Compliments are one of the best forms of workplace currency. They're free to give out, and when done properly, can have a very positive impact on your career.

Compliments vs. Appreciation--Know the Difference

Lots of people think appreciation and compliments are one in the same. I disagree. You can appreciate someone by saying things like, "thank you," "great job," or even "you're the best," but a compliment takes it a step further by explaining the value the person provided that made you appreciate them. Compliments are a form of structured gratitude, which is proven to have extremely beneficial affects in the workplace.

It’s Not Your Job to Make Others Happy, BUT…

In a time when Millennials are getting fired for lacking professionalism and Boomers are getting fired for bad attitudes, employees must recognize it’s their jobs to make themselves happy at work. That doesn’t mean we shouldn’t strive to give them something that can help them feel more professionally successful and satisfied. When compliments are used correctly, they can be the ideal way to coach individuals to a higher level of performance.

Good Compliments Re-enforce Desired Behaviors

Whether you're a manager looking for increased productivity from a staff member, a coworker looking to work better with others, or an employee who wants to improve their relationship with a boss, you can use the following types of compliments to get the job done. Each one re-enforces a desired behavior through a process of creating a positive emotion for the recipient.

1. Made your job easier. When someone takes something off your work plate, especially something that gives you a headache, share exactly how that made a difference in your day.

2. Helped you feel better about your work. When someone makes you feel proud, inspired, or more satisfied with the work you do, you should explain how it helped you feel better.

3. Made the company money. Any time someone makes a measurable impact on revenues, you should explain how his or her efforts justified the cost of having them on staff.

4. Saved the company money. Saving money is just as valuable as making it and should be recognized as justification for employment as well.

5. Taught coworkers something valuable. Similar to #3 and #4, when an employee shows other employees how to be more valuable, he or she should be complimented for the increased impact on the success of the company beyond their own workload.

6. Improved the workplace culture. A harmonious work environment directly impacts team performance. When someone does something to lift morale, it should be recognized.

7. Acted like an owner. When an employee acts as if they owned the company and does something in the best interest of the business, especially if it puts his or her own concerns aside, they should be complimented for the ability to think big picture. Keeping a business in business isn't easy. When employees show they understand that, it should be recognized.

8. Exceeded expectations. Compliments shouldn't be given to someone for doing what's expected. If you're paid to do a job, a compliment shouldn't be neccessary. But, when someone clearly goes above and beyond the scope of the job i.e. staying late, doing work not assigned, delivering faster or more than expected – these are compliment-worthy activities that can help other workers see what it takes to stand out.

9. Saved the day. When a mega-problem arises or a catastrophe occurs, those who step in to fix it without asking deserve recognition for pitching in. It also helps to place emphasis on how much worse things could have gotten for the business if it had not been resolved.

10. Avoided a disaster. Identifying a potential disaster and doing what was necessary to ensure it didn't unfold should be rewarded with compliments explaining how, if allowed to occur, the disaster could have hurt the business.

Focus On Quality, Not Quantity (But, Consistency Does Matter)

When it comes to giving compliments to drive performance, quality matters most. Be detailed, sincere, and consistent in your delivery.

NOTE: If you compliment one person more than another, keep in mind you could be seen as playing favorites. While there's something to be said for using compliments to shine the light on good behavior as a way to make lackluster performers aware they're not cutting it, excessive use can backfire and cause workplace tension.

BONUS: Your Workplace Attitude Will Improve

When you condition yourself to actively seek daily opportunities to give compliments, not only will you make others happy, but your own attitude will improve. Studies show mindful gratitude is one of the best ways to make ourselves feel better at work. In essence, giving compliments is a two-for-the-price-of-one benefit.

What's Your #BestComplimentEver?

Now, tell me the best workplace compliment you ever got in either the comments below, or on social media using the hashtag #BestComplimentEver. Let's see what compliments matter most!

Published on: Aug 17, 2015