How to keep your foot out of your mouth

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Sometimes we communicate more in what we don’t express in words than what actually comes out our mouths. An employee hands you a report he prepared for a meeting and you respond, “Hey, you did a great job this time!” You may be truly delighted at the quality of the work he produced but the employee walks away thinking. “This time? How bad was it last time? I must have really done a lousy job before.”

You walk into an area where several of your employees work in an open environment. You notice a picture of one employee’s family on her desk. You comment, “What a beautiful family you have.” The woman beams with excitement from the compliment you just paid her family. On your way out you pass four other people and say nothing about the pictures of their families. If turn up the volume on their thoughts and you might hear, “He’s never said anything to me about my family! What does he have against me?”

It’s okay to pay a compliment to your employees. In fact, it promotes a positive atmosphere and lays the foundation for further communication. Just don’t let it backfire on you by ignoring the other listening employees who may be hungry for a nice pat on the back.

Don’t go to the other extreme and refrain from any recognition or positive comments. That compounds the problem even more. Just make sure you are generous with your kind words and don’t leave other out.

Choose your compliments wisely and time them carefully so all employees receive the genuine heartfelt encouragement you mean when you express your thoughts in words. Even if it is only a brief word here and there employees will appreciate that you include everyone in the workgroup without showing favoritism to a select few.


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