Complimenting your way to a better business

Employee recognition complimentsCompliments, if they are done right then they can create the kind of positive energy that makes things happen. They’re also one of the main aspects of any employee recognition programme. Meaningful compliments can build and reinforce relationships, create trust, lead to higher employee loyalty, improve productivity and reduce staff turnover.

Research shows that what most employees really want is a simple thank you from their manager or from the senior leadership team for their contribution, this is especially so for those employees who don’t have a customer facing or high profile role in the business.

Complimenting or saying thank you to an employee doesn’t have to wait for the annual performance management review. That has its place, but the most valuable approach is to be informal and work compliments and praise into everyday activities.

Being able to give compliments is a fundamental skill for a manager. Unfortunately not everyone has learnt this, but it should be something that all managers take the time to do. Here are our top tips for complimenting at work:

Be genuine

We all know an artificial compliment when we hear one. In the book Thanks, Robert Emmons wrote:

“Gratitude is much more than mere politeness or a superficial feeling. Recognition is the quality that permits gratitude to be transformational. To recognise is to cognize, or think, differently about something from the way we have thought about it before.”

Don’t sandwich a compliment in with a request for something. As Mark Twain once said,

“Do not offer a compliment and ask a favour at the same time. A compliment that is charged for is not valuable.”


Be specific

You should try to be as specific as possible as it demonstrates that you are have actually noticed your employee and their contribution.

“The way you answered the client’s questions in the meeting was great. You really got them to understand our thought processes behind our recommendations”

is far better than

“Great meeting, well done!”


Be timely

Don’t try and squeeze a compliment in at the end of the day just as your employee is trying to leave to pick up the children, go food shopping, or has other things on their mind. Clear some space at an appropriate time for you and your employee to offer the compliment.

The compliment should also be given as soon as possible after the event took place. If you waits days, weeks or even months to give a compliment the behaviour that warranted it will likely to have been forgotten and the compliment will be devalued.


Be forthright

Good jobDeliver the compliment as a statement; be direct and to the point. Don’t spend time waffling around the subject as it makes you look as if you’re embarrassed by giving the compliment.

Make sure that you avoid comparisons or value judgements such as, “It was better than…” as it suggests that the other person or thing wasn’t good enough and so devalues the compliment you are currently giving.


Be appropriate

Everyone likes to know that they are looking good; it makes us feel good and puts people at ease. But telling a colleague they look great in a meeting about project planning, or anything else, is inappropriate. Pick the right time and place to deliver your compliment, so that it’s appropriate to the setting.


And finally…

And if you’re on the receiving end of a compliment, don’t discount it. If you’ve been told you gave a great presentation, don’t respond with “Oh, I just threw a few things together five minutes ago.”

A compliment is a gift well deserved, so smile, say “Thank you” and recognise that your colleagues really do appreciate your work.


Recognition Video Case Studies

See how companies such as Aviva, Siemens and Virgin Media pay their compliments to staff


John Sylvester

John is responsible for the motivation division of p&mm ltd and a Director on the board of the IPM. Specialising in developing, implementing and directing many large scale staff motivation, recognition and employee communications programmes.

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