How to Respond to Work-Related Praise

How to Take a Compliment Gracefully | CorporetteHow do you respond when someone praises your work — without sounding like an entitled braggart (and without undermining yourself)? Reader T has a great question about compliments at work.

My question for you is, how do you respond to a co-worker (sometimes a supervisor) telling you they’ve heard great comments/feedback about your work? I’m confused as to whether this is a compliment you simply say thank you to, or is there more we should add? (i.e. I appreciate the opportunity to learn) It’s not a direct compliment, yet somehow is one. I often feel the need to justify the passed-along compliment with an explanation, yet sometimes I inadvertently undermine my own efforts and achievements.

First, that absolutely is praise, so congrats to Reader T.  I’m curious to hear what the readers say about whether you can undermine yourself with your response to praise. For my own $.02 — particularly as someone with an overactive imposter syndrome — I’ve definitely been tempted to respond with things like, “It was a team effort!” or “___ really helped by supervising me,” or “I was really lucky to find the answer so quickly!”

Maybe it’s a facet of age or experience (or just writing and reading about this stuff), but I’m pretty sure that my more recent response to any work-related praise has been (and will be) more along the following lines: Thanks. I’m glad you’re hearing good things. It was a fun project and I’m happy to get started on a new one. All said with a smile but not necessarily exclamation points. I feel like these responses don’t undermine your work by attributing luck or someone else.  Maybe it’s just me, but none of these responses really smack of WHY YES I AM A GENIUS HOW NICE OF YOU TO NOTICE.

I’m curious, readers — do you inadvertently undermine your own efforts and achievements, either by being overly humble or letting your imposter complex take over?  Do you notice other people doing it?

Pictured: Thank You, originally uploaded to Flickr by HelloJenuine (also available for sale at Etsy).

Cosmetic Surgery and the Office

breast reduction coworkers.indexedHow do you deal with cosmetic surgery (breast reduction, breast enlargement, nose jobs, etc) at the office?  What do you tell coworkers? Reader D wonders…

I have a question about dealing with a very sensitive issue at work. I will be having breast reduction surgery at the end of the summer and don’t know how to deal with questions from my coworkers. I will be out of the office for a week and will look noticeably different when I return. The surgery itself doesn’t concern me, I’m actually very excited about it, but the thought of answering all those prying questions, or just dealing with people’s observations, is making me very anxious. I would love to hear people’s thoughts on this one.

Congrats on your upcoming surgery, D — may it be everything you want it to be, both in terms of pain reduction, lifestyle, and appearance.  As a fellow, ahem, curvy girl myself, I feel your pain.  I’m curious to hear what readers say about this one, but a few thoughts:

  • Grow a thick skin regarding your coworkers.  (Put another way: F’em.)   [Read more…]

When Do Girly Clothes Become Unprofessional?

dressing-too-girlyIf you wear girly clothes, will you be seen as less of a professional? Reader A wonders…

I recently parted ways with a company where I was being micromanaged, like my boss didn’t trust me to do anything without his help and supervision. He never said why, but he kept treating me like some incompetent child. At the same time, I’m really into mid-century fashion, and I would wear really girly things that wouldn’t really been seen in most traditional offices – polka dots, shades of pink, lacy headbands, and even bows. I knew it was unorthodox and I may get some weird looks, but in hindsight I’m wondering if my clothing made my manager see me as a little girl, and maybe that’s why he wasn’t taking me seriously as a young professional. Do you think there was any connection between my fashion choices and my boss’s micromanagement?

Yowza. Ok. We’ve talked before about being feminine, as well as wearing vintage to the office, but we haven’t really discussed how going Extremely Girly affects how colleagues perceive you.  I do think  A few thoughts:

  • In general, wearing the occasional girly item is OK.  For example, something pink or polka-dotted will not make you seem like less of a professional, particularly if you otherwise act like a grown-up. Similarly, a bow here or there is fine, provided you don’t look like a present waiting to be unwrapped.  Personally I’m not a huge fan of headbands, but I think that sedate ones (solid ones, if not ones that match your hair color) are occasionally OK at work.
  • That said, it’s a bad idea to wear very girly things exclusively — Elle Woods was comical because she wore pink ALL THE TIME.  [Read more…]

How to Lower Your Voice

how to lower your voiceHave you ever thought you should deepen your voice (and make it louder) to be taken more seriously? Reader G has a great suggestion for a topic …

I’m in my mid-thirties and had to work hard early in my career to be taken seriously. A big component of that is consciously “aging” my voice, so that I don’t sound 12. I frequently speak publicly for my job, and have found that the engagements where I was a bit hoarse are the ones where I feel that I was taken the most seriously. I have seen other ladies in the same position–they talk normally all the time and its like birds chirping, they get hoarse from too many late nights of prep work, and all of a sudden have gravitas.

YES. Yes, yes, yes. I always feel like I need to deepen my voice — significantly — in order to be taken seriously. On average, every time I’ve recorded an “out of the office” message I’ve done about fifteen takes (oh, how I hate having to do it for a two-day vacation!), and I definitely think about it before I leave voicemails with people. In fact, I’ve been editing some family movies lately (using Pinnacle on my iPad, and loving it, FWIW) and it’s kind of shocking to hear my natural voice with my husband and son because I sound like I’m twelve. They’re my family, I shouldn’t have to lower my voice for them, but it’s just odd compared to all of the other times I’ve heard my voice lately, such as for Corporette videos or whatnot.  [Read more…]

OMG, LOL!!! How to Convey Tone In Email Without Seeming Childish

How do you convey tone in email without seeming childish or girlish?  Can you ever use exclamations in emails?  Reader C wonders…

I’m hoping you can address the issue of using !’s in emails at work. As we all know, tone is hard to convey properly via email. However, whenever I am inclined to use an ! to convey a positive tone, I get the sense that it actually reads as childish or immature. I also never seem to notice men using !’s in emails, either…. I’d love to hear yours and others thoughts on this!

Outstanding question, and I can’t wait to hear what readers say.  A lot has been written about overuse of exclamations in emails — with some people even suggesting that one exclamation mark per email is a good rule to follow.  There’s even an app to help you check the tone of your email!  My best general advice is that abbreviations, multiple punctuation marks (!!!), and overly casual phrases (“amazeballs!”) have no place in professional emails.   Beyond that, I think a lot of this depends on why you want to use a positive tone.  For example: [Read more…]

Can Older Women Have Long Hair and Still Be Professional?

Glasses and long hair, originally uploaded to Flickr by Carutapera | PixelAlibi.Long hair on older women: the perennial question.  Despite our extensive oeuvre of hair-related questions here, I don’t think we’ve done this one* (and it was hotly protested among commenters in response to The Careerist’s recent diatribe against Hillary Clinton’s long hair, as well as among her own readers.  (Although looking back, we have done the “should I cut my hair for my first job” variation on the question.)

Let me begin by saying I’m biased: at 35, I have probably the longest hair I’ve had in a long time.  This is for a few reasons, I suppose:  first, the last time I did a major cut (donating 9″ to charity after my wedding), it kind of grew into a triangle shape, and now both my husband and my hairdresser protest heartily whenever I try to cut it anywhere near the top of my shoulders.  Second, it’s growing like a weed right now (which will probably change when we finish weaning). Furthermore, I look back on pictures from my early 20s to mid 20s, when my hair was at its all time shortest, and feel a sense of disconnect with that person.  So I think I’m kind of solidly in the camp of “I’m going to wear my hair long until I can’t.” (Pictured above: Glasses and long hair, originally uploaded to Flickr by Carutapera | PixelAlibi.)   [Read more…]