You can now read 5 articles in a month for free on BostonGlobe.com. Read as much as you want anywhere and anytime for just 99¢.

ETIQUETTE AT WORK

A compliment, written or spoken, can go a long way

I received a letter the other day. If my surprise and interest in the letter are any indication of how others might react to what has become an unusual event, perhaps more of us should consider sending real letters more often in order for that message to stand out.

The letter itself was very complimentary about “Essential Manners for Men, 2nd Edition.” As I read the letter, I was reminded about the power of the compliment. I spend a lot of time talking about rudeness and the destructive nature of negative messages, but not much time talking about positives. And compliments are a great form of the positive.

Continue reading below

Things to consider when giving a compliment:

 Sincerity matters. Compliments should be heartfelt as they are delivered. A monotone “Nice job” doesn’t cut it. But an enthusiastic “Nice job. I know you worked hard on the project,” does.

  Better yet, focus on something specific. “I really appreciate your effort” is pretty nebulous. “The extra hours and care you took with the XYZ contract really made a difference. Great work,” is much better. It shows you really noticed.

  You can offer your boss a compliment once in a while, too. Just be careful: Too often and it can look like you’re brownnosing. Focus your compliment on how the boss’s actions helped you understand how to handle a situation better. “Mr. Smith, the way you resolved that problem in the meeting was impressive. I learned something.”

  As a boss, if you give a compliment orally, consider putting it in writing as well so the recipient has a record of it and can bring it up at the next review.

  Don’t overuse compliments by giving too many. They should be parceled out carefully. Give them too freely and too frequently and you lose the sincerity that is so important to a good compliment.

Many times when people receive a compliment, they don’t know how to respond. So they end up diminishing it: “It was nothing.” Or, in their embarrassment they may actually say nothing. The best response to a compliment is a sincere “Thank you.”

E-mail questions about business etiquette to etiquetteatwork@emilypost.com.
Loading comments...
Subscriber Log In

We hope you've enjoyed your 5 free articles'

Stay informed with unlimited access to Boston’s trusted news source.

  • High-quality journalism from the region’s largest newsroom
  • Convenient access across all of your devices
  • Today’s Headlines daily newsletter
  • Subscriber-only access to exclusive offers, events, contests, eBooks, and more
  • Less than 25¢ a week
Marketing image of BostonGlobe.com
Marketing image of BostonGlobe.com
Already a subscriber?
Your city. Your stories. Your Globe.
Yours FREE for two weeks.
Enjoy free unlimited access to Globe.com for the next two weeks.
Limited time only - No credit card required!
BostonGlobe.com complimentary digital access has been provided to you, without a subscription, for free starting today and ending in 14 days. After the free trial period, your free BostonGlobe.com digital access will stop immediately unless you sign up for BostonGlobe.com digital subscription. Current print and digital subscribers are not eligible for the free trial.
Thanks & Welcome to Globe.com
You now have unlimited access for the next two weeks.
BostonGlobe.com complimentary digital access has been provided to you, without a subscription, for free starting today and ending in 14 days. After the free trial period, your free BostonGlobe.com digital access will stop immediately unless you sign up for BostonGlobe.com digital subscription. Current print and digital subscribers are not eligible for the free trial.