9

I have always felt uncomfortable and awkward when even minor compliments/praise is given, whether at work or in my personal life.

My manager always is making comments such as "Good work!" or "A special thanks to [me]" in emails.

I get incredibly uncomfortable when people say such things to me and don't know how to respond. I would prefer to tell him I would rather he just not mention such things and only provide feedback when negative or constructive.

How do I politely decline the positive feedback?

  • 1
    Declining any feedback isn't going to look good as that type of feedback is generally not just intended for the person getting praise – Joe W Mar 20 at 16:28
  • 1
    Side note, I answered bellow. But I have the SAME EXACT problem. I've learned to just accept it. I tried turning it down, and it gets VERY uncomfortable... don't do it. Trust me. It can lead to alienating and insulting people, to say you either don't value their feedback or praise and that's kinda harsh too... sometimes it's about them and not you. But it's also about you and how awesome you are. Embrace it. Sometimes it's good to be the guy that delivered and it's definitely useful for those raises that will follow because people know your name. – ShinEmperor Mar 20 at 16:42
  • 5
    "don't know how to respond." -- Just say "Thanks". Nothing more, nothing less. – Jonast92 Mar 20 at 16:50
  • 2
    Positive feedback is constructive, it lets you know that you are doing what is expected of you. – sf02 Mar 20 at 17:03
  • Try to get to the root cause (if you don't know it already) of why you feel uncomfortable about receiving this feedback e.g. when you also feel uncomfortable with compliments from friends (e.g. "nice shirt, you look great", "thanks for helping me out the other day", etc) - why is that? I don't think there's a way you can 'politely decline' feedback like that in the office, but it's possible to accept it modestly and downplay it. But really I would think about why you feel insecure, do you not think the feedback is reflecting what you're actually contributing? – seventyeightist Mar 20 at 21:07
13

Do NOT turn back positive feedback. Just deal with it. Seriously, it's very, very bad to turn it down.

This is mostly from experience, but the idea of working is that someone pays you for your work and that they trust you to complete the work done. When you show a lack of confidence, it affects how people perceive you and your work.

Generally it's seen as a lack of self-esteem. I won't go that far in your case, but understand that that is the perception and professionals want to be confident in you. But if you can't demonstrate confidence in yourself, then how can they feel they can place their confidence in you.

I'm not saying any of this is the case internally for you. But you're just going to have to accept it. It's normal, it's healthy and overall it's good for your career too. Keep that in mind.

UPDATE: Op commented bellow confirming the point on self esteem. I would suggest maybe seeking some therapy or trying internally to push back against that negative talk. The world is trying to push you down, the world is trying to beat you. Don't contribute to that. You are your own best advocate. You're working hard and you're crushing it. :) You ARE awesome and acknowledge that, because the world won't always give you that credit and you need to be on YOUR side. Because no one else is... well, except for maybe us plebs at Stack :)

  • +1 _ at worst, take it as just some kind of polite words that the manager is using, if really the idea of this being sincere makes you ill. – gazzz0x2z Mar 20 at 19:24
  • I know your comment about self-esteem is accurate in my case. My internal dialogue is not healthy and I have developed a habit where when I get any sort of compliment, I immediately do a mental run-down of every mistake I’ve made in life and repeat some rather toxic self-hating comments in my head, which is why I want to avoid the situation – throwaway Mar 21 at 5:14
  • @ArmadilloDisco this sounds serious, don't take those thoughts lightly. Avoiding praise won't solve the root problem. If you can, get help from a mental health professional, they will know best how to proceed in your specific case. – Rhayene Mar 21 at 12:29
  • @ArmadilloDisco I have been EXACTLY where you are. I had a review (we have them every 6 months) and my manager sang me praises for all the work I had done. It made me so uncomfortable, I was almost ill from it. I did some digging and realized that it was definitely linked to how weak my self-esteem was. It was hard turning that around, but it's doable. You gotta fight those smaller battles. Every time that negative talk comes up you gotta shout in your head: NO!. It's important you resist it. It's extremely important. These days I still have trouble with it, but I'm better about it. – ShinEmperor Mar 21 at 13:46
5

If you must, talk to your manager

This is a facet of your relationship with your manager, so you need to address it with him. Arrange a meeting or ask to talk privately for a minute, and explain.

It is possible that he is making efforts to boost your self esteem if he perceives that you might need it.

But this isn't usual

Managers who praise their team members rather than taking the glory themselves are good managers, so understand that this is something good managers are supposed to do.

If you have issues with receiving compliments, I can only suggest you try to resolve them - the greater your competence, the more likely you are to receive acknowledgements of that. Don't set that up to be a problem, resolve it instead.

Note that while people often pay compliments socially in order to achieve some ulterior purpose, in a working context your manager may be simply acknowledging your work and ensuring that others respect you for it. For some people this is a new experience.

2

I can understand the fact that it makes you uncomfortable. I have a habit of pointing out negative things when given praise. I have to consciously stop myself and just accept the "good job". Learn to say "thank you" and move on.

The fact that you're receiving positive feedback is a good thing as well as the fact that your manager recognizes it.

-3

I would rather move this to Interpersonal Stack.
rom what you write you have problem with responding to that type of feedback while welcoming negative one.
How many negative comments without positive one will make you hate your job? when you will feel that you can't do anything good or that everyone just noticing your failures?
Embrace the praising. And just learn when to not respond to it (like when English people say "You're a star") or when just reply with short "thanks" or "no problem".

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service, privacy policy and cookie policy

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.