owe them for?
  • If money were no object, what dollar amount would you place on things [colleagues, clients, or employees] might have done for you?

These small gestures of gratitude – whether a ‘penny poke’ or simply a kind word – can create not only a more positive outlook in your personal life, but may lead to a virtuous cycle of success in your professional career, since those small ‘pennies’ of gratitude can grow and compound into new leads, opportunities, and sales.

And for those of you who are worried about millennials and Gen Z, don’t be. According to the study, they seem to be some of the most generous with these small “pokes” of gratitude. I think we’re all going to be alright. So, take a cue from “the kids” and go forth and be thankful!


What ways have you shown gratitude to your colleagues and clients? I’d love to hear your ideas in the comments below!

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