Career coaches recommend being specific and picking the right occasion
The United States cabinet just got trumped.
Donald Trump held his first full cabinet meeting yesterday and people are buzzing in bewilderment at how everyone from Secretary of State Rex Tillerson to chief of staff Reince Priebus went in a circle praising the President. “On behalf of the entire senior staff around you, Mr. President, we thank you for the opportunity and the blessing that you’ve given us,” said Priebus, who Washington wags have been speculating will lose his job since he took it.
The display of patronage was swiftly mocked. Democratic Senate leader Charles Schumer made a viral video parody of the occasion while CNN called it the “weirdest cabinet meeting ever.” But career experts say that it’s okay to praise your boss—you just have to do it the right way.
The thing to do is to praise your boss when there is reason to do so, and not in passing everyday conversation. “I would never advise a client to publicly extol someone’s virtues unless [the praise is] part of the agenda,” says New York career coach Roy Cohen. “If not, it just sounds like you’re trying to curry favor.”
GREAT meeting today with the best staff in the history of the world!!! pic.twitter.com/ocE1xhEAac
— Chuck Schumer (@SenSchumer) June 12, 2017
There are two common scenarios when it’s appropriate to give your boss props. The first is when you’re accepting or presenting an award in which case it’s good form to be effusive with your compliments. Indeed, Cohen adds that this may be the only case where it’s OK to praise someone publicly. When Halle Berry won the Best Actress Oscar in 2001 for “Monster Ball” for example, she repeatedly called the film’s director a genius in her acceptance speech. No one batted an eye.
Still, executive coach Eden Abrahams notes that Berry could have done it better by being more specific. “Don’t say ‘you’re the greatest boss in the world’ but be specific about the quality that makes them a strong quality,” she says.
Another situation when it may be appropriate to lavish some praise is when you’re having a work review with your supervisor and asking them to mentor you in a particular way. “You might say you admire the way they handle particularly difficult situations and ask for tips,” says Abrahams, managing partner at Clear Path Executive Coaching. “It’s sincere since you’re linking your own growth to a quality in them. People also love giving advice.”
Of course, there are exceptions to the rule. If you notice your boss is feeling particularly down because of work, there’s nothing wrong with saying something nice to them. “Sometimes bosses feel bad and it can be our responsibility to pump them up occasionally,” says Cohen, author of “The Wall Street Professional’s Survival Guide.” “But you’ve got to give examples to support your praise or it has no value.”
There are also some bosses who just like compliments. In which case, Cohen advises just praising away.
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