Organization & Leadership Consulting

A Manager’s Guide To Compliments Versus Encouragement

a winding path through the woods
Navigating compliments and encouragement in the workplace can be challenging.

Navigating the nuanced differences between compliments and encouragement is at times a winding road, but take heart. Both compliments and encouragement can be used to your advantage to create a healthy workplace environment, especially with a little attention to detail. Let’s take a look at the benefits of encouragement, compliments, and the in-between. 

Workplace Compliments and What They Add

Webster’s dictionary defines compliment as, “an expression of esteem, respect, affection, or admiration, especially an admiring remark.” Typically, compliments are short remarks spoken in the moment, as such, they can immediately serve as effective team builders. Compliments express satisfaction or respect for a job well done.  In your role as manager, your team members likely hold your opinion of their work in high-esteem. This means your words and actions have significant power. As such, they need you to wield this power wisely. Be mindful not only of what you say but how you say it. Words are powerful. Tone of voice, facial expressions, and other non-verbals are even more so. 

Thoughtfully utilize the art of the complement to build a strong and healthy workplace environment. Connect it to aspects of your culture. Definitely connect it to what’s important to the individual. Avoid making any remarks without at least a moment of consideration to their potential effect. Also, strive to be specific. There is a distinct difference between saying, “Great job today, Mark” and “You showed great attention to detail on your expense reports, Mark.”

In addition to in-the-moment feedback, planning compliments to be timely and poignant provides a deep impact. Inauthentic use of compliments cheapens their value, so be discerning. Compliments are optimal when they are consistently substantive, not merely constant or superficial. Offer compliments authentically, and your people will see their impact on the positivity of their workplace culture. 

Workplace Encouragement and Its Impact

Encouragement differs slightly from compliments in that you offer compliments for a job well done, and you offer encouragement to inspire the process of getting there. Compliments can be used to encourage, and encouragement can be complimentary, but the functions are different. Like compliments, encouraging words hold real power and discernment is key. The manager is a leader in the workplace; as the head turns, so follows the body. (Dealing with exceptions is another topic.)

Consider offering encouragement when you sense morale is low. You might offer encouraging words through stories of tough times successfully navigated. While incentives can motivate your team through particularly challenging seasons, stories connect their hearts to the work and each other. Stronger connection occurs when you truly know your employees and demonstrate  your confidence in their abilities. Knowing your team personally works to their advantage when they need encouragement. You’ll more readily recognize if a break would be encouraging to one team member or a breakdown of the task might benefit another. And, because difficulties are guaranteed, encouragement is an essential skill for anyone in leadership.

Suggested Resource: The Truth About Employee Engagement by Patrick Lencioni

Managing and encouraging your team members doesn’t have to be a burden. Our team at TurningWest are an experienced and understanding group of experts, ready to help you make your organization a place of thriving. TurningWest – Your guide to a healthy culture with meaningful results.



Leave a Reply