A similar question discusses cash, presents, and parties as good ways to reward project participants after successful completion of a project.

On smaller projects without a budget, and with participants that are not local, are there any ways to express appreciation and maintain a good relationship with the participants so that they will look forward to participating on the next project? A private "thank you"? An e-mail to their manager with praise? Any other ideas?

9 Answers 9


My vote would go for a face to face personal praise (with at least the contributor's manager present) or an email (with cc to manager) if physical contact is not possible

content of the praise would be based around:

  1. Big thanks

  2. Explaining what was special about the contributor's efforts

  3. Explaining how his efforts added to the project's success

  4. Why would the team like to involve him again in the future


Most answers focus on "thank you" message/praise which is of course a great idea, however I'd look deeper.

Besides sharing praise in a way which is adjusted to the character of praised person (public praise being default if I have no other clues) I'd think about:

  • Giving some slack. Especially after difficult project where the person gave much more than expected, e.g. long working hours which are always at cost of personal live. After such project people are often burned out, or close, and no money or pat in the back can really change it. Letting them to get some rest not only when they take some days off can be the best reward here. See more: How to get burned out team back engaged again?

  • Offering a job in a dream project (whatever the person's dream project might be). We often work on projects which we don't really love. Sometimes there are also those which we'd love to join, in the office next door. Transfer to such project, even temporary might be something someone dreams about even if they don't ask for it.

  • Unofficial role change. One thing is a raise or promotion and it's out of the scope of this question. But another, often even more important, is unofficial status within the team. It can be something like informal team leader, one who gets more responsibility in the project, or something else, depending on the career path chosen by a specific person. Let the whole team know that it's going to work that way. Oh, and don't make it just virtual as the effect would be opposite to planned.

  • In terms of sharing the praise, one more idea. Instead of doing it by yourself, go up through the pecking order to someone high enough and convince them it's worth to share some praise and thank people for their effort. Make them believe they should do it and it's worth to do it. If it's going to be "thank you guys, whoever you might be, and well, I have to go to the next meeting" - don't bother. But if it will be genuine thank you it can work way better than the same words from PM or team manager or someone else who is close to the team everyday.

  • "Unofficial role change". That can create strongly negative responses. I guess, as with anything, you need to know your people, but too often "unofficial role changes" are seen as management squeezing more from an individual for no money spent.
    – gef05
    Apr 4, 2011 at 14:05
  • It seems we're talking about different things. I think about role change which is desired. Like I want to have bigger responsibility and more informal power as I want to develop myself towards leadership/management positions so I get it as sort of reward for my involvement and (possibly) showing some leadership in the last project. If it was about punishment or simply "more work" I definitely wouldn't put it on the list. Apr 4, 2011 at 19:34

Depending on the type project, would could offer some form of 'public' recognition of a job well done, going above and beyond, etc.

For a lot of people, the only thing better then a pat on the back, is a public pat on the back. Look at the armed forces, they have plenty of medals/awards they give out for service, courage above and beyond, etc.


The answer is "it depends." Some people love public reward, some hate it and prefer private reward. International teams are harder (more cultures to know about); if you're looking for a laundry list of things you can do, here are a few that might be effective:

  • A "this person did a great job and I want to say so on their annual review" email to their manager, CCing them.
  • A thank-you email to them and their manager
  • $10-$20 gift card (coffee, electronics, etc.)
  • Cash bonus (<= $100)
  • Unofficial vacation days
  • Perks (like working from home days, or unofficial sick days)

Of course, the best item is the first one -- put positive input on their annual review if you can, and help them get promoted. The rest may work, and the last couple depend largely on your ability to give them benefits in concert with (or without violation of) HR rules and regulations.


Apart from Pawel's personal praise, why don't you buy them a drink from your own pocket?


Maybe... no reward at all.

It's not totally kidding. You can ask people to pay for their own party. The best reward is not necessarily money, neither it must be from you. People satisfication is the only goal here.

In my company, once in a while, we have a "very small party": the fund are contributed by all of us. In the party, we are all brothers, no boss or PM or developers. Or people can take their turn to fund those small parties.

The important thing here is the attitude of participants: if you successfully create a warm atmosphere, all people feel relaxed, tell jokes and talk casually, then you succeeded. With this kind of activity, all people contributes because they feel that they are part of a family, and they are happy with it.


Thank you messages and awards from within your own structure are great, regardless of whether private or public, but best of all can be recognition from the client. If you can ask your customer to say a genuine thank you to the team, that can be a real boost to the team members, especially if this is on top of in-house recognition.


Ask them upfront what do they want as a reward. In most cases you will be surprised, but try to follow their wishes.


Money is not the only, or the best, option. Most team members understand that there may not be a budget for rewards and often the team is spread over the country, or the world, so face to face isn't the option.

Sincere and specific praise per previous answers. Advocating for time off with their functional manager. Organizing a 'potluck' lunch, lots of free or really cheap options are available.

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