At work, giving compliments is as important as it is delicate

At work, giving compliments is as important as it is delicate

Everyone – or almost everyone – likes to receive compliments. But according to some employees, these kind words are rare in companies. However, they are a source of involvement, commitment… and therefore productivity. As long as they are well thought out.

Since 2003, March 1 has been known as World Compliment Day. This is an opportunity to return to the thousand and one virtues of these congratulatory messages, especially in the professional context. Because “well done”, “well done” and “hats off for these good results” can make all the difference in business. The employee who is complimented generally finds in these words a form of validation and encouragement. He will tend to get even more involved in his work.

Canadian researchers had proof of this by conducting an experiment during which volunteers were invited to answer a questionnaire. They asked an actor to pose as a psychology student and strike up a conversation with each of the study participants. The actor began by complimenting them on their attire, before mentioning the fact that he was handing out flyers for a college event. He then had to offer to each volunteer to help him in this mission by distributing flyers themselves.

It is clear that flattery is a powerful motivator. The academics found that 79% of participants who had been complimented on their outfit offered to help the actor, compared to just 46% of those who had not been complimented on their good taste in clothing, according to the BBC . This is explained by the fact that social relations are based on the principle of reciprocity. When we give something, we tend to want to give back.

Compliments work on the same principle. Receiving it has a galvanizing and, above all, motivating effect. When a manager compliments one of the employees on his work, he recognizes his merits and implicitly encourages him to continue on this path. This culture of recognition can even encourage other employees to surpass themselves, which creates a form of collective emulation. But be careful not to fall into the trap of favoritism. A n+1 who always congratulates the same employee, in public, risks attracting the wrath of his other colleagues. This can create a feeling of injustice and negatively affect trust within the team.

Beware of meaningless formulas

Generally speaking, compliments are a managerial tool that should be used with caution. It will have a positive effect on an employee’s motivation and productivity if it appears fair and sincere. It should also be specific so that the “complimentee” does not see it as an attempt at flattery or manipulation. Thus, there is no point in congratulating an employee because he came to the office when others are reluctant to do so. It is better to congratulate him on his professional achievements or on real behaviors such as taking initiative or solving a problem that he and his colleagues are facing.

Positive reinforcement is only effective when it is proportionate to each person’s efforts. Being an easy compliment tends to arouse distrust rather than general support. As proof, 46% of workers believe that the compliments they receive at work are meaningless, according to a survey that the company OC Tanner conducted among 36,441 office workers from 19 countries. This is certainly due to the fact that most managers are content to compliment their employees with very generic expressions, such as “well done” or “that’s great”. To be effective and impactful, a compliment must be more developed, without necessarily going overboard.

The context in which the compliment is formulated is also determining. Praising your colleagues in public has its advantages, but it is also advisable to do it in smaller groups. Not all employees are comfortable with being congratulated by their supervisor in front of their colleagues. The most introverted and modest personalities will appreciate more receiving this praise by email, for example.

Finally, we must resist the temptation of permanent positive reinforcement. Compliment is a powerful lever for commitment, if used intelligently and sparingly. Doing too much is as harmful as not doing enough. Cultivating gratitude and recognition in business is crucial but it requires a certain finesse. Employees should not be motivated solely by the prospect of receiving a good word from their superior. The compliment must be the icing on the cake and not what keeps the troops going.

30 quotes about work

Slide: 30 quotes about work