3 minute read

People Management

A Touch Of Sweetness

So many of the senior executives in my agency treat underlings like dirt. We are expected to bend over backwards for them without so much as a ‘thank you.’ One manager, however, is noticeably different. This person doesn't take for granted that we'll do whatever he says because he has the power to fire us. He's great about complimenting us for a job well done, which, in turn, motivates us to do even better for him in the future. I observed this exec for a while and noticed that no one ever seemed to praise him for being such a good manager. So, one day, I did. I told him that I didn't want him to think I was kissing up, but that I thought he deserved to know that I appreciated his efforts. You should have seen him light up—it was like my comment was the best thing that happened to him all week.

Sabrinath, 23, New Mexico

Imagine the look on a colleague's face when you hand over a tasty piece of candy unsolicited. Appreciation is the same way. You only need a little bit to make a coworker's day and encourage her to view you in a positive light from that point on. Did someone help you out? Thank her. Was it a big deal, did she go out of her way, or did it take a lot of time? Send her a card or take her to lunch. If she really went above and beyond the call of duty, make sure her boss knows about it. And by the way, I don't subscribe to the theory that you shouldn't have to thank someone for doing her job. When a colleague does her job well and it helps you, what harm does it do to thank her? The answer is none—it just makes her like you more.

Eighteenth-century author Samuel Johnson wrote, “Gratitude is a fruit of great cultivation; you do not find it among gross people.” Well, folks, times haven't changed. Most people still take good deeds and favors for granted, and you're bound to be disappointed if you do something nice and expect appreciation in return. Instead of demanding gratitude, give freely. Exhibit kindness, and go out of your way to show courtesy and consideration to each person you come in contact with. Answer your phone ready and willing to accommodate the person on the other end. Ask how you can help, listen to the answer, and then follow up quickly and cheerfully.

As we've talked about, it doesn't make sense to reserve your best behavior for your customers and your boss, because when it comes to your reputation, everyone is equally influential. Remember that people have big mouths that get even bigger when they're unhappy. All it takes is one person to complain that you were rude or uncooperative, and, next thing you know, everyone in the office will have the scoop.

People hunger for recognition. In fact, their happiness, self-esteem, and motivation depend on it. Be generous with your compliments, but make sure they're sincere. Empty flattery is, in many ways, worse than criticism. Don't praise every move someone makes, and when you do give a compliment, put substance behind the statement so it's meaningful to the person. The most effective compliments focus on specific actions or facts rather than vague generalities or assumptions. Here are a couple examples:

  • Weak Compliment: “You did a great job on that presentation.”
  • Strong Compliment: “The analogies you made in your presentation really engaged the audience members because they could relate what you were saying to their own lives.”
  • Weak Compliment: “You're so organized.”
  • Strong Compliment: “You were so prepared in that customer meeting. I appreciated the way you had supporting information to back up each of our claims.”

When you receive a compliment, don't downplay or dismiss it. This makes you look insecure, and it makes the other person feel uncomfortable and stupid. You don't always have to return the compliment either. A smile and a simple “thank you” will do. If you're concerned about modesty, share the credit with someone else.

While we're on the subject of credit, always acknowledge people's achievements—both large and small. You don't appreciate when your own success is met with silence, and others don't either. And in case this wasn't obvious already, make a point of calling attention to the things people do right, not just what they do wrong. Your colleagues will be more receptive to your ideas when they don't have to brace themselves for criticism every time you open your mouth.

Sharing appreciation and praise helps those of us who lean naturally toward the “glass half empty” mentality to focus on the finer aspects of other people and their behavior. Not only does this behavior strengthen our relationships and encourage cooperation, but it also positively impacts the way we think about ourselves and the world.

Additional topics

Job Descriptions and Careers, Career and Job Opportunities, Career Search, and Career Choices and ProfilesCareer Advice: Career 101 for Recent Graduates, New Hires, and Would-be Corporate ClimbersPeople Management - Enlisting Cooperation, A Touch Of Sweetness, Creating Positive Relationships, Dealing With Difficult People