How do I respond to professional praise?
March 12, 2012 1:39 PM   Subscribe

My manager fairly frequently sends me email praising me for my work. I think I'm just doing my job. How should I respond?

I've been at my current position for a couple years now and I'm becoming more integral to the running of the (fairly small) operation I work for. I'm not surprised this happened and I would think that someone in my position would be expected to do so. My manager seems to think that I'm doing an exceptional job and working outside the expectations of my position, and emails me notes to that effect. Some notes are quite simple ("You did x very well. Keep up the good work") whereas a few are much more detailed (to the point of subtly suggesting different responsibilities/a promotion in the indefinite future).

To be concise, I'm not used to emails like these and I don't know how to (or if I should) respond to them in a professional matter. In previous environments I've worked in, the best feedback I've received is simply more advanced work and a positive performance review. As a result, I'm not sure how to handle these emails. I don't particularly want to respond with statements about my abilities that "toot my own horn" - particularly since it seems redundant. I also don't want to express a desire for different responsibility without knowing what it is and what the details are. So far, I've just responded with simple notes saying "thanks for the feedback" with a few more niceties added in, but I can't help but think that might be perceived as being somewhat lacking.

If it matters, I don't have an issue with my compensation (from a market perspective, I am overcompensated for my work, but I am also more competent than the market). I don't mind additional responsibility, but I want to keep it to responsibilities that further my career rather than ones that are just additional work.
posted by anonymous to Work & Money (28 answers total) 4 users marked this as a favorite
"Thanks." And file it away in a folder for when you need a reminder that you're good at what you do.

Giving timely positive feedback is a big management thing these days but it feels weird if you're not used to it.
posted by mendel at 1:44 PM on March 12, 2012 [2 favorites]

I can't imagine there's any response other than "thank you." Clearly your manager appreciates you. Be grateful, express it, and move on.
posted by litnerd at 1:45 PM on March 12, 2012

"Thank you! I appreciate the positive feedback."
posted by Sidhedevil at 1:45 PM on March 12, 2012 [17 favorites]

I'd just say "Thanks!"

There are a lot more incompetent than competent people in the workplace. He's probably relieved and grateful to have a solid employee. Take the praise and leave it at that.
posted by something something at 1:46 PM on March 12, 2012 [4 favorites]

You can use your reply as an opportunity to open some dialogue about something. but if there's nothing you want at the moment, "thanks" is enough.
posted by griphus at 1:47 PM on March 12, 2012 [2 favorites]

Thank you!
posted by grouse at 1:51 PM on March 12, 2012

As a manager who often does this when I'm really happy with someone's performance, there is no particular response I'm looking for. Acknowledgement is good, but nothing else is really important.
posted by pazazygeek at 1:52 PM on March 12, 2012 [2 favorites]

If you REALLY wanna be a go-getter:

"Thanks for the feedback! I'm always looking for ways to improve my performance, so if you have tips for how I can do so, please do share."
posted by saraindc at 1:53 PM on March 12, 2012 [3 favorites]

"Thanks! I hope I can keep it up!" - implies you're not looking to expand upon your current success. Seconding filing it away with a flag indicating importance as a performance metric - can tout it in relevant circles if needed. These little emails are just your manager being a competent manager, one that provides regular positive reinforcement. They're not expecting anything more than that "Thanks" and won't mind the simplicity of such a response.
posted by MangyCarface at 1:53 PM on March 12, 2012 [1 favorite]

Thanks, always happy to do a good job. Thank you, I'm glad it went so well for everyone. Cheers, thanks for letting me know. Always glad to be of service! Great, glad it was so well received. Thanks for taking the time to let me know. You're very, very welcome. My pleasure. Anytime.

Whatever; select, wash, rinse, and repeat as needed. Be brief, be gracious, but make sure you acknowledge the feedback.
posted by DarlingBri at 1:54 PM on March 12, 2012 [3 favorites]

They're just looking for a thanks and that's all you should be giving.

Internally you should be happy you're getting feedback and that it's positive.
posted by mleigh at 1:56 PM on March 12, 2012

Yep; you just need to say thanks. I file these emails for review time.
posted by runningwithscissors at 2:03 PM on March 12, 2012 [2 favorites]

Say Thanks, that is encouraging to hear. Lets them know their feedback has an effect.

BTW save these emails in a folder for use come performance review time. Especially if you are required to write your own for your supervisor to review.
posted by cross_impact at 2:06 PM on March 12, 2012

Do not, under any circumstances, discourage this kind of email.

He is doing you an enormous favor of creating a "paper trail" of positive feedback.

If you ever have to (god forbid) blow the whistle or otherwise make waves at work, you have several years of positive revieiws to protect you. If those suddenly stop, but you remain employed, that looks suspicious.
posted by bilabial at 2:08 PM on March 12, 2012 [10 favorites]

Actually, he may just be following your company's performance management policy. You should absolutely keep a folder of these emails if you ever are required to negotiate for a promotion.
posted by dobie at 2:10 PM on March 12, 2012

Three-step process, here:

1. Respond "Thanks, I really appreciate you taking the time to share that with me." Vary the wording, and occasionally add a comment like "I really felt like [thing I did] was the right thing to do, to avoid [politically-correct bad thing.]"

2. File every single one of these messages away in a folder, and print 'em out over time, because you never know how useful they might be.

3. In your face-to-face reviews, say "I really appreciate how often you take the time to send me positive notes on my performance. While we're here, though, I'd like to ask you directly: do you have any negative feedback you'd like to share with me?" and if the answer is "no", then follow up with "Since we both feel I'm excelling in this position, I'm really interested in branching out and taking on additional responsibilities, perhaps a different role. Have you given any thought to possible options in that area?" In short, use it as a lead-in to a conversation about moving up.
posted by davejay at 2:15 PM on March 12, 2012 [1 favorite]

A friend and former boss of mine, who is about 5 years older than me, says that she's taken some management courses that talk about young people entering the workplace who are accustomed to constant praise for meeting expectations-- this is the generation of the participation trophy. Not to say that you're one of those people, and I understand how you don't expect to be given special praise for ordinary work. It's possible however that your boss has the idea that you, or perhaps just all new people, should be praised to the heavens for doing what's expected.

It's also possible that he became accustomed, from previous experience, to working with complete incompetent bozos.
posted by Sunburnt at 2:16 PM on March 12, 2012

Say "Thank you!"

Then print them out and file them away for when the day comes you're fired for the trumped-up reason of "not meeting expectations". Hopefully, you'll never need them.
posted by Thorzdad at 2:22 PM on March 12, 2012

Use it as evidence to ask for a pay rise.
posted by epo at 2:49 PM on March 12, 2012

i work in an environment where my manager as well as others in the company whom i do work for will frequently thank us for our work. it's awesome. it makes me really appreciate working somewhere where my efforts are appreciated. i always just thank them.
posted by violetk at 2:54 PM on March 12, 2012 [1 favorite]

Definitely save these emails for future reference.

You can acknowledge the compliment (and, incidentally, enhance the paper trail) in a non-boasty way by replying "thanks" along with a brief elaboration of what you did. "Thanks, I was glad this project gave me the opportunity to learn some new tricks in XSLT." "Thanks, I really enjoyed collaborating with Dave and Mary this month." "Thanks, I hope now that I've set up this database we can re-use it for other projects." I actually think this is a good way to communicate with your manager and help them understand your job.

And I think acknowledging the contributions of any collaborators or support staff is classy and generally a good thing to do that will repay you in the long run. Don't diminish your own contribution, just say something to the effect of "thanks, the support / collaboration of this other person was really valuable."
posted by Orinda at 3:17 PM on March 12, 2012

CLEARLY, the best way to respond is by saying "thanks!"

HOWEVER, don't just say "Thanks." say "Thanks!" Huge difference when it comes to how it's perceived by certain types of people...

I also work in an environment like this and I really appreciate it. My management team actually goes a step further and does things like giving coins for people to accumulate in order to get gift cards, employee of the month, various employee awards along with a pin and a great story.

I like to respond by saying "Thank you, I really appreciate your email!"
posted by livinglearning at 3:19 PM on March 12, 2012 [1 favorite]

Yeah, definitely keep a folder with these. I call mine "fuzzies," and I also mix in nice emails that aren't necessarily professional-- inside jokes with coworkers and the like. When I'm having a bad day, I can look at the emails and it sometimes it helps to turn things around.

One of my first supervisors did this a lot. I had a similar reaction at first, but really learned to value it when I started working under someone whose only form of feedback was an occasional email saying "thanks for taking care of this." Not exactly helpful come review time, and doesn't make me feel all warm and fuzzy. Now that I supervise people, I try to be like boss 1, not boss 2, for what it's worth.
posted by charmcityblues at 3:21 PM on March 12, 2012 [1 favorite]

I also nth having a folder for this kind of stuff. I actually have a folder called "accolades and recognition" and I still have all of the letters that were typed out and signed by the manager of my department for things like commitment to excellence and helping hand awards.
posted by livinglearning at 3:22 PM on March 12, 2012

Say thank you and cherish it. Cherish it for all of us whose greatest compliment we ever received from our boss is "you're smart, why the fuck don't you know that by now?"
posted by notsnot at 5:17 PM on March 12, 2012 [1 favorite]

this is your opening, hit him up for a 50 - never fails...

just kidding! just tell him that you appreciate it. no big whup. anything is good except shutting him down or withdrawing, then it gets weird
posted by facetious at 10:32 PM on March 12, 2012

I sat through a meeting about what staff wanted for good performance. I said I wanted the Corporate Angels who come and do shoulder massages at your desk, but lots of other people said that they just wanted to be thanked and acknowledged by their manager. Either nothing, or brief responses as above is fine.
posted by AnnaRat at 1:47 AM on March 13, 2012

The one I like best, and which you probably can't use, is:
"No applause, just throw money!"

I have been in situations where I saw people perform their jobs to expectations, and it was totally a surprise. It happens. A person who does their job well can be like fresh air, when you've suffered from the opposite awhile.
posted by Goofyy at 3:52 AM on March 13, 2012

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