An interesting realization struck me this morning as I received a “friend’s request” on Facebook and a “connection request” on LinkedIn. Both were colleagues and both valued their relationship with me more now than when we worked together, at least they verbalized it more now. In fact, I had no idea they valued me so much and was humbled and honored by their support.


It made me ponder what barriers prohibit us from being forthright on our work teams? Are they self-imposed restraints? Are they company imposed? Or, are they part of our work culture? As I reflected, I felt a little bit of all of the above. . .

Let me go back to my point. With the constraints of the workplace eliminated, my colleagues were uninhibited enough to share their complimentary assessment of my work and me. 

This wasn’t my first experience with this phenomena. I’ve worked with many companies and on many teams and experienced similar realizations always overwhelmed to understand, years after working together, how much my peers thought of me. Of course, anyone who has changed jobs/companies might have a different take on this but from my experience, if we could dig down human behavior, we might be able to understand this better. Most importantly, if we complimented co-workers without restraint, could we:

  • Improve the quality of performance on the team?
  • Improve the goals of the company?
  • Improve our job satisfaction?

Here is an Example of What I Mean

On one particular team, I experienced some successful coaching.  Overall, the learning lessons focused on changing our language and ultimately our culture. The premise was that “language forms your reality”.  It is akin to the women’s movement when we changed from girl to woman.

In our training we switched words like resident to elder, nursing home to community or democracy to alignment. We were quite successful.  Not unlike the great social movements that used language to accomplish transformation. One of the learning lessons in this training was designed to enhance our connectedness, deepen our personal relationships.

During this exercise we lined up by foot size. I have size 11 shoes, uncommon for women. I discovered that two other women shared such a foundation.  From that moment forward, we were forever connected sharing information about where to buy shoes. During the same exercise we discovered people’s shared interest in food, hobbies and so forth.

I found the quiet physical therapist that worked side by side with me, who I could never figure out what to talk about, shared my passion for photography. The training blew up the workplace barriers related to human behavior. I reflected on traditional work models and how seldom even a boss shared a compliment. I thought, was it fear of having to compensate performance?  Or fear of the reverse, that the next day that one might have to deliver a corrective action? Mostly I thought . . .

Positive feedback and compliments could be so beneficial to the team dynamics. Can we just make them happen?

Sharing positive feedback with team members is like sharing a smile, it is contagious. And, nothing makes us perk up and work harder than knowing our team has confidence in our work and who we are. The more we are valued, the more we share our talents without inhibition or fear. I thought of my two co-workers and it made me wonder how much more powerful we would have been as a team if we trusted one another enough to share our perspectives while we were teammates.