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How to Tell Someone They're Doing a Great Job

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Look at a pure white sheet of paper with a discolored spot on it. What did you notice first? Correct – the discoloration. Similarly, in our relationships with people, we often tend to harp on a few errors rather than appreciate all the things they get right. Whether in the work place or at home, it is important to notice the efforts people put into their work and compliment them as soon as possible. Telling someone they are doing a great job is not about flattery but about sincerely expressing your appreciation of their effort.

Identify specifically what the person is doing well and praise that particular aspect. Statements such as “You are doing great” or “Good going” are too general to convey what it is that you appreciate and at times may even sound superficial. For example, if someone is working on a difficult project, praise her creativity, hard work or endurance.

Tell a person he is doing a great job as soon as you notice it, and if possible, when there are other people present. Receiving praise in public is a huge morale booster that increases the person’s self-confidence. However, never praise one person for what is a team effort; rather, praise the entire team. Similarly, avoid belittling a significant contribution by one person by attributing success to the whole team.

Word your appreciation to focus on the individual you are complimenting. Use less of “I” and more of “You.” Explain what you like about the job the person is doing and acknowledge his effort. For example, instead of saying, “I think you handled the XYZ company presentation well,” say, “You were very impressive during the XYZ company presentation. It must have taken you a lot of time to create that PowerPoint presentation. Keep up the good work.”

Praise the person’s effort as well as the result she achieved. If your child has scored better on the math test this time, say, “You have been working really hard on your math, and see how your efforts paid off? That is a great score you achieved.”

Put your appreciation in writing whenever possible. A written note or an email is something that stays with the person who receives the compliment, giving her an inner glow every time she reads it.

Praise the intention behind the action if nothing else. There are often situations where, in spite of the best efforts, a person fails to achieve his goal. It is equally, if not more, important to convey your appreciation in such circumstances.


Hailing out of Pittsburgh, Pa., David Stewart has been writing articles since 2004, specializing in consumer-oriented pieces. He holds an associate degree in specialized technology from the Pittsburgh Technical Institute.

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