Corporate Survival Guide: Complimentality

When someone at work says, “Great trip report!” what they’re really saying is, “You suck at everything else!”

Obviously, the ability for today’s Corporate Warrior to accurately digest and clearly communicate information is a critical skill on the Battlefield of Business. But when it becomes your defining characteristic, it’s time to start hoarding office supplies and packing up your desk.

Compliments, like financial reports, are more significant in what they don’t say. If someone reads some article you wrote and says, “Great piece!” you can take some amount of satisfaction that, even though they probably didn’t mean it and may not have actually read it, they did say that they liked it. As a whole, sum total, in entirety. On the other hand, if they read it and everything else you’ve written and take the time to point out a single sentence or word and say, “I liked that,” you should understand both that they may have liked that nugget … and that they didn’t actually like anything else in your vast volume of work.

Like most methods of personal attack, it is critical for today’s Corporate Warrior to hone this skill. The ability to superficially compliment co-workers while simultaneously slamming them for their inadequacies is crucial in achieving your end goals of being seen as better than them and, as a result, rising above them. You want to mix the paired skills of coming across as generous and yet not giving any ground to people whom you would rather see below you on the ladder than above.

At the same time, you will be building a foundation of insecurity in your co-workers that will, if done right, last them a lifetime.

The key to this skill is to congratulate your peers on completely unimportant things, while never acknowledging anything that they may either care about or which may be an attribute that is actually important in the workplace. The trip report example above is a good one. What better way to recognize a peer’s efforts than to compliment them on the results of them? And yet what better way to belittle their overall efforts in the corporation than to fail to recognize skills more closely connected with the job they are paid to do?

Let’s take a look at some other examples of effective compliments. Feel free to use these in your workplace or, for the more advanced Corporate Warriors, to learn the pattern and come up with some compliments of your own.

  • “Good thing John’s on the team – he makes great coffee!”
  • “About that report, Joan – great font!”
  • “Everyone: I’d like you to stop by Jim’s cube sometime and see how clean his monitor screen is. What do you use for that, Jim?”
  • Susan – fantastic punctuation!”
That’s all I have for this lesson. Excellent reading!
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