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It may not sound like a bad thing, but my Scrum Master/supervisor tries really hard to reach a 'casual-friend' status with everybody he supervises. To this end, he rarely talks about shortcomings, even in our one-on-one meetings, and praises basically everything productive my teammates and I do in an average workday - which is no less than what we are expected to do.

I am known as one of the more technically fluent members of my team. Any time I prototype an architectural idea I came up that works out well with or help out a teammate with debugging, he'll say things like 'Good job you crack-head' or 'Thanks for helping out [teammate].' (Note that the act of referring to me as crack-head is an entirely different issue, this is not what I mean to address). This is obviously superficial praise given for relationship purposes. It wouldn't be that big of a deal if I wasn't hearing it so often. Praise from him has essentially lost any meaning. From my perspective, I am just doing my job. I really am not expecting, and frankly do not want, this amount of commendation.

How can I confront him about this?

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    This is obviously superficial praise given for relationship purposes - Well, then it isn't superficial. Superficial praise would be empty praise with no purpose. If he's trying to build relationships then it has a purpose. – joeqwerty Jun 21 at 21:18
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    Confront him. Make a long-term enemy. Problem solved. Not! (Frankly, this is seriously a luxury problem that many people would like to have - you should anyway always be your own harshest critic, if you want to keep your skills sharp). – Captain Emacs Jun 21 at 23:09
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    You know, one of the duties and responsibilities of a Scrum Master is making team members look good at all times. Maybe he is doing his job just like you are. – Sandra K Jun 22 at 3:02
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The shortcomings one is reasonably easy to deal with - you just make sure you bring that up yourself if you see a shortcoming that you want addressed, or want to address. So if you're not happy with your performance in x area, you make sure you're the proactive one in bringing that up, asking for support, and seeing if there's any recommendations.

As for the "thanking" however:

Any time I prototype an architectural idea I came up that works out well with or help out a teammate with debugging, he'll say things like 'Good job you crack-head' or 'Thanks for helping out [teammate].' [...] This is obviously superficial praise given for relationship purposes.

Are there relevant details missing here? Your description here doesn't marry up with the conclusion. My manager also generally throws a "well done" or "good job" my way whenever I've helped solve an issue, implemented something successfully, sorted a bug, etc. However, this is normal in my experience. I've never had the impression that he's aiming for "casual friend" status.

If it really bothers you, then you can just say something akin to:

Hey boss, I know you appreciate all the work I do round here, but you really don't need to thank me as often as you do! Just doing my job.

...but I'd really caution against pushing this one too hard. I've seen plenty of aggressive managers, micromanagers, managers that think their staff should work 24/7 for free, managers that expect the impossible, etc. If your biggest complaint about this manager is "he thanks me a bit too often", then I'd say you've got a pretty good deal.

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Feedback in a healthy organization should address both strengths and weaknesses. Your colleague is neglecting part of his/her job if they only offer positive feedback.

Offer some “meta-feedback” to your colleague about the quality of feedback they have been offering you.

Ask for a 15 minute conversation with your colleague to invite and share some feedback. In the conversation, include a point of feedback about their praise not being balanced with opportunities for development. Perhaps:

“I’ve noticed that in our meetings you frequently compliment my work. I’m glad to know I’ve been able to contribute positively. However, I also know I can improve and expect some of your feedback to help me identify ways in which I can improve. In the future, I’d appreciate both your positive feedback, but that it also be balanced with valid criticisms of my work.”

Your growth-mindset is a great asset for you! Help your manager help you make the most of it.

  • I think the last sentence of your quote would be better written as, In the future, I’d appreciate both your positive feedback and valid constructive criticisms. It could also be useful to add a third possibility of 'opportunities for improvement'. – Ed Grimm Jun 23 at 5:54

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