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How to Reply to a Boss' Accolades

by Oubria Tronshaw

If your boss gives you a compliment or award -- even though the accolade may be well deserved -- your first instinct might be to dodge the remark or bounce it back. Keep in mind that there's a difference between humility and self-sabotage. Your boss wants to see you stand up and accept the praise you deserve. After all, if you don't feel comfortable advocating your own merits, how will you be an effective representative for your company?

Don't Deflect

When your boss gives you a compliment or award, don’t deflect with a self-deprecating comment, like, “It was nothing,” or “Really? You liked it?” or “What a relief. Because I was really worried how that might turn out.” Comments that undermine your boss’s recognition can hurt his positive view of your performance. You run the risk of sending your boss the impression that you’re either insecure or don’t trust his judgement, according to Forbes.com.

Say Thanks

Because an accolade is a gift like any other, the first thing you should say is “Thank you.” Don’t put your head down or cross your arms in front of your chest in a defensive gesture. Smile, make eye contact and shake your boss’s hand if the gesture is appropriate. Show that you’re comfortable receiving a genuine compliment.

Give Credit Where It's Due

Perhaps your compliment-worthy behavior was a team effort, or maybe you did it all by yourself. Either way, respond to the accolade with a statement that shines a light on the source of your success. If you were a part of a team, acknowledge your other members, recommends PsychologyToday.com. Say, “Thanks so much. I couldn’t have done it alone. Mary and Mike worked really hard on this, too. You should be proud of all of us.” If you did it all by yourself, say, “I really appreciate the recognition. I put in a lot of long days, but it was totally worth it.” Don’t be afraid to tell your boss why you deserve the praise.

Seek the Benefit

Get as much as you can out of your compliment. Use the accolade as an opportunity to make your boss more aware of your skills. Say something like, “Thanks. If you like that, you should check out the McCarthy Report. I worked really hard on that one, too.” If your job has a formal recognition process, ask, “Do you mind filling out a feedback form? Performance evaluations are coming up and I want to score as high as I can.”

Ask for Feedback

Show your boss that you’re genuinely interested in performance feedback. Say, “Thank so much for the recognition. Do you mind telling me exactly what you liked so much? Were there any areas where my performance could have been stronger?”

About the Author

Oubria Tronshaw specializes in topics related to parenting and business. She received a Bachelor of Arts in creative writing from the Santa Fe University of Art and Design, and a Master of Fine Arts in creative writing from Chicago State University. She currently teaches English at Harper Community College in the Chicago area.

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