Three Tips for Respectful Bragging

As many of the articles on this site attest, the best workplaces inspire a strong commitment to teamwork and a sense of community as opposed to a focus on personal or individual gain. It is still important however, to receive credit where it is due and to let others know the contributions you personally make to the team. Can this be done while maintaining that sense of community?

A key part of showing your value without creating an adversarial or competitive environment is taking the time to acknowledge others’ contributions as often and as genuinely as you acknowledge your own successes. It might even help to compliment them even more often. Doing so makes people more apt to listen to you when you share your own successes and inspires your co-workers to look for something nice to say about you. Providing substantive positive feedback to co-workers requires you to know what your co-workers do from day to day. You also must be familiar with the goals of your company and department so that you can properly identify where your coworkers and you are truly adding to those aims.

Another component of tooting your own horn successfully is found in how the message is delivered. A recent study put out by The British Psychology Society found that boasting comments were far more likely to elicit a positive response if the boaster did not bring up the topic, but instead, responded to a topic that another person had introduced. In the study, participants showed a more favorable reaction to a subject bragging about an A+ he received on an exam when somebody else brought up the topic of the exam than they did when the subject started the conversation about the test. It therefore seems advisable to allow somebody else to raise the topic of the big project you led before you discuss your contribution.

A final consideration when advertising your accomplishments is the frequency and quality of your statements. Even when the topic is introduced by a colleague and you properly acknowledge the contributions of others, noting successes becomes insufferable when done too often. Save your boasts for topics that really matter and leave an element of mystery. As the oft quoted proverb goes, your boasts should be “like a woman’s skirt; long enough to cover the subject matter, but short enough to keep things interesting.” If your boss and coworkers think that your only accomplishments are things that you have spelled out to them, those good deeds lose meaning. It is best to leave a certain amount for your colleagues to discover on their own and praise you instead of soliciting congratulations in every circumstance.

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