It’s often easy to receive a compliment from our peers or fellow team members. 

You effortlessly smile, say thank you, and give them a compliment back. However, it can be challenging to know what to say when receiving praise from your boss. Even if positive feedback is exactly what we wanted to hear, it can make you feel awkward, uncomfortable, or even render you speechless.

Thankfully, Fellow is here to help you know precisely what to say the next time the boss is singing your praises. 

How to respond positive feedback from your boss

Whether you’re walking into a performance review, a weekly one-on-one, or find yourself walking the same way as your boss, there are many ways you can receive positive feedback from your manager, team lead, or even the CEO of your organization.

Here’s how to respond. 

1 Embrace the compliment

First, it’s important that you embrace the compliment. You worked hard, accomplished something significant, were highly productive, or even achieved a milestone at a rapid speed. Soak it all in! 

You may feel like you want to defect or “minimize” all that you’ve accomplished in an effort to be humble. This is an extremely common approach, in fact, this is what I often find myself doing, but it may come off as if you’re not confident in your own performance. Instead, embrace the compliment and let it fight off any imposter syndrome you may have regarding your role and its responsibilities. It can be difficult but always fight the urge to downplay your achievements and accomplishments.

2 Thank your manager for the positive feedback

Another way to respond is to thank your manager for the kind words. They clearly have taken the time to notice your hard work and were impressed by the effort you put in. Some ways you can word your thank you are:

  • Thank you for noticing, it really makes me happy to hear!
  • Thanks for noticing, I put a lot of time and effort into that project.
  • Thanks for taking the time to let me know you feel this way!
  • Thank you for the positive feedback! It means a lot to know you’ve noticed me.

3 Ask a follow up question to understand the situation

Unsure where to take the conversation from there? Follow it up with a question to understand exactly what they thought well. Ask if they can clarify the ways they noticed your performance go above and beyond. This step is important when you want to understand what specifically was so well received or if you have any lingering doubts about your own performance. 

You can also follow up the compliment by asking if there’s anything else your manager would have done differently, if they were working on that project, or if they have additional advice for future improvement.

Pro tip

Use a feedback tool like Fellow to document all your feedback and easily request feedback from your team members.

Feedback Feature Fellow

4 Document the positive feedback

After the conversation where you’ve received positive feedback has come to a close — write it down!

It’s essential to document the compliment so you don’t forget, especially since they can be helpful when performance reviews roll around, and you’d like to negotiate a raise. Additionally, you can look back on these notes when you’re feeling down, burned out, or simply having an unproductive few days.

If this feedback is given to you by your manager in your weekly one-on-one meeting, utilize a tool like Fellow that has its own section to make a note of this feedback, so it never goes forgotten. 

5 Use this as an opportunity to understand what your manager cares about

Every manager is different, so what they notice or what they find to be especially beneficial to the success of the company will be different, too.

When your manager compliments your performance, this helps you to understand what your manager cares about most. If they commended you for exceeding a deadline, this could be a sign that your manager pays special attention to the deadlines of their direct reports. Because they see deadlines as so important, they know the fact that you were so ahead of schedule as a sign of great work. 

Or maybe you received positive feedback on showing exceptional customer support. This could mean your manager pays close attention to how your team responds to and interacts with customers. 

6 Keep doing what you’re getting praise for!

You know the saying “don’t fix what isn’t broken”? The same applies here! If you notice you’re getting the same type of praise from managers, team leads, or even c-suite executives, keep doing what is working!

If the praise always centers around helping others on your team when they’re experiencing a bottleneck, then make yourself the go-to person when roadblocks happen. Or, if others are coming to you and praising how you handled a demanding customer, use those same tactics if you find yourself in a similar situation. 

Examples of how to respond to positive feedback at work

Now that you know the process of properly responding to a manager when you receive positive feedback or a compliment let’s work with some direct examples that correlate to how that feedback is given. 

In-person responses

When the feedback is given to you in person, you have no time to sit and think, so you’ll need to act and respond fast! It’s common to let our brains skip over the praise we’re receiving because we’re simply waiting for the follow-up that starts with “however…”.

Instead, remember to soak it all in and have a response ready. The length of your response will depend on the setting you’re in with your manager. If the feedback is given in passing, you’ll obviously want to keep it shorter. But, if it’s in a one-on-one meeting or performance appraisal, this gives you more time to respond and ask for more information.  

As mentioned, it’s essential to thank them for the feedback, let your manager know who this impacts you, and then clarify exactly what you did well. You could say something like:

“Thank you for acknowledging all of the time and effort I put into working on that project! I’m happy to hear this positive feedback, as it means a lot to me. Could you share further about what specifically about my performance went well, and if there’s anything I could improve on for future assignments? I want to make sure I have continued success working on other projects in the future.”

Written responses

Written feedback or compliments provide a little more leeway in terms of thinking of the perfect response. 

For instance, if it comes through via email, you can say something like:

“Thank you so much for the kind email. Finding it in my inbox was a great way to start my day! It really means a lot to know that my work was appreciated and that you see the impact it has within the organization. If you have the time and could elaborate, I’d love to get a better understanding from your perspective of which part of the projects you felt went well, why, and if there’s a way I can improve in the future.”

The same type of response can work if the feedback is given over instant messaging software, like Slack or Teams, or even if your manager drops a thank you note off at your desk. 

A much deserved pat on the back!

Accepting compliments can often make us feel awkward or uncomfortable, but responding to positive feedback is a breeze when you’re armed with the right things to say. Remember that you should feel proud of your hard work and happy that it isn’t going unnoticed! Don’t forget to document this positive feedback and use it to help leverage what you want in the future, whether it’s a promotion or raise!

Keep up the good work!