Most everyone likes to be thanked with flowers, but why not get creative with it?

For example, Dave Baldwin, manager of management development training for Abbott Laboratories, Abbott Park, Ill., tells how he gave a bouquet of flowers held together with a watch to an associate who delayed her vacation when the department needed her. The employee wears the watch as a badge of honor to this day.

In another instance, a student nurse volunteered to handle a class emergency. When she returned, she was greeted with a single flower wrapped with a flexible bracelet and the words: “By the end of the day you'll know what this means.” During the seminar, the nurse blurted out “I was flexible” when she realized the twistable adornment's significance. The class cheered.

Make It Personal

We need to stop using formal, impersonal reward systems, which are generally ineffective. Instead, we should identify and reinforce specific behaviors we want from employees. “We need to put responsibility for recognition and rewards back in the hands of managers,” he says. In the process, more immediate personal reinforcers will help to make the workplace more fun and effective.

Baldwin's company recently honored the employee who set up an off-site management meeting by having each senior executive give the employee a flower at the beginning of the event with a personalized word of thanks. The employee had received flowers before for organizing such events, but she said the personalized thanks made this the most meaningful.

Often the personal touch gives a reward the most impact. When my wife worked for Hewlett-Packard, she was honored with a personal appreciation day. Her co-workers divided the day into 10-minute increments, during which someone would present Jennifer with a flower and thank her for some aspect of their working relationship. By the end of the day, she had a beautiful bouquet of flowers and — more importantly — an affirmation of her worth from the people with whom she works most closely.

Send It Along

Fenton, Mo.-based Maritz Performance Improvement Co.'s “Thanks a Bunch” program recognizes an employee with a bouquet of flowers — but instead of keeping the bouquet, the employee passes the flowers on to someone else who has been helpful. The program's goal is to see how many people can receive the bouquet throughout the day.

That's not all, though. The flowers carry a written thank-you card to each employee. The cards are then entered into a drawing for awards such as binoculars or logoed jackets. The program is used during especially heavy workloads or stressful times.

A nearby community is using a similar idea. Four Seasons Flower Shop in Poway, Calif., is instituting “Good Neighbor Day.” During that day, a dozen roses are given free to anyone — on the condition that the person keep one rose and pass the rest to someone else, instructing the recipient to do the same.

Store owner Barbara Bertran has the support and sponsorship of several local businesses. She expects to distribute about 10,000 medium-stemmed roses.

Talk about saying it with flowers!

Bob Nelson, PhD, is president of Nelson Motivation Inc., San Diego, and author of the best-selling books 1001 Ways to Reward Employees, 1001 Ways to Energize Employees, and 1001 Ways to Take Initiative at Work, as well as Bob Nelson's Rewarding Employees newsletter. Contact him at (800) 575-5521, visit, or send an e-mail to