Tips For Giving Professional Compliments in the Workplace

In a world where we are constantly bombarded with negativity, compliments can be a breath of fresh air.

The power of complimenting is often underestimated. Giving professional compliments can make someone’s day, brighten their mood, and even change their outlook on life. All it takes is a few kind words to make someone feel appreciated.

But giving compliments in the workplace isn’t always easy – there are certain conventions you have to observe if they want your words of encouragement to truly resonate with coworkers – without being unprofessional.

In this blog post, we’ll take an in-depth look at how you can give effective, meaningful compliments within your professional sphere that engage others and keep everyone motivated on the job.

"Accept both compliments and criticism. It takes both sun and rain for a flower to grow." - Unknown
“Accept both compliments and criticism. It takes both sun and rain for a flower to grow.” – Unknown

One study that assessed the effects of verbal encouragement and compliments during high-intensity exercise showed that encouragement and compliments increased performance and perceived exertion.

sahli et al., 2022

Tips for giving professional compliments

Compliments are always welcome in the workplace, but there is a right way and a wrong way to go about giving them.

In the workplace, it is always important to maintain a professional attitude and to treat others with respect.

Here are a few tips for giving professional compliments:

1. Make sure your intention is genuine

A compliment that is spoken with insincerity will be more harmful than helpful. Make an effort to learn the names of those around you and recognize their achievements. Show that you genuinely respect their accomplishments and take an interest in hearing about their successes – this will go a long way!

Make sure your compliments are sincere and don’t overdo it; give compliments as needed and when deserved. This will allow for authentic interactions, build trust among colleagues, and help cultivate a positive work environment.

2. Keep workplace compliments professional

It’s important to ensure that compliments are kept professional and do not cross any boundaries. Keep it factual and avoid personal opinions that could easily be interpreted differently. For instance, “Your input was very helpful in our meeting today.”

3. Avoid compliments that could be interpreted as sexual harassment

When giving professional compliments, offering genuine admiration for coworkers in a positive and courteous manner goes a long way to cultivating positive morale and trust in the workplace. However, it’s important to keep interactions at work appropriate, polite and out of the realm of flirtation or any kind of innuendo that could be seen as offensive or unwelcome.

This includes comments about physical appearance, clothing, or anything else that could be considered personal or suggestive. Avoid saying, “You look nice today.”

4. Be specific when complementing someone on their work

Generic compliments like “good job” can come across as insincere or unenthused. Instead, try to identify something specific that you appreciated about the person’s work. For example, “I appreciate the extra effort you put into that project.”

5. Avoid making comparisons when complimenting someone

While trying to offer encouragement and celebrate achievements, making comparisons can be seen as putting someone else down in order to elevate someone else.

Instead of relying on comparisons, try specific phrases that recognize the attributes of whatever it is you are complimenting. This will show respect for everyone’s individual strengths, successes, and contributions.

For example, don’t say “you’re much better at this than your predecessor.” Not only is this statement likely to be untrue, but it will also make the person feel bad about their predecessor’s work.

Tips For Giving Professional Compliments in the Workplace
“I much prefer a compliment, even if insincere, to sincere criticism.” – Plautus

6. Allow the other person to accept the compliment gracefully

When giving professional compliments, allow your colleagues the opportunity to accept a compliment with grace, refraining from downplaying or deflecting praise. However, don’t force them to accept your praise – simply extend the compliment and let them decide what to do with it from there.

7. Compliment your colleague’s progress

Complimenting someone on the progress they have made is especially rewarding, as it acknowledges their persistence and commitment to improvement.

So, instead of only complimenting someone for the final product, focus on their efforts and progress as well.

Consider Watching My Video on The Psychology Behind Compliments

8. Acknowledge the details

A genuine compliment is always welcome but when delivered thoughtfully and with consideration it can go even further. A professional compliment should be specific and focused on the individual’s specific work, and provide meaningful context for the accomplishment.

Therefore, pay attention to small things that your colleagues do, such as speaking up in meetings or taking initiative in a project.

9. Be mindful of body language

Your words are not the only thing that matters when giving professional compliments. Make sure your facial expressions and body language reflect that you genuinely mean what you’re saying.

Read also: Interpreting The Unspoken: 10 Key Tips for Reading Body Language

Why are compliments so effective?

Essentially, compliments increase liking and liking increases compliance.

Compliments have been shown to increase liking and compliance – even when the information is inaccurate and/or there is an obvious ulterior motive.

Grant et al., 2022

There are essentially two mechanisms involved:

(1) The Reciprocity Norm

(2) Positive Mood

Reciprocity is when people feel obligated to repay a favor or gesture. When we receive compliments, we often naturally feel compelled to do something nice in return. Reciprocity has even been used as an effective marketing tactic. For instance, many companies give free samples out in order to encourage compensation and thus, the purchase of their products. Restaurants leave chocolates or mints as a way to increase customer satisfaction and loyalty.

The second mechanism is positive mood. When we receive compliments, it elevates our mood which increases our feelings of connection and trust towards the person giving us the compliment. Positive emotions also prime us for helpful behavior that benefits those around us, further increasing the power of the compliment.

Complimenting also has the ability to build relationships. When you take the time to notice and appreciate someone, they are more likely to reciprocate those feelings. Complimenting is a simple way to show someone that you care about them and appreciate them for who they are. By showing genuine appreciation for someone, we create a bond that can foster mutual respect and understanding.

Final words on tips for giving professional compliments in the workplace

When used correctly, giving professional compliments can be a powerful tool for building relationships and creating a positive work environment. Just remember to keep it professional and genuine, and to avoid anything that could be construed as sexual harassment. With a little practice, you’ll be a master of the art of complimenting in no time.

So, the next time you see someone doing something well, take a moment to tell them. The power of a compliment just might surprise you.

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Grant NK, Krieger LR, Nemirov H, Fabrigar LR, Norris ME. I’ll scratch your back if you give me a compliment: Exploring psychological mechanisms underlying compliments’ effects on compliance. Br J Soc Psychol. 2022 Jan;61(1):37-54.

Sahli H, Haddad M, Jebabli N, Sahli F, Ouergui I, Ouerghi N, Bragazzi NL, Zghibi M. The Effects of Verbal Encouragement and Compliments on Physical Performance and Psychophysiological Responses During the Repeated Change of Direction Sprint Test. Front Psychol. 2022 Feb 18;12:698673. 

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Rushana Greenidge-Horace

Rushana is a dynamic, knowledgeable professional with almost a decade of experience in the healthcare industry. She remains committed to promoting holistic health and wellness.

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