“Atta Girl” – Handling Compliments at Work

Dear, Anita,

I recently worked extra hard on a project. My boss complimented me, saying, “Thanks for working over the weekend to get our presentation ready for the big meeting,” to which I replied, “It was nothing.” My co-worker later told me I shouldn’t have said that, and I’ll never get promoted with my unassertive attitude. She says I should have said something like, “Thanks, I had to miss going to a birthday party, but work comes first.” Is she right?

Dear, Applause! Applause!

Atta_girlYour co-worker does have a point about downplaying your boss’s thanks, but I don’t agree with her 100%. Playing the martyr isn’t necessary. Learn to accept compliments graciously, even without an eye on a future raise. Working over the weekend wasn’t “nothing.” You went over and above for an assignment, and your boss already knows it. If you say something that infers to your boss that he hasn’t realized it, not only might he resent the pointed comment, but he might also think you only made the extra effort in order to get the credit and not because of your great work ethic, sense of loyalty, or desire to impress.  If you want to respond with more than just a humble “you’re welcome,” a more self-confident reply is, “It was really satisfying to see that the presentation helped win the client over.”

Who doesn’t feel a warm glow when you get a well-deserved pat on the back? Businesses know the importance of testimonials. Someone else bragging about you has much more cachet than you boasting about yourself.

To keep those reassurances on hand, create an “Atta Girl” file (or an “Atta Boy” file, but as a general rule, women tend to have a harder time accepting compliments than men).  What should go in the file? Email kudos from co-workers, supervisors, or clients; performance evaluations; certificates of achievement; surveys/feedback forms; even notes from the departmental birthday card!

If compliments are hand-written, you may wish to transfer them into an Excel or Word document, along with any significant facts (date, the problem solved, context, etc.). Be sure to keep a copy on your home computer just in case you are terminated or laid off suddenly.

When a client or co-worker gives you verbal appreciation, ask them if they wouldn’t mind taking the extra step of putting it in writing and/or posting a recommendation on LinkedIn, and endorsing you for the skills and qualities they complimented. In fact, you can email them a follow-up with the recommendation typed out (remind them they can edit the verbiage if you inadvertently misquoted them). For a LinkedIn recommendation or any testimonial to be most powerful, include the original problem/situation, the results that exceeded expectations, and the character traits you exhibited while working with them. Endorsements on LinkedIn are easy to complete with a simple click on the appropriate skills that one can attest to.

When you make a mistake or have a bad day at work, go to your “Atta Girl” file to combat those waves of self-doubt. There’s nothing better for a bruised ego than remembering past triumphs.

And when it’s time to update your résumé, you can put those warm fuzzies to work! Polish up your CV, or even replace “References upon request” with a document full of glowing testimonials about your skills and favorable qualities.

Readers: Can you take a compliment? What’s the best work-related commendation you’ve ever received?

Do you have a question for Anita Clew? Visit http://anitaclew.com/ask-anita/.

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1 Comment (+add yours?)

  1. ldakis@outlook.com
    Jun 17, 2014 @ 12:02:39

    She should have said it was my pleaure to be of assistance.



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Anita Clew's blog posts are intended for general guidance and should never be taken as legal advice. In all instances where harassment, inequity, or unfair treatment is believed to be present, please consult your HR Department or legal representation.
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