At NetApp, gratitude comes hand-written

A sample of a note from Greg Gardner, chief architect of defense solutions at NetApp, who writes thank y ou notes to recognize employees. (Coutesy of Greg Gardner)

Company: NetApp.

Location: Vienna. (Headquarters: Sunnyvale, Calif.)

Number of employees: 11,500.

Greg Gardner carries a stack of note cards when he travels, in case an employee catches his eye.

When one does, Gardner, chief architect of defense solutions at NetApp’s Vienna office, writes a note of thanks. He seals it in an envelope and delivers it the next day.

“They’re my teammates, and I care about them,” said Gardner, 59.

Gardner began writing thank-you notes during his 30 years in the Army. He prefers to write them with a fountain pen he’s had since the 1980s.

“When the conditions are right — when I’m at home at my desk, I take out that lovely pen,” he said. “But that’s not the only thing I use. I’ll scribble away with a ballpoint if that’s all I’ve got.”

Along the way, Gardner has set a few ground rules for himself: Notes must offer only praise, should be handwritten, and must go out within 24 hours.

Last month, he worked with Alex Kuscher at a trade show. The next morning, there was an envelope waiting on her desk.

“I kept wondering what it was,” said Kuscher, a senior marketing manager at the company. “I was like, is it for the cookies I brought in? Is it a Christmas card? I was so pleasantly surprised to be recognized for my work.”

As a colonel in The Old Guard, the battalion that conducts ceremonies for fallen soldiers, Gardner often wrote 10 notes a night. At NetApp, a data management company of 11,500 employees, he writes one or two a month.

“I don’t see people face-to-face all that often anymore,” he said. “That makes it more challenging.”

Earlier this year, Gardner ran into a soldier at Fort Meade who had something to show him: A book filled with handwritten notes from Gardner.

“That just blew me away.”

Abha Bhattarai covers local retail, hospitality and banking for The Washington Post. She has previously written for The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, Reuters and the St. Petersburg (Fla.) Times.



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