How To Give Compliments At Work

by Anita Bowness | Posted | Performance Management

How To Give Compliments At Work

Today is National Compliment Day and on the one hand, I want to talk about the litany of ridiculous holidays there are. But on the other, I think the idea of giving compliments at work is something worth discussing. We all know that feedback one of the (many) keys to a high-performing culture, but when it comes to our positive feedback, it's important to think of things in a certain way.

The anatomy of a good workplace compliment

The spirit of National Compliment Day is to make sure you give out compliments to people all day long - a daily act of appreciation if you will. But all too often, compliments lack deeper meaning. Here's what not to do:

"Nice shirt."

This is not the type of compliment we're here to talk about. It's a nice thing to say, and don't let us hold you back from saying such a thing, but if you came here to learn how to simply flatter someone, this post is not for you.

Here's a great example of the type of compliment we actually want to work on:

"Nice job!"

Is it nice? Sure. Does it apply to performance? Absolutely. But it lacks depth and meaning. Let's try again.

"Nice job! It seems like you worked really hard on this"

Now we're getting somewhere. But we can still do better.

You see, positive feedback is something that should give a bias to action. It should encourage repeat occurrences of the same behavior. By giving compliments that are specific, meaningful, and encourage repeat behavior, we can take our first steps towards a high-performing, feedback-rich culture.

Some well-rounded positive feedback

Let's take this compliment formula a step further.

"Nice work on that project brief! Your being so specific really helped me understand all the different elements of what we're working on and how we can make this project successful, which should make everything run much smoother. Great job!"

This is what I'm talking about. This compliment is behavioral. That is, it compliments a positive behavior, rather than something surface level. It's specific in that it talks about the nitty-gritty of what about the behavior was so great. And it's results-oriented in that it says exactly what about the work had a positive impact.

There are some other things you can do to upgrade your positive feedback chops. For one thing, positive feedback and compliments should be timely. If you wait too long between when the behavior occurs and when you give the compliment, it leaves all that time in between when the person could have been performing that encouraged behavior more.

Finally, compliments should be given on an ongoing basis. And by the way, you should give constructive criticism regularly as well (although a lot of research suggests that you should talk positives more often that opportunities to improve). This accomplishes two things. First, it forms a habit to speak more openly about performance. Second, it encourages others to do the same. The more compliments that you give, the more will be given by others. It's all about setting a great example and making feedback a part of your team culture.

Go forth and give great compliments

With all this in mind, go out into the world (or your office) and give a great compliment this National Compliment Day.

How to Give and Get Feedback

You deserve feedback. Your boss deserves feedback. Your coworker deserves feedback. EVERYONE deserves feedback!

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Cover of the book
Cover of the book

How to Give and Get Feedback

You deserve feedback. Your boss deserves feedback. Your coworker deserves feedback. EVERYONE deserves feedback!

Download Now

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