Praise be


A compliment goes a long way with me. It probably does with you, too.

A visiting trainer taught us a simple lesson in the elevator ride up two floors. Praise has power.


We were headed back to the training session, but the elevator was slow, as usual. On the ride up, the trainer spoke up.

“Jane, that was a great illustration in today’s paper. I really liked how it captured the theme of the story.”

Jane modestly thanked him.

The trainer told us how powerful it is to acknowledge someone’s hard work. We could run on compliments all day.

Jane was smiling. She had been paid a sincere compliment.

He also mentioned that the half-ass effort can be worse than no effort: the drive-by compliment. I’ve seen it before: A well-meaning boss tells you good job on something without breaking his stride. No specifics, no deviation, no sincerity.

Ouch. Just barely enough to keep your attention.

Walking out of the elevator, we realized, to our collective shame, that we overlook this simple act with alarming frequency. So many times when I hear people complain about their jobs, it’s because they’re not appreciated.

More money would be nice. So would more autonomy. But sometimes, it would make their day to have someone — a supervisor, a colleague, a customer — tell them “Job well done.”

I’ve challenged myself and others to pay a compliment a day to someone in the office. It must be sincere, and it should be delivered in person (though a call or an e-mail is an acceptable emergency substitute). Lead by example, always.

Ideally, it would spark the same outreach in others. More often than not, it goes nowhere.

So what? I strove to become better at paying compliments, because it’s a great motivator. If two minutes of my time could lift someone’s spirits, bully for me. No one asked me to; no one would notice if I stopped.

If you really want to get someone’s attention, you write it out on paper. A few times a year, I would pull out pen and paper and write a short note to a colleague about a job well done: a great photo, a multi-page layout, a team project completed beyond expectation. Sometimes, it was a member of my department; often, it was another MVP elsewhere in the newsroom.

You wouldn’t think a note would be a big deal. But it was. If you really mean it, if you can point out why you like something, the note writes itself. It’s tangible; you didn’t just imagine another person praised your work.

I find myself doing just a little more for the ones who take time to pay me compliments. I’m not one for cheap flattery, but I like to think my efforts make a difference. If not, why bother?

A friend complimented me for picking a good housewarming gift this week. Another friend complimented my recent writings today. It made me smile. It made me feel appreciated.

That is the power of praise.


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