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The Compliment, that’s not a compliment

The compliment,  that’s not a compliment

You are great BUT….BUT WHAT?

Have you guys ever had this business leader? Have you ever had the boss that give you a compliment followed by “but”? The one that tells you that you are great but…but what? You think I am great but not great enough? I am great but could or should be better? I did great work but not enough output?

A key component of effective leadership is the ability to give effective compliments.  Employees like to be noticed for a job well done. Some employees prefer it to be announced near and far and some employees prefer the shout out to be less of a broadcast and more of a one-on-one conversation. When giving compliments, leaders must learn there are right and wrong ways to give an employee some recognition. 

The value of hearing a positive feedback from your boss brings:
  • Confidence
  • Pride in work
  • Builds self-esteem
  • Gives a boost to motivation
  • Gives a boost to productivity
  • It just feels good to be noticed for your efforts and it can make someone’s day

Those are all great things for your employees.  

So, how do leaders get it wrong?

Leaders can negate their entire acknowledgement by following it with a “but”. Stop talking once you provide your positive comments. STOP TALKING!

For example: 

  • You did a great job on that project but you were late.
  • Nice job on getting the books closed on time but you had a few errors.
  • Nice work but next time, do twice as much.

Ah yes, the back-handed compliment. I think you see my point? Don’t get me wrong, leaders should give compliments and they should recognize good work. Stop there. Have the corrective conversation later. Let your employee enjoy the moment. Don’t give recognition to an employee and immediately undermine it with a negative. The effects of a back-handed compliment are damaging.

For a compliment to be effective, it must be:

  • Genuine or authentic
  • Specific, don’t generalize 
  • Well-deserved, don’t give a compliment for something superficial
  • Eliminate the word “but” from your compliment

Leaders: if you take the time to give props to a team member, do it right. Your compliment doesn’t have to be complicated or time consuming. It simply needs to be heart-felt.

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