10 Jan Compliment Employees
Ever worked for a thankless employer? Nearly all of us have at some point. When I was told randomly, “Hey Evan, thanks for the work. We appreciate it,” that was the first time in a lot of years I heard anything like that. For the first time in a long time, I felt that what I’m doing at work isn’t just collecting a paycheck. I was actively contributing to the success of the whole company, and part of the actual team that makes the company succeed. It may sound like I’m over-selling it, but after years of hearing things pointed out only when I did something wrong and feeling under-appreciated, it was amazing what this one little line did for my confidence in the work I was doing and let me know I was on the right track.
However there too is a line between a genuine compliment and pandering to the masses. Another place that I worked at had five people in the office, and the employer often did ‘blanket compliments’ that in actuality did nothing to highlight an individual’s contributions, but rather was an equal opportunity compliment. In this case the employer tried a little too hard to get the compliments across. In an awkward extended coffee break, they took out printed certificates one by one and said what aspects of each employee’s work they were grateful for, in front of the entire staff, and handed the certificates with a handshake. Basically, a coffee break graduation ceremony. It was very over the top and more embarrassing than helpful, and in the same vein as participation badges, it didn’t make me feel that my contributions were actually appreciated.
I’m by no means an ‘employee complimenting expert’, but here’s a few things to consider.
- The most important rule is, if you think that something’s been done well, then tell the employee it’s been done well. Don’t keep them saved up in a little ‘compliment bank’ or assume the employee knows what they did was good. By telling them what they’re doing well, they’ll know what works and avoid what doesn’t.
- If there’s a criticism, lead it with a related compliment. The related part’s important because saying, “I love the way you stacked them boxes, but your comment to that customer was unprofessional,” is less useful than, “I like that you’re comfortable talking with clients, but that comment was unprofessional.” In the first comment the employee could get the impression that you don’t want them talking to customers at all, where as the second take tells them that you still want them talking to customers, but to just tone it down a little.
- A paycheck is NOT a compliment. I’ve been flat out told, “You’re paycheck is your compliment.” Actually it’s the employer’s legal obligation to pay me for work performed. Realistically it’s pretty hard to get rid of an employee doing mediocre work, as many employers have experienced. Even bad employees get paychecks up until the day they quit or are fired, so saying that it’s a compliment doesn’t fly.
- A desk side compliment is nice now and then. If it’s a bigger compliment, have a closed-door compliment. Either invite them in or go to their office (if the employee has one) and do shut the door before acknowledging maybe a project completion or a good period of work. This also helps to alleviate ‘closed door anxiety’ where whenever a door closes, the person figures they’re getting into trouble.
- Don’t over do it! Only float a compliment when it’s genuine.
- Compliments can be a great tool for guiding employees to better their work. Saying, “I like the way you organized that product shelf over there. Can you do this one the same way but don’t double up the boxes?”, helps the employee improve compared to, “Organize this shelf. The last one could have been done better.”