The Secret to Getting More Praise at Work [1065 words]

Getting More Praise at Work Starts with Your Attitude

Want to know the secret to getting more praise at work? Learn to take a compliment! Accepting praise is hard for some of us. Yet, deep down, we like to know when we’re doing a good job. If you struggle with this, I have two gifts for you.

Gift #1: Permission to Enjoy Praise at Work (or anywhere else)

That’s right. I am giving you, at absolutely no cost and with no obligations whatsoever, permission to enjoy, accept, and encourage praise. You didn’t need my permission, of course. Still, if that’s what you were waiting for, you are now free.

Gift #2: The Exact Words to Use, From This Day Forward

Imagine you just presented a proposal during a team meeting. Also, imagine your name is Joan. (I don’t know your name, so you’re going to have to work with me here.)

After the meeting, one of your colleagues gives you helpful, specific positive feedback. “Joan,” they say, because that’s your name I just gave you, “your presentation was really good. Your research on sales trends was thorough, your presentation was clear and concise, and your conclusions made a lot of sense.”

You say, “Thank you.” That’s it. That’s the magic bullet, doused in secret sauce. Saying “thank you” expresses gratitude for the feedback. “Thank you” doesn’t dispute, downplay, denigrate, or deflect. Your colleague gets to feel good about having paid you a compliment. As an added bonus, you don’t have to hear your own voice attacking your awesome. You can stop right there and come out ahead.

If You Want to Go Further…

Ask for Specifics

If your colleague didn’t read my article or attend one of my programs about positive reinforcement, they may have said something vague like “Great meeting today.” This doesn’t give you much to go on. After all, you don’t if they’re happy because the coffee was hot or because you used a font they could actually read or because you handled a hostile question with diplomacy and grace. “Great job at the meeting today” might mean you managed to get to the room on time without mustard on your blouse. (I don’t know your life, Joan.) You won’t know unless you ask.

So, after you say “Thank you,” you can ask, “Can you tell more about that?” or “I’ve been working on my presentation skills. Your feedback is important to me. Can you tell me specifically what I did that you found effective?”

Express Some Vulnerability (Courage required)

If your colleague is praising you for something you really did work hard to achieve, let them know it. You can say, “Thank you, I worked really hard on that proposal.” You might add, “I value your feedback. It feels good to know that you noticed that my hard work.” That’s not bragging. It’s being real, and it’s being grateful for the feedback. That person’s likely to come back to you the next time you knock a presentation out of the park because they know you’re working hard to improve.

Go All In (Extra courage required!)

Another thing you can say is, would you mind letting my boss know? The people that I mentor laugh when I tell them this for the first time. They say, “What? No way! Why would I do that?” Well, how’s your boss going to know what a great job you’re doing if nobody tells her?

I’ve been a manager for a very long time. It’s always nice when somebody recognizes the behaviors, skills, and impacts of the people on my team. It gives me a chance to go find out more about a “win,” and it gives me a chance to engage my employee in a positive way. Your manager doesn’t know everything that’s going on with you. So anytime you have a chance for someone to give your manager some positive feedback about you, take it.

The first time you do this, you’ll feel weird about it. After you do it consistently for fifteen years, it gets easier. I do this all the time, as a matter of fact. I’ll say,” Thank you so much for saying that. I’m glad I was able to help you. Would you mind letting my boss know?” It’s as easy as that. They usually send an email and are glad to do so.

An Example from Real Life

In fact, a few years ago, I had helped some people with various things around the company. (Helping people is a superb networking strategy.) Some of them expressed appreciation for my help. I said, “Thank you, would you let my boss know how I helped you?” In this particular instance, something funny happened.

In the weeks between the things that I’d done and the emails that they sent, I started a new position within the same company. When people looked up my manager in our system, they got the name of my new manager. About the second day of my new job, I had a meeting with my new boss. He said, “I don’t know what you’re doing but I got three emails already this week about how you helped somebody in this group, and somebody in another group, and somebody on the other side of the country. They’re coming from everywhere, I don’t even know who these people are!”

So I got the opportunity to highlight some of my skills by telling him what I had done to help these folks in different departments. It was funny to me, because I was intending for that information to go to my old boss. As it turned out, I made a pretty good first impression with my new boss, because he was getting compliments about me before I even started working for him.

Remember, feedback is a gift. You want to make it as easy and pleasant as possible for people to give you presents. Showing gratitude is a great place to start.

Next Steps

Do you struggle to take a compliment gracefully? What beliefs, values, or identities might be getting in your way?

Bring the Serving Up Feedback, One BITE at a Time program to your organization or event, or check out our self-paced, online courses.

How will you use these tips at work?

Permission to Reprint

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Amy C. Waninger Author Bio

Amy C. Waninger is the Founder & CEO of Lead at Any Level, where she improves employee engagement and retention for companies that promote from within. Amy offers assessments, advisory services, and training on essential skills for inclusive leaders. She is the author of eight books. Learn more at

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2 responses to “The Secret to Getting More Praise at Work [1065 words]”
  1. […] you’re not good at accepting compliments, it’s time to develop this important skill. Learn to listen to the positive things your coworkers say to and about you. They are telling you […]

  2. […] people can’t take a compliment gracefully. You may be one of them. Do you punish people when they pay you a compliment? Let’s find […]

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