HOW TO COMPLIMENT AN EMPLOYEE WITHOUT BEING RUDE AND/OR STUPID
Recently an article making the rounds of LinkedIn, outlined a long list describing troublesome questions that bosses should never ask anyone with whom they have a direct reporting relationship. It ended with an open suggestion for additional questions that a manager should never ask of a sub-ordinate employee in the context of the work environment.
After some thought, here is my addition…
A BOSS/MANAGER WITH ANY SENSE OF CLASS WILL NOT ASK ANOTHER EMPLOYEE IF HE/SHE HAS A ‘HOT DATE’ WHEN THE EMPLOYEE IS OBSERVED HAVING DRESSED SMARTER THAN USUAL. Or, more smartly than usual, if you are a stickler for grammar, but dumb about life…
The only thing I can imagine Miss Manners approving would be a neutral comment, something along the lines of ‘That’s a very nice jacket/shirt/blouse/skirt/tie…you are wearing. It’s really very nice.” STOP. END OF SENTENCE. END OF SUBJECT. Having issued a polite compliment, as long as it is not overly done, or sexual in nature, that is it. You can say something nice to someone without it becoming a transgression, you really can! Issuing a compliment about apparel does not entitle any boss, old, young, male, female, born here, or imported, to cross-examine the employee who was the recipient of this compliment. It is unfathomable to me that I have been given gracious compliments, without even having had time to say a simple thank you, only to be followed up with a barrage of insulting & intrusive questions about my motivation for wearing said item of clothing.
I do not ask any of my co-workers if they have a ‘hot date’ as a follow-up to any type of compliment about personal appearance. I do not make it a habit to make comments on a frequent basis about anyone’s mode of dress, unless it is very nice, and then that is all.
Why is it acceptable for women bosses to ask me if I have a “hot date,?” If, as a male, I were to ask any female employee such a question, I would immediately be reported up a very poisonous food chain for a disciplinary write-up, leading to charges of sexual harassment.
But, as a male, I have had to endure all-too-frequent questions about my personal life. My stock answer (after asking myself “What would King Solomon do?”–to update that a bit & I ask myself “What would the King of Belgium do? Or, what would the Queen of Denmark do? What would King Constantine do, (if the Greek government came to its senses?“). I say thank you & just explain that it was clean & handy, and a good day to wear it. When asked a second time about dating, or anything personal, I often hear telephone calls or voices (in the manner of St Joan of Arc), or stare out in space, as if I were in a petite mal mode.
It is very uncomfortable to have to deal with juvenile behaviour, but equally important not to allow my distaste at such bad manners to put myself in the position of committing something equally offensive. Two wrongs just never make a right, no matter how strong the temptation for expressing indignation.
One of the anthems of modern managing is a tune that goes something like this: “YOU CAN”T MANAGE WHAT YOU CAN’T MEASURE.” Personally, I find hearing this dirge rather loathsome. But I will leave you with this coda. You cannot measure the kind of damage that plain stupidity causes when asking an employee, even kiddingly, if h/she has a hot date. You cannot manage or measure the damage control you may have do deal with if you are dumb enough to do such things. Measure your thoughts, manage them, then sing anthems. Damage control due to harassment causes stress that you cannot fathom, unless you are smart enough not to abuse your management position.
So, be smart. Despite the other anthem frequently heard, THERE IS SUCH A THING AS A DUMB QUESTION. You owe it to yourself and for the benefit of all concerned to be thoughtful, considerate, and smart. Asking dumb/inappropriate questions about clothing has nothing to do with your Mission Statement, unless you are in the fashion industry. Repeat, don’t ask employees about “hot dates,” unless you are trading recipes.