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24 Jan

Compliments in the Workplace: How to Avoid Getting the Side-eye

“I’ve learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.”-Maya Angelou

When someone at work; be it your boss or a co-worker, takes time to acknowledge the value and contributions you’ve brought to the table, it does your heart good. You feel appreciated and it motivates you to continue going the extra mile.  Think about the last time someone at work gave you a sincere compliment. How did you feel?  Pretty awesome, right? Compliments are the most cost effective gifts that keep on giving. You can give as many as you’d like without negatively impacting your bottom line, so give them often.


BUT, before you go balling out on “National Compliment Day”, lets refresh your skills because you don’t want to be out here in these cubicle lined streets “playing yo’self”


Details Matter, be Specific

If someone holds the elevator for you, then sure, a simple “Thank You” will suffice. However, when you have the opportunity to compliment someone on their work, do it. AND be specific. Craft the compliment in a way that shows you’ve noticed their efforts and that you’re interested in their work.  This reconfirms that the work they’re doing matters. We tend to go harder when we feel seen, heard, and appreciated.  When you compliment your co-worker it sends a positive message of reassurance.

Heres an example of a detailed compliment:

“Jeremy, I noticed that you’ve been putting in extra hours to ensure that we stayed on schedule to meet our program deadline. You went above and beyond to get the job done and I appreciate your dedication.  I  know you’re busy but I wanted to take a moment to thank you personally for the contributions you’ve made to the team.”

See that? Acknowledging the specifics of what they’ve done and how their work has had a positive impact on the team/company will go a long way in building rapports with your teammates and ultimately increasing confidence, morale and even productivity.

On the flip side of things, Don’t Over Do It!


Compliments should be uplifting, not exhausting or overwhelming. Stick to the facts. Be concise, and don’t take all day to do it.  The worst, most unflattering thing you can do is over sell a compliment. Speak only on what you genuinely feel and save yourself from the side-eye.  Dragging on and on will make folks question your agenda. Being acknowledged for something you’ve done is nice but it can become uncomfortable if it extends beyond a few seconds. Remember, in the workplace, theres a fine line between compliments and brown nosing. Folks appreciate genuine compliments, but brown nosing… ehhhh, not so much.


Awwwwk—ward! Or Nah?


It’s not always your fault. Sometimes the person just doesn’t know how to handle or respond to a compliment. If for whatever reason your compliment is followed by an awkward silence, try saving face by following up and provoking a response with a question. “This will immediately prompt a conversation without any awkward silence,” suggests Nihar Suthar, author of Win No Matter What: A Guide to Hyping Up Your Life. For example, instead of just saying, “You have amazing hair,” try, “You have amazing hair. Do you use any product in it?” This shows that not only do you appreciate the person’s hair, you’re genuinely interested in it.”

It’s important to celebrate small successes, not only in the workplace but to your loved ones as well. So today, take every opportunity to give a genuine compliment. Knowing you made someone feel great about themselves, will make you feel good in return.  Happiness is indeed contagious, so spread the love!







1 Comment
  • Celecia S Kirby-Cooke

    Great advice loved it! Definitely will be using some if these tips in the work place

    01.24.17 at 3:34 pm Reply

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