4 Ways to Recognize a Coworker’s Contributions

Over the years we’ve tried a variety of tactics to ensure that everyone’s hard work didn’t go unnoticed. Here are a few high-five-inducing methods for showing your team members a little love. The best part is that they can be done in a physical or remote context.

Team Mascot Toss

Objective: To create unity around a team mascot and recognize team member contributions on a daily basis.

  • Supplies: one team mascot in small stuffed animal or graphic format.
  • Frequency: awarded each work day or once a week
  • Team Size: 6+ people
  • Format: Have your group select a mascot that best represents your team, organization, or company.

Past examples from Atomic projects have been an eagle for “soaring above the competition” and an elephant named “Stafford” symbolizes wisdom for a client in the education industry. Once, it was a Boston fern (yes, the actual plant) for a project team working on plant delivery.

Once you select the mascot and obtain a physical or digital representation of it, the fun begins. Each day during your team check-in (or once weekly if you don’t meet as frequently), someone shall award one team member the team mascot in honor of some small or big achievement they made the day before. Whoever is awarded the team mascot will pass it on and recognize a new teammate the next day.

For a further deep dive into this method and the rationale behind it check out Meredith’s Spin post here.

Special Letter Delivery

Objective: To send team members personalized letters of praise and encouragement.

  • Supplies: blank notecards with accompanying envelopes pre-addressed and stamped with team member names and addresses, and maybe stickers!
  • Frequency: once a week or month
  • Team Size: 3+
  • Format: If working remotely, first obtain team members’ permission to share their personal home addresses for this activity. If uncomfortable with sharing personal information, emails can be sent instead of mailed letters. Once permission and addresses are obtained, purchase enough blank cards or notecards so that each team member will receive one full set of cards for each member of the team except for themselves.

Address and pre-stamp all of the cards and mail or hand out the card sets. Then, once weekly or monthly, take time out for “attitude of gratitude time.” Each team member will select one of their teammate’s pre-addressed cards to write them a note of appreciation, thanks, celebration, or encouragement. Once they are finished, they should drop the card in the mailbox (or send the email).

This method is highly effective because of how personalized the notes become, and because receiving cards in the mail is one of life’s great joys.

Beers & Cheers (and sometimes Tears)

Objective: To end the week celebrating team wins (and sometimes commiserating over losses) and to recognize the good work accomplished over the past week.

  • Supplies: Drinks! Cocktails, mocktails, or anything good for toasting with. (Major bonus points awarded to whomever brings snacks…)
  • Team Size: 2+
  • Format: At the end of each week, usually around 4 p.m. on a Friday, the team will stop work, grab a glass of their favorite drink, and circle up. This can also be done remotely via video conferencing. One by one, each team member says what they are most proud of accomplishing for that week, pass kudos to one team member, and finally end with something to toast.

Toasts in the past have been about completing a tough feature, launching a new project, celebrating personal or professional news, or just being grateful for making it through yet another crazy week. The value this provides the team as a means of personal and professional connection also can’t be understated. This is especially helpful for teams working in remote contexts.


Objective: To anonymously recognize coworker achievements by placing Post-it notes in a public place (like the kitchen fridge, a collaborative digital workspace, or common area).

  • Supplies: Post-it notes (the “sugarcubes”) and sharpies
  • Team Size: 3+
  • Format: Encourage coworkers to write Post-it notes of praise, a.k.a. sugarcubes, shouting out other coworkers’ small or large accomplishments. Have them place the notes in a designated gratitude sharing space.

Our Ann Arbor office has been practicing this method for a long time. It’s always a joy to see the smile-inducing notes posted on the fridge for all to see. The Sugarcube practice started as fridge notes and then evolved into taping personalized envelopes to a whiteboard where Atoms can drop private notes to each other — an intraoffice physical mail system!

For reference, a few examples of notes:

  • Toni made me smile today when they brought me a coffee.
  • Congratulations Zena on new baby Siggy!
  • Thank you Samir for keeping our office supplies well-stocked.

A view of Ann Arbor’s Sugarcubes wall.

Why We Should Recognize a Coworker’s Contributions

In our software world of fast-paced projects, hybrid work environments, and packed sprint schedules, sometimes it’s easy to overlook appreciation for a coworker’s excellent contributions. You don’t have to look far to find countless studies and management books that validate the human need for recognition, especially in a professional context. Try one of these methods to recognize a coworker’s contributions and put a smile on your teammate’s face.