I joined a company about 6 months ago where they had specifically created a new position for me based on my skills (technical software). I was hired to resurrect a moribund project (decade old) and to breathe new life into it. In those 6 months I've managed to do this and get some new releases out to customers with new customers interested.

Though I'm happy to joke around in the office and be self deprecating/humble brag in conversations with peers/colleagues, I'm not so sure how to respond to words of praise from C levels (and all the way down to my manager) who are happy with my performance. Being a computer person I'm not very au fait with people/company politics.

So basically I want to ensure I bank political capital in a way that is both beneficial for my career but also not raise false expectations. Being new to the company I've not had a performance review yet and I would like to use this advice to assist me in getting the best out of that when it happens.

This is based in Britain but with a US company.

  • Not quite sure what you are asking.... Commented Mar 2, 2016 at 20:41
  • What are "c levels"? I can think of a few words for "C" but I do not think they are appropriate
    – Ed Heal
    Commented Mar 2, 2016 at 21:37
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    you're in England where they practically invented the self-effacing understatement, just say thanks like it's nothing abnormal for you.
    – Kilisi
    Commented Mar 2, 2016 at 21:44
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    @EdHeal see en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_corporate_titles - "The highest-level executives in senior management usually have titles beginning with "chief" and are therefore usually called "C-level" or part of the "C-suite". The traditional three such officers are chief executive officer (CEO), chief operations officer (COO), and chief financial officer (CFO)." Commented Mar 2, 2016 at 23:08
  • How senior are you? Junior dev vs senior? Architect?
    – enderland
    Commented Mar 3, 2016 at 13:03

4 Answers 4


What is the appropriate response to praise from C levels that balances political capital without raising false expectations?

Thank you.

There is no real political capital to be gained based on how you respond to praise. I can think of a few responses that would have the opposite effect, but at the end of the day the fact that you're being acknowledged for your work is a sign that you're doing well. Political capital is gained over time by having a "track record of excellence": high job performance, providing valuable input and showing dedication to your company and colleagues. Sure, there are ways to manipulate people into joining Team You but I'd rather let my work speak for itself instead of trying to gamify the system.

Based on the comments you got you're doing an excellent job. Keep it up and you'll amass that political capital in no time at all. If you want to make sure that you keep performing at a high level, request an informal performance review from your manager and do so regularly. Good managers will be happy to discuss your work every few months and there's no need to wait for formal reviews.


There is never anything wrong with keeping it simple.

"Thank you, I appreciate the opportunity to work on this project"

If you want you can always throw in something about their leadership leading to your success, but there is a find line between stroking your bosses ego and sucking up.

Good Luck!


You are currently banking capital on this. You're getting noticed, and those thank yous are currency--bank notes you can save. The value of that capital is determined in part by the person issuing those notes--if they give out thank you's liberally, it has low value. If your COO hands them out rarely, your manager knows that currency has a higher value than others. Like any other financial transaction, keep a ledger and make a note.

You really have a choice. You can save a good deal of that capital, which is devaluing over time ("what have you done for me lately" is a sign of a high inflation environment). You can try to cash in on the capital by publishing a balance sheet at the end of the year, re-iterating those achievements. It's indirect--you're basically asking for a re-issue of the capital. But the pay-off can be larger--10% raise, etc.

The other option is to attempt to cash in at the time. Politely accept the capital, and trade it in for something on the spot. Take the thank-you and ask for something you can use to make your work easier--maybe a new multi-monitor setup. You can also apply it to a future purchase--like mentioning that you'd like to move up based on your success. "You're welcome ... I'm happy with how things went too. I think if we could build a small team around [new project] we could [repeat success here]." For instance, "Thanks, I think things went well. I think there's even more value hidden in refreshing this other project / doing this new project. If I could get a few more skilled hands with me, I think we'd be happy with that in 12 months too."

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    One thing I will add, if the thank you is in writing, especially emails, make sure your immediate boss got a copy. Many bosses save such things for evaluation time and it can help to have built up a bank of them. I also save those kinds of emails in a folder and review them all up at appraisal time and it can help you to remember somethings you may have forgotten and to show that you have an impact outside your immediate group.
    – HLGEM
    Commented Mar 3, 2016 at 14:24
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    Note the flip side of @hlgem's comment: when sending someone thanks for a nontrivial item -- or even a trivial one if it saved you a significant amount of time -- do copy their manager! It means more of you do so than if they forward it.
    – keshlam
    Commented Mar 3, 2016 at 15:36
  • @keshlam, yes if you know the supervisor, please add it. In a large organization that has a lot of cross function work, the person writing the email may not know who your official supervisor is though. I have found in life, though, that it pays huge dividends to take the five minutes to write these types of emails.
    – HLGEM
    Commented Mar 3, 2016 at 16:11

The people at the C levels of a company are people just like anyone else. They put their pants on one leg at a time just like we do. They do all of the same things we do they just get paid a lot more for it.

Keep it professional, but treat them like you'd treat any other worker in your office that you wouldn't consider a "friend". Stick to Mr/Ms unless they ask you to use some other form of address, but don't be intimidated and just treat it like you're talking to any other person who isn't in your inner circle.

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