Strictly speaking, it’s not a particularly efficient use of your time to tell people that they are doing a great job. Efficiency is a measure of how much work you put in versus how much you get out. Talking to your colleagues and giving them an attaboy provides no immediate efficiency gains. In fact, it may seem like it *wastes* precious minutes. But it in the long run, accurate compliments and supportive messages are actually one of the most effective ways to improve productivity, build rapport and strengthen business relationships. Those short moments are a small price to pay for one of the best investments you can make in your connection to others in the workplace.

How to Say It

If the worst thing you can do is never tell anyone you appreciate them, the second worst is telling them too often or in the wrong way. You must learn what each person prefers.

Some people, for example, like being told in person. Others appreciate a voicemail message or a hand-written card. Others thrive on being called out in front of a group, whereas this would terrify other people.

How do you find out how people like to be recognized? Ask. And you don’t have to be direct—you can get others to tell you what they like best by involving them in the process. Consider these approaches:

Have you ever worked at a company where there are awards? How do you feel about that?

Do you think anyone here is doing a great job? How should we let them know we appreciate it?

Do we do enough recognition here in general?

When to Say It

The best time to tell someone they are doing a great job is when they least expect it. That’s because you don’t want to create a mechanism in which people feel like they only get recognized when they are noticed.

The old management adage holds true: “catch people doing something right.”

Who Should Say It

Everyone should feel free to tell people they are doing well. But a positive message has the most effect when it comes from someone you respect. That’s why it’s almost always a good use of time to get someone else involved, especially if they are revered by others.

Don’t Forget, It’s Not Efficient

Giving out compliments takes time away from work. It’s a distraction. It prevents people from making progress because they are talking about progress that’s already been made.

But it’s really an investment. It helps us all to trust and respect each other more, which ultimately leads to more productivity.

Robby Slaughter is a principal with AccelaWork, a business improvement consulting firm in Indianapolis.

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