There are plenty of articles out there on why great bosses should encourage and praise the good performance of their subordinates. And yes, it’s part of their job to help their employees succeed. But what about the supervisors—how often do their bosses pat them on the back or even notice their accomplishments when so many high level managers are based out of a different building or city? Typically not as often as managers compliment their staff.
As far as employees, consciously or not, most of us tend to have the mentality of, “My boss should encourage me since I’m the subordinate, not the other way around.” Further, you may not know how to compliment your boss, feel awkward, or just get so wrapped up in doing a good job that you honestly don’t think about it much. I know I’m guilty of this. Plus, it’s easier and more common to be quick to complain rather than compliment. With all these factors in play, many supervisors may begin to feel unappreciated, whether they are aware of it or not.
This is where employees can step up and help encourage the good. Don’t assume that because your boss is above you in the pecking order that she doesn’t need to hear from you occasionally that she’s doing a good job. Not surprisingly, managers are much like their subordinates in that they have feelings, stresses, and situations outside of work factoring into their performance and interaction with others. So it’s nice to hear positive comments, even from their employees.
Don’t we want to retain good supervisors as much as they want to hold on to outstanding employees? Why shouldn’t good managers be as happy and satisfied at work as those on the front lines like to be? Praise, kindness, and compliments go hand in hand. So in the spirit of encouragement, let’s look into this topic in this 3-part series.
NOTE: While praising your boss may help you up the career ladder (and though I try to keep most of the content here at my blog in the vein of self-improvement or career advancement), my focus on this subject will be more about encouragement for the sake of bettering others in the context of short compliments which can be made privately or in front of others. (More lengthy interactions complimenting your boss should be done in private with an informal tone, for example over lunch.)
Why Should I?
1) Manage Your Manager: Reinforce Good Behavior
It’s as simple as the psychology: Behavior that’s reinforced effectively will be repeated; that which is not will cease. Further, how much someone is paid is not the only thing keeping them happy and at their job: In fact, praise was the most motivating factor for more than 80% of employees surveyed by the recruitment group Reed. Conversely, lack of appropriate praise can result in de-motivation.
Encouraging your manager can help him feel better about who he is (and who you are) and like he is meeting employee needs and cultivating employee retention. Complimenting your boss is a smart thing to do because it means not only that you are taking initiative but that you’re managing your manager—getting him to do things that you need or would like (within reason).
There’s a wealth of opportunity with managers who are new to a department or company. It’s especially prudent to encourage them so they know they’re on the right track and working competently.
2) Improve Your Work Environment
Compliments can change the tone of the manager-employee relationship and make for better and more open interaction. Even comments as simple as, “Thank you for helping me out with the ___ project,” or “I appreciate your cutting through the red tape with Metro so I could land the Stevens account,” would be welcomed and a good place to start. We spend roughly a third of our lives at work, so who wouldn’t want to improve their work environment?
“We notice and appreciate that you consistently pay your bill early or on time.” This phrase on my electric bill years ago stuck with me. Letting encouragement flow both ways and helping your supervisor feel noticed and appreciated can foster a more positive and pleasant workplace, boost morale, and end up helping the company succeed in the long term.
Thanks to Clay Faircloth, Pam Meek, Paul Havlik, and Terry Warren for their insight. Other sources:
- “Office Hours: Bowing to the boss: Everyone Likes To Be Praised, But It Can Go Too Far.” Guardian [London, England] 9 Dec. 2002. Business News: page 4 by Sally O’Reilly
- “To brown-nose or not to brown-nose?” USA Today. (Nov. 18, 2009): Business News: p01B. © 2009 by Del Jones
- “Ways To Compliment Your Boss.” Asianetindia.com, 3 Nov. 2015
- “Your Difficult Boss May Be Insecure.” Khaleej Times [Dubai, United Arab Emirates] 24 Aug. 2013 © 2013 SyndiGate Media Inc. by firstname.lastname@example.org