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How to give kudos at work. Try these 5 examples to show appreciation

October 24, 2022 - 12 min read

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What does kudos mean?

A guide for giving compliments

Sample shout-outs to employees

When not to give public praise

Compliments are good for your health

How often do you compliment your employees? 

According to the majority of American workers, you probably don’t do it enough. Only 33% said they received regular praise at work, and most said their best efforts are routinely ignored by management. 

Gallup calls this one of the greatest missed opportunities for leaders and managers. Workers who do not feel adequately recognized at work are twice as likely to say they’ll quit within the next year.

And when an employee leaves, companies spend up to 200% of their former salary hunting for a replacement. Giving compliments isn't just a nice thing to do as a leader — it affects your bottom line.

The economic benefits of compliments are real, but ideally, you would be praising your employees for more than just a buck. Teamwork lives or dies based on shared respect and mutual trust, and regular praise cultivates these virtues in the workplace. This, in turn, takes your whole team’s performance to the next level because everyone knows how to work well together.

Properly giving kudos isn’t easy. It requires astute leadership skills. You have to decide when a compliment is deserved and how to hand it out properly.

You won’t always get it right, and that’s okay. But these kudos examples will help you spread joy around the office.

What does kudos mean?

Giving kudos means rewarding a hard-working team for a job well done. You can do this in several ways, but all of them can yield the following benefits:

  • Increased team motivation. It’s hard for a team to perform at their best when they’re feeling under-appreciated. Recognizing their efforts and complimenting them can give them a boost to keep going. 
  • Better productivity. A steady paycheck convinces someone to do their job consistently well. But they won’t strive for excellence if they don’t feel it’s worth it. Giving props can help your team be more productive and go above and beyond. One survey found that 37% of respondents found personal recognition inspired them to produce better work.
  • Stronger work culture. Compliments are contagious. If your management style is rooted in positivity, your team will follow suit — contributing to an overall healthier work environment and company culture.

Learning how to praise a team for good work is worth it. But if you have a reputation for being a difficult boss, prepare for a rocky start. Your first few compliments may sound clunky or inauthentic, and you may encounter awkward silences until they’re used to seeing this side of you.

But that doesn't mean you should give up. As you practice, you’ll become more comfortable with giving props. You’ll think on your feet and find opportunities to spread positivity. The more you do this, the more your employees will trust that you mean the nice things you say.

And spreading positivity isn’t just about others. Being kind can improve your mood, confidence, and overall sense of well-being. It can also reduce your stress levels on an otherwise difficult day.

improve influence - coaching for individuals

A guide for giving compliments

Employee appreciation means, first and foremost, recognizing them as equals. They may not have the same decision-making power as you, but they’re also professionals with skills you don't have.

Without them, your department wouldn’t meet deadlines, produce products, or write lines of code. This is why learning how to praise your employees is similar to how to give kudos to a coworker at your level.

Here are some tips that can help you:

1. Make it specific

When giving compliments, avoid being vague. Randomly approaching an employee and saying, “Kudos for your hard work!” doesn’t show you care; it shows that you don’t know them well enough to think of something personal. Giving compliments with integrity means knowing the person, understanding their contributions, and handing out praise accordingly.

The best compliments touch on something specific a person did. If they gave a great presentation, say so. Better yet, mention your favorite part of it. They’re more likely to produce similar quality work now that they know what you like.

2. Focus on the impact

When a worker focuses on a task, they may not always see the bigger picture. It’s hard for them to know where their contribution fits if they’re not at the same high-level meetings as you.

Handshake-for-the-successful-partnership-kudos-example

Explaining how their action helped you or your organization makes them feel like part of the mission. For example, “The beautiful website you created is the cornerstone of our fundraising campaign. Thanks to you, prospective donors have a one-stop-shop to learn about how we’re helping the community.”

3. Sweat the small stuff

Details matter. Cherish the people who keep your shared folders organized, annotate your briefs with useful notes, and pitch solutions instead of problems. These things take time, and their thoughtfulness should be rewarded. Such quality-of-life contributions deserve acclaim for making everything run smoothly.

4.  Mean what you say

People can tell when you give praise out of necessity instead of authenticity. When you’re handing out compliments, make sure that you truly believe in the value of their work.

If you hold genuine gratitude for a person’s contribution, your compliment will appear more honest — because it is. Fewer genuine compliments will have a more positive effect than excessive fake ones because they know you mean it and that they deserve it.

5. Bake it into your company values

If you have the authority, put your human resources department in charge of employee morale. They can create an employee recognition program that builds respect between teammates. And implementing a peer recognition portal where individuals can submit anonymous compliments for their colleagues fosters stronger relationships among team members.

Business-people-having-discussion-for-new-agreement-kudos-example

Sample shout-outs to employees

Remembering these tips will help you give great compliments. Before you know it, office morale will be approaching an all-time high. You may even receive some kudos yourself.

But what does great positive feedback look like? Try using these examples of kudos in Slack, email, or in person:

  • Completing a difficult task. “You did a great job on this project. I know it wasn’t easy, and I noticed how hard you worked on it. I’ll be sure to mention it to the client; you really went the extra mile today.”
  • Contributing an idea in a meeting. “That’s a great idea. I think if we start implementing it now, we could solve our efficiency problem by the end of the month. Great work!”
  • Solving a problem. “You really stepped up back there. Without your help, those issues would have kept us from meeting our deadlines. As always, your expertise is invaluable. Keep it up!”

Colleagues-discussing-at-desk-in-creative-office-kudos-example

  • Working on a holiday. “I really appreciate you for filling in on Thanksgiving —  I know you would rather be at home with your family. Here’s a restaurant gift card so you can take them out later. It’s not perfect, but I hope it helps. Thanks again.”
  • Learning a new skill. “I’m really impressed that you were able to do that; you’ve improved so much in a short period. I’m sure your new skills will continue to be useful in the future! Good work.”
  • Organizing a staff event. Thank you so much for taking the initiative on this. These get-togethers are always so much fun, and it’s nice to see everyone mingle outside of work. You did a great job.”
  • Celebrating work anniversaries. “I can’t believe it’s already been a year. Your work ethic, unique perspective, and high-quality work put you among some of our top performers. Thanks for everything that you do.”

When not to give public praise

When handing out compliments, it’s tempting to do so publicly. You may announce someone’s accomplishments in a meeting or in the middle of a workspace, encouraging the entire team to celebrate the person’s milestones. While this is a great way to recognize some people, it’s not always best.

Some individuals may not enjoy public attention — even if it’s positive. It can make them feel self-conscious, singled out, or embarrassed, which are all opposite to what you’re hoping to achieve. 

Multi-ethnic-business-people-working-together-in-office-kudos-example

Before dishing out public praise, ask your subject how they’d prefer to receive praise. Give them your compliment privately using all of the advice outlined above, then explain why you think it’s deserving of public recognition. And if they would rather keep it to themselves, respect their boundaries.

Otherwise, they’ll learn to distrust you and may resort to underperforming to reduce the risk of public attention.

Compliments are good for your health

When you’re stressed out and having a bad day, complimenting your team might be the last thing on your mind. You have a task list a mile long and back-to-back meetings. You’re doing everything you can to reach the time when you can go home and rest.

Even the crabbiest among us can develop a positive attitude, express gratitude, and give thanks for good work. Use the above kudos examples as a starting point.

Then, as you continue to practice, you’ll develop your own style of giving props. You may choose to give fist bumps to everyone in the office or send a very personal and thankful email to an individual.

However you choose to give kudos, your efforts will be worth it. Hard-working teams don’t stay that way for long if they feel undervalued. Reminding them why they’re great will help increase employee engagement and set your department up for success.

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Published October 24, 2022

Shonna Waters, PhD

Vice President of Alliance Solutions

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