Improve Worker Efficiency Through Compliments

26 Sep

“George, you just are not working hard enough to complete those files I gave you last week. They’d better be finished soon.” This is a perfect example of unconstructive criticism, which lacks the key ingredients to guide worker efficiency in the right direction. Such a demand seems harsh, uncaring, and unsympathetic, leaving the employee thinking, “Why is my boss such a jerk? Why do I even exert any effort at all?” These thoughts will most likely lead to greater worker inefficiency and boss resentment. Here are five tricks of the trade to get your employees producing optimal results.

Provide Two Compliments For Every Criticism

Begin the discussion by pointing out the worker’s strengths and recognize two specific examples in which he or she has accomplished a task beyond merely satisfactory standards. People tend to pay more attention to compliments than to criticism. By initiating the situation with positivity and grabbing the employee’s focus, a manager can more deeply penetrate his or her mindset through constructive criticism. An appropriate structure for such a conversation might be, “Name, you have done a fantastic job working with…and completing… With an equal effort on…I can only imagine how quickly you could get it done.” It is also never a bad idea for managers to compliment their workers on small everyday tasks, so that when it comes time to crack the whip, individuals will maintain a positive view of their superiors.

Be Specific

Using quantitative data and specific examples of tasks that employees have completely both well and poorly provides them with indisputable evidence of why change is needed. When asking a worker to accomplish more effectively, just stating that he or she could improve is unclear and lacks viability. Communicating what must change, why it must change, and how it must change will make a world of difference.

Use Assertion, Not Aggression

Assertion plays a big role when it comes to specificity. Tell the employee how he or she can make a change, not only what the problems are. Keep the person interested in potential outcomes instead of aggressively pointing out the worker’s faults. Aggression leads to employee retreat and will disable him or her from hearing and processing the information at hand.

Maintain Eye Contact

Eye contact conveys sincerity and attention. It lets the worker know that you really care about his or her work and that in addition to wanting the best for your company you also want the best for him or her.

Keep It Conversational

Allow for a discussion instead of forcing a lecture. Listen to the employee’s response to a request or criticism because listening is just as important as the manner in which you phrase the request. There are often two sides to any story; the more a manager understands his employees’ point of view, the more the employee will accomplish in the end.

by Kyle Bank


3 Responses to “Improve Worker Efficiency Through Compliments”

  1. Katie Bush September 27, 2011 at 4:59 am #

    What I appreciate most about this article is the section on two compliments for every criticism. In our increasingly fast-paced world, where interaction is often not face-to-face, I believe compliments are increasingly important to maintain a sense of personal connection. I’ve certainly noticed that I’m most likely to work hard with and for someone, whether a boss, peer, co-worker, coach or teammate, if he or she doesn’t always diminish my effort. While some workers may not need the positive reinforcement I often appreciate, its so difficult to judge how sensitive a person is to being criticized – so better safe than sorry. A similar approach I’ve heard of is a “compliment sandwich.”

  2. Jonathan Emden September 28, 2011 at 8:17 pm #

    I agree that earned compliments are healthy to a work environment. However, I disagree that the main objective in offering compliments should be to increase worker efficiency. If using compliments is simply a means to an end, then you devalue the role that compliments are meant to have: recognizing and encouraging good work. I am not bothered by the fact that an employer would use compliments, but to argue that an employer use compliments to generate better ‘yield’ from employees is offputting.

  3. Daniel Duggal September 29, 2011 at 3:47 am #


    I have to say this has been the best relevant and valuable post I have seen so far.

    In particular, I agree with you regarding the power and value of compliments. I find that I oftentimes disagree with group members, and need to use compliments to make my point more effectively communicated. Furthermore, in business as in any other endeavor, one has to be strategic and smart. Sometimes, that means playing politic. I think that being disingenuous (I can’t think of a better word), is sometimes acceptable – even necessary – in business. A business person has to be honest operate with integrity, but you also have ‘to play the game’. For example, I want to work in fiance, where egos and testosterone run high. To succeed in that sort of environment, you have to be assertive and strong-willed, but also a people person.

    Just wanted to share my perspective.

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