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How to Shout Out Your Awesome Colleague

♪ It’s the most stressfulest time of the yeeeeear! ♪

Let’s face it, the holiday season is a busy one for people in loads of different professions. Some of them are obvious (retail, hospitality, transportation, mail) and some of them are less obvious – when I worked for an online school, this was the time that first-semester report cards were coming out and parents were scrambling to enroll their children in online courses so they could quickly make up for any they’d failed. Oh, and then there are those situations where your job isn’t seasonal at all, but a bunch of your colleagues take time off around the holidays, so then you’re stuck doing the work of ten people. I point this out not to complain or to bring everyone down, but to emphasize that this time of year isn’t inherently joyful – we make it the most wonderful time of the year when we have extra compassion, empathy, patience, and kindness toward the folks in (and adjacent to) our lives, including our colleagues.

One way to spread joy in the office this holiday season (and any season, honestly) is to shout out your colleagues for how awesome they are. Here’s how:

Identify Stakeholders

The first step you’ll want to take is to identify the recipients of your message. This is usually your colleague’s manager, or maybe you want to include their grandboss as well. If the colleague is on your team, maybe you want to share with all of your teammates so that they can contribute kudos as well, or even start pointing the finger of praise at one another. If you’re at a large company and aren’t sure to whom your colleague reports, ask them! You can say something like: “Hey, I really appreciate X and would love to give you a shoutout – who would be the best person for me to share that sentiment with?” Then make sure to include your colleague in that communication so they can bask in the glow of your kind words.

Put It in Writing

My parents are lawyers, so one lesson that has been drilled into me since childhood is the importance of a paper trail. This can be an email, a Slack message, even a handwritten note if you’re in the office. That’s not to say you can’t also praise your colleagues in casual conversation or during a meeting, but it can be especially useful to provide something in writing that can be put in their file and referenced during reviews, when they ask for a raise, etc. In addition, if your colleague is anything like me, they’ll revisit that written kudos when they’re having a tough day and need the extra cheer and the reminder of where the especially excel.

Be Specific

Praise like “Gina is awesome and fun to work with” is great, but not ultimately very useful. When shouting out a colleague, make sure to include specific work products or behaviors you’ve noticed. For example, “Gina did exceptional work on the X project, contributing Y and Z that really stood out,” or “Gina is a joy to work with because she asks clarifying questions when she doesn’t understand, demonstrates a positive attitude when solving challenging problems such as in X situation” etc. Specific feedback like this can bring to light strengths that your colleague didn’t even know they had, or that their manager hasn’t had the opportunity to see. If they are aware, it reinforces those strengths by demonstrating that others are noticing and appreciating them.

Be Quantitative, If You Can

Remember the big three:
1. Making the company money
2. Saving the company money
3. Saving the company time (because time = money)
If your colleague made a contribution that hits on any of the above, definitely mention that, and quantify it if you can. Think, “I was very impressed with how Gina handled the situation with X client which led to closing the deal and earning the company a $Y contract” or “Gina implemented X process, which saves Y amount of time.” Even if it’s something their manager is aware of, it’s a strong message to reinforce. Plus, we often don’t document these things for ourselves, and then when we need to provide this kind of data (in reviews, presentations, conference talks, etc.) it’s a chore to dig for it. The more places it lives, the better!

Include Impact

Even if you don’t have quantitative data to share, qualitative impact is important, too! If your colleague is just a ray of sunshine who boosts morale, that’s a useful quality. If they make your life easier, or make your work more enjoyable to do, talk about it. Whatever positive impact you’ve noticed that is a result of the work/behavior/etc. you’re praising, include that! I recently shouted out a colleague for going above and beyond with the info she includes on Jira tickets, because that context, while not part of the template, is really helpful for me to have when performing a certain task.

Use the Right Pronouns

Nothing kills a poignant piece of praise like misgendering the subject. DO NOT ASSUME. Check Slack, check their email signature, check their socials if you know them, or just ask (tactfully). I guarantee that if you use the incorrect pronouns, even accidentally, it will suck all the joy out of your glowing feedback for your colleague. This isn’t about people being sensitive, or not appreciating the effort you’ve put in. I don’t want to get too high up on my soapbox here because most of my readers already appreciate the importance of this, but using the correct pronouns is the bare minimum and you absolutely must do it, period.


“Whoa Gina, your master’s is in English and you’re a former publishing company editor – are you SURE you’re not being overly nitpicky with this piece of advice?”
Yeah, I’m positive. Once upon a time I received a letter of recommendation that used the wrong pronouns not because they didn’t know mine, but because the person writing it copied and pasted from a template they used for colleagues who used “he/him” pronouns and didn’t take the time to change them. It sucked, because obviously their praise wasn’t genuine, and it wasn’t a letter I could use. Could I have pointed it out to them and asked for a revision? Sure, but like I said, the praise was clearly not genuine, so I didn’t feel right about using the letter even if it was corrected. Additionally, some people hold an implicit bias and will place less confidence in a message that is delivered with spelling/grammatical/usage mistakes – even if that’s rare, you don’t want to risk your colleague’s manager being one of them.

Now that you have a framework for sharing positive feedback about your colleagues, it’s time to spread joy and give those shoutouts! Congratulations on working with such awesome people, and on being one of them yourself. I wish you a very happy holiday season!

</ XOXO>

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[Photo credit: Kate Hliznitsova via Unsplash]

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