can I ask coworkers to send praise for my work to my boss?

A reader writes:

I am an admin for a small sales team, but I work with many different people in many different roles. I find that I am helping others with things that are far and above my job duties, but I enjoy being someone they can turn to as a subject matter expert.

When I hand over finished projects, answers, or documents they need, I’m met with an email like, “You’re awesome. I owe you big time,” or something similar. Is it wrong or impolite to say something like, “You’re welcome, and if you want to pay me back, you can always send (insert my boss’s name) an email with just how awesome you think I am”? I am looking to move up in the next six months or so and thought that some outside praise might go a long way in making that happen. Would this be too forward or in poor taste?

I wouldn’t do it every time someone thanks you for something, because it could easily be overkill or just seem a little tone-deaf if you say it after doing something that was pretty minor.

But if your contribution was a particularly significant one or if you find yourself repeatedly hearing gratitude from the same person, it’s fine to mention it then. I’d say something like this: “You’re very welcome! By the way, no pressure, but I’d love it if you’d mention to Cordelia that you’ve found my help useful. I think she’d like to know that that this work is proving helpful to people!”

Also: Here’s a general call for people to think about doing this more broadly. If someone goes out of their way for you or does great work for something, take 30 seconds to email their boss about how much you appreciated it. This kind of thing has a very real pay-off for people, in terms of how they’re seen, how much their boss values them, and what their next raise looks like.

{ 90 comments… read them below }

  1. Malissa

    I emailed a coworkers boss the other day because she got something for me way ahead of when I expected it.
    It’s really nice to pass along a good word once in a while.

  2. The Cosmic Avenger

    I know I personally might say something like “Thanks, do you mind if I share your email with my boss?” That way there’s no immediate additional burden on the other person, I can explain my role when I share the initial thank-you email, or my boss might contact that person if they want more detail later on. And sometimes someone might see a question like that and offer to write up a more detailed email to your boss. But then, I have a hard time making direct requests of people for my own benefit. I usually have to phrase how the client needs it, or it would benefit the company (because it lets me do my job faster, saving the company money).

    1. INTP

      I like this approach. To be honest, if someone frequently (not every single time, but more than a few times a year or on minor things) asked me to pass on compliments to their boss, I would probably stop complimenting them as much to avoid it tbh. It feels like a burden of responsibility because who feels reasonable saying “no” to that kind of thing, and I hate excess interaction. (I would be happy to forward feedback about someone doing an excellent job in their major role in a major project of course, but if every month I was asked to forward some praise I would just stop giving it.)

      1. ArtsNerd

        I did this a lot. A LOT.

        But I couched it as “Look at how great our team is. Couldn’t have done it without Tyrion’s help” to call attention to the good work of people who were less visible. But part of it was to make sure my bosses understood that I’m amazing.

      2. AB Normal

        fposte, I’ve done this a couple of times, and my managers always said “thank you so much for forwarding this! it helps me communicate our results to top management”. I think managers like to hear this type of positive feedback because it also reflects well on them, and brings visibility to the type of impact the team is having in internal or external customers.

    1. Sunshine DC

      Might be good, if doing so, to be sure the email has no other information or comments about other things – other than that specific praise. There may be other things in it that the sender would feel annoyed to have shared with someone else. If I’d been the one who’d sent it to you, I wouldn’t mind at all if your boss got wind of it (though I’m the type to also let the boss know – perhaps CCing them in my original email to begin with.) But I’m not fond of someone just forwarding my emails around. Generally, otherwise, if I intend for a specific person to receive a message, I send it to them myself.

    2. Cath in Canada

      The first time I screwed up the courage to do this, the boss took it as me volunteering to take on a whole bunch of extra (and not very glamorous) work! Oopsy…

  3. Mockingjay

    I save emails like this in a personal folder labeled “Complements.” When I wrote my yearly self-assessment, I used quotes from the emails to demonstrate how well I fulfill assigned tasks and required skills.

    When you are ready to move up, you can write up major accomplishments and kudos received, as evidence that you are an outstanding worker. Repetition works: “Received multiple commendations for my work on X, from coworkers and the client.” I suggest to keep a running tab of accomplishments. Six months from now, you will be working on Y and may not recall details of X.

          1. maggie

            LOLOLOL I feel like an idiot. Er….midiot. (I thought I would just screw myself over) And the sad thing is that I usually do the same to myself. Bad maggie!

            SORRY MOCKINGJAY!!

    1. YourCdnFriend

      I have a “Yay Me!” Folder. It’s great come review time and it’s nice when you’re just having a tough day.

          1. puddin

            Yep – mine is called Good News. Its helpful to see the kind words and I also keep funny emails in there and these silly little poems I get from Mr Puddin. Brightens my day every time :)

            1. Jillociraptor

              Yes! Isn’t it so great when you’re having a crummy day to have your inbox just look like all the best parts of your job and life? Huge pick-me-up!

      1. Nichole

        I most definitely use the “Yay Me” folder as a pick me up on the tough days (I call it that too!). For days when even Yay Me isn’t enough to improve my mood…I Google “baby animals.” Works every time.

  4. anne

    i either do as others mentioned above and forward the emails straight to my boss instead of asking the other person to take an additional step – and i also save the emails in a special folder, which i refer to at the end of the year when writing my performance self-evaluation.

  5. Apollo Warbucks

    Keep a note of the praise you get and see if you can work it in to your performance review, or you could send out feedback requests, with a reminder of the work you done for them.

  6. AggrAV8ed Tech

    Heh, see, I have the opposite problem. I live in fear that a colleague/coworker/etc. will praise my work to my boss, because for some ungodly reason, whenever it happens, I get chewed out for it.

      1. AggrAV8ed Tech

        Yup, Steve there below has part of it right. Also, my boss seems to think that anything that makes me look good is somehow a threat to his authority and therefore slaps me down for it. Sometimes, it makes me genuinely afraid to do an above and beyond job – but I do it anyway, because it’s in my nature and I just cross my fingers that whoever I’ve helped doesn’t send a letter of glowing praise to my boss.

          1. AggrAV8ed Tech

            Believe me, I’ve been searching. Been in this one for 15 years now (almost 7 with this particular boss) and my skill set has become so fragmented that it’s been tough to pinpoint what jobs I actually fit in anymore.

        1. Marcy

          If you hadn’t said “his” I would have thought you must be in my old job. My boss did this to me, too. Even worse, I complimented someone else’s work one time and got chewed out for that, too.

    1. Steve

      Been there before with a “we really can’t make going out of our way spending extra time on EVERYONE’S problems a regular thing, you know.”

    2. Alter_ego

      When I was working retail, two seperate customers asked for my manager to tell him how great a job I was doing in one shift. He accused me of putting relatives up to it to make me look better

  7. BRR

    I’ve done this twice recently. Once was for a coworker who did something amazing but she is pretty quiet so I let her manager know how much we appreciate it. The other time was actually with evil cable company where a rep from a small exclusive division that fixes the mistakes of the general number really helped me. I asked him how I could get the word to his boss to let them know how wonderful he was. He sounded so shocked but I bet that made his day.

    For my team we submit our thank you emails annually to our director who picks categories based on the emails and gives awards.

    1. The Cosmic Avenger

      Good for you! I do this occasionally with CSRs because I have worked retail and phone support myself, and I remember how rare it was that someone asked to speak to a supervisor because they were HAPPY with the service they received!

      1. BRR

        I try and do it because back when I worked in a video rental store in HS they based our store solely off of customer responses. And in general there should be more praise and positivity.

      2. JayemGriffin

        I make a point of doing this for retail workers, especially during the holiday season, when everyone is overworked and super stressed. Genuine appreciation- especially if you can fill out a comment card or a survey or something, so there’s a record- goes a long way.

        1. maggie

          As a past server, it’s so nice to hear other people do this. It is genuinely appreciated when customers are understanding of what servers are up against (for those who try to say it’s an easy job — you didn’t work at a busy restaurant), and even grateful.

      3. K.

        I make a point to always praise good retail workers or CSRs to their superiors. I had one superior get on the phone certain I was going to be angry, and when I said “I just wanted to let you know how helpful Chauncey was,” he literally stammered with shock.

    2. ArtsNerd

      I did this for a rep who helped me with a problem that wasn’t even her employer’s fault.

      You know how (in the US) you can pay your taxes through a site called OfficialPayments.com? They seem faceless and bureaucratic, but their rep worked with me for WEEKS to resolve a screwup from the local tax office, just because I tagged them in a desperate tweet after exhausting the tax agency’s usual customer service channels.

      I made it perfectly clear that everyone involved saw that they processed the payment correctly and performed their jobs, but they still helped me. Now I always use them, even if it’s more expensive.

    3. Sabrina

      I worked Customer Service and if you got a customer compliment, the supervisor on duty would blow up a bouquet of balloons for your desk. I’m not a competitive person, but boy was I happy when I got one.

  8. illini02

    I agree with Alison that its always good to send positive things to someone’s boss. However, I do think its a bit tacky to ask someone to do that. I’m sure others will disagree, but while I do get some great praise from people I deal with (and now and then will forward it), I wouldn’t ask someone to email my boss. It just doesn’t come across sincere to me, even if the sentiment was. Once you ask someone to compliment you to someone else, it just cheapens it to me.

    1. esra

      Would you forward the email to your boss?

      I think work praise is different from praise in other parts of your life. I mean, you aren’t evaluated in the same way in your private life.

      1. Laurel Gray

        I agree with this. Praise for buying a home among your group of friends is not the same as praise for finishing a major project ahead of time, under budget and accurately – that’s raise-worthy.

      2. illini02

        Yes, as I said, I would forward that information on, and I have done so. But to me its a bit different to say “Look what Jane in accounting had to say about me” than asking Jane to put that in an email to your boss.

    2. L Veen

      Yeah, I agree with you that the idea of explicitly asking someone to praise you to your boss is tacky. It reminds me of a few years ago when my husband and I vacationed in Rome and rented an apartment – on our last full day we found a note from the owner with instructions for check-out and “Don’t forget to give us a 100% rating on Booking.com!” We had intended to leave a positive review, but the fact that she flat-out ordered us to do so – and rate her 100%, no less – just left a bad taste in our mouths.

      I have forwarded particularly glowing emails to my boss with a note like “It looks like Jane is really pleased with our service!” though.

      1. ThursdaysGeek

        From what I’ve heard about some of those surveys, however, is if you give less than “this was the most wonderful shopping experience of my life” type ratings, it counts against them. It’s like getting a B grade when it’s expected everyone will get As.

        I recently answered a phone survey after a mattress was delivered, and one question, with the only possible answers being yes or no, was “Did X delivery service provide the best service you have experienced?” Best I ever experienced? Perhaps not, I don’t know. They were certainly quick, polite, careful, nice — I answered yes, because I suspected a no meant their management would consider them slow, rude, sloppy, and grumpy.

        1. Laurel Gray

          This is correct for a lot of retail stores. Anything that wasn’t the “best” either keeps their scores neutral or brings them down a notch depending on the system. It sucks and that final score isn’t even a fair indicator of service they are giving.

          1. Gwen

            +1 When I was working retail, we were told that a 4 (out of 5) rating was equivalent to a C in the rating system and to always ask customers to give us 5s on the survey.

          2. Al Lo

            Yup. Starbucks’ surveys work that way. It’s 5 or 0, no matter what other number you put in there. While the store manager may print out results with survey questions and you can piece together the circumstances that lead to a 4 or whatever, in the official ranking and scoring, it still counts as zero, and those official scores impact all kinds of things from head office.

        2. UK Nerd

          My parents’ business is on Tripadvisor. Every 4 star review they get drags their average down, which affects their ranking in their town. I think they’d rather not get a review than get a 4 star review.

        3. Takver

          Yes. In my grocery job, it was explained to us that we need our customers to love us, not just like us. We needed to make their customer service so memorable that it would cement their loyalty for life. So therefore, a 4 out of 5 was okay, but not what they were looking for.

    3. AdAgencyChick

      I actually feel less comfortable forwarding such emails on to my boss than I do asking someone to write an email to my boss! As Alison suggests, I don’t do it unless it was a significant achievement — but I think the boss responds better to an apparently out-of-the-blue “your direct report is awesome” message than to a direct report saying “I’m awesome” by forwarding the message.

      Of course, this works only if the boss doesn’t know the message was prompted. And I am 100% willing to return the favor and/or pay it forward by emailing other people’s bosses with spontaneous-looking outbursts of gratitude.

  9. Frances

    When someone goes above board or when something they do makes me look good in front of my clients, I send complimentary emails to the person’s boss and I usually copy the person. Not only does this show the person how their great work helps out, but I’ve found the bosses like it as it gives them material to put in the person’s annual performance review.

  10. HigherEd Admin

    I have a coworker who routinely CCs my boss on emails wherein he thanks me for doing a job beyond what he perceives as the scope of my work. This is my favorite coworker.

  11. Short and Stout

    Of course I agree that great work should be acknowledged and complimented. At the same time, internally, pretty regularly my office mates and I send quick responses to routine process-type flows of work with variants of “Awesome, thanks!” or “You rule!” and that’s just friendlier than “k” or no response at all. …

    1. NoPantsFridays

      Yeah, I think most compliments others give me (at work) are just politeness. I don’t usually compliment unless I mean it (e.g. “OK, thanks” is polite enough for me) but some coworkers will be like “Thanks, you’re the best!” or “Thanks, couldn’t have done it without you!” which don’t even register as compliments to me. They aren’t even true. So I definitely don’t forward those to my boss!

  12. LBK

    I always find it odd that people don’t give good feedback to managers more often. It’s always just come naturally to me to do it – if a coworker helps me with something really big or is just consistently awesome, I always make a point to either CC their manager on my email thanking them or email the manager directly.

    In terms of getting your own recognition, something that’s been really great in our department was creating a “thank you” board where anyone can print out good emails/feedback they get from clients or coworkers and post it themselves. It hangs in the front hallway of our office so everyone walks by it and can see the latest compliments that have been hung up. It’s a nice way for people to publicize the feedback they’re getting without the awkwardness of having to directly ask your manager or coworker to do it for you.

  13. CollegeAdmin

    Remember that sending messages to someone’s boss about how awesome they are doesn’t have to just be within your company!

    I once spent over an hour on the phone with my old company’s cell phone provider trying to solve a complicated issue. The representative was absolutely wonderful the entire time – friendly, personable, and clearly knew what he was doing. When I hung up, I emailed our account manager for the provider to tell her how fantastic the guy was – I didn’t have the his name, but I gave her the time and length of the call. She figured out who he was from their system and passed along word to his manager. She was thrilled to hear we’d had such a positive experience, and I hope it had a positive impact for the guy!

  14. Kristina

    I’m the original letter writer.

    Thank you Alison and fellow readers for your input. I do keep a special folder of praise (above and beyond the “awesome” or “You’re the best” comments) that I do plan to use when my review comes up in April. I was curious if it would be tacky to ask, but occasionally when I do something exceptional it would be nice to let my boss know since many of those situations are outside my normal duties. I’m the office Excel guru, as an example, and often volunteer my assistance to a group with Excel heavy requirements, but less experience with the program. They are amazed sometimes with how quickly I can finish what they thought would be exceedingly tedious.
    I think I might try just forwarding some emails with a little note about the project first and see where that goes.

    Kristina

    1. Kai

      I think forwarding those nice emails along is your best option here, too. I’ll do it occasionally and my boss appreciates getting these for my reviews, etc., and it avoids any potential awkwardness that might come from asking someone to let him know directly.

  15. Chinook

    Ironically, I just replied to an email at work (after helping someone out” who said I was awesome. My response – “I thought that was a given and that everyone already knew that?” I then delete it unless it is from someone knew or if I knew I did somethign way outside my usual scope of work.

    Now, if they go into detail or I did somethign unusal from my peprspective, then I would keep it in my “Yeah me!” folder for future reference.

  16. hildi

    I try to do this as often as I can, and when I do I always include the person whom I’m praising. I never know what kind of boss they have and if the boss will ever pass it back to the employee, so I make sure the employee at least knows her boss got the email (and the boss sees the employee got the email, too). Most of the time the boss will reply back with similarly positive comments and it’s warm fuzzies all around. That kind of stuff has power.

    1. fposte

      It’s like that “positive gossip” thing–it makes my day, it makes the boss’s day, it makes the employee’s day.

  17. summercamper

    I think the key here is for this sort of request to happen in person, rather than over e-mail.

    When it is done in person, you’ll be able to better gauge how genuine someone is in their praise, and how receptive they are to your request. It also eliminates the possible awkwardness of your e-mail asking them to praise you to your boss getting sent to your boss at the bottom of an e-mail train.

    1. ThursdaysGeek

      On the other hand, if there is also an email, then it can be retrieved at review time. A thank you in May is rarely remembered during October reviews.

      1. Kyrielle

        I think summercamper is saying to ask for the email in person, not in email – so your “hey, can you tell my boss that too?” doesn’t get forwarded *to* the boss.

  18. puddin

    I like to send general positive feedback right before reviews are due. When I am consistently impressed by someone or a co-worker has had some really great development it is worth an extra note of praise at the time when it counts most.

  19. Artemesia

    It is particularly nice when you can spin it as ‘we got great results’ and thus toot your own horn. E.g. when a client sent me raves, I forwarded it to the boss with a note about how ‘we’ had really delivered for this client. They like specifics like this when they are bragging up their own chain of command.

    1. hildi

      That’s a great point! You’re keeping the focus on the client and results (which bosses love, right?), but also it’s a way for them to discover on their own that you had a key part and earned the client’s praise. Win all around!

  20. Susan

    One of the things I liked about a previous supervisor was that she explicitly asked our team to forward emails to her when we got out-of-the-ordinary praise. She reminded us a few times a year that we were being ‘ordered’ to do this so we weren’t allowed to feel guilty about ‘bragging.’ It was also helpful for her when making a case for better raises or more resources for the team to her own supervisors: ‘I have evidence that customers are especially happy when we’re able to do abc, and having xyz would help me deliver that more consistently.’

    1. hildi

      I’m fortunate to have a supervisor like that, too. I don’t recall her ever telling us to share those with her, but she very openly and with much praise shares kudos amongst all of the staff so I feel very comfortable forwarding any praise I get along to her. It’s a relief when you know you have that kind of atmosphere with your boss.

  21. Dr. Johnny Fever

    I recently covered for my boss while he was on vacation. A number of teammates helped me resolve issues that came up during that time.

    When my boss came back, I sent each person a note giving kudos for their work and quick actions over the holidays, adn cc’d my boss on each one. When I went over the items I covered with him, I included the people for whom I wanted to provide some additional recognition for going above and beyond. Part of this is me, and part of this is the culture he creates. We compliment each other often, sincerely, because we honestly follow his lead.

    When people send me kudos, I forward them to him. He never fails to make sure that praise makes it into his comments for my review.

    I might just have the best boss ever, now that I think about it…..

  22. soitgoes

    I think if the OP is on decent terms with any of the people she’s assisted, she could say something like, “You know, I’m going to apply for that internal position/I think I’m up for a promotion, and I would really appreciate it if you could email so-and-so as a a casual reference. I’d like him/her to know that I’m already doing this type of work.”

  23. NewishAnon

    A little late here, but is there a way to work these kind of compliments into a cover letter? Perhaps using a quote or paraphrasing what someone said?

    1. Cheesecake

      You can say “my colleagues praise me for being the most diligent teapot assemblers. as a result i was nominated for health&safety award”. I wouldn’t put an entire quote. Cover letter it is a way to communicate to company why you are interested to bring your skills&experience on board and how you are going to contribute. It is not an advert with testimonials.

      1. NewishAnon

        Thanks. I like that much better than a quote, which I tried on a couple of recent cover letters. So, those probably won’t get me anywhere. Live and learn.

        1. Cheesecake

          Here is a thing, CV is your main doc (like a product spec. “this toaster has basic functions but also an extra re-heat option and anti-burning mechanism”) and letter is supporting it, making parallels to actual job/company/industry (“because of anti burning mechanism, toaster will ensure your specific requirement of 100 sandwiches/hour will be met without delays”….i totally don’t mean actual letter should sound as it was written by a robot btw).

          So if you get my weird toaster comparison, reading a passage about a theoretical user praising toaster is irrelevant; i have already found out specifics for my decision, why blur them with a generic praise from someone i don’t even know? That’s my point :)

  24. J3

    Does anyone have advice on how to figure out who somebody’s boss *is* without making it a whole big thing? I love the idea of passing on good karma for people who I appreciate, but I barely understand my own chain of command, much less other people’s!

    1. Sonya

      If you right-click on the person’s email in Outlook, you can View Properties or something, and one of the tabs will list their line manager. Our Intranet does this too, as well as listing their direct reports (if any).

      1. J3

        Thanks, yeah, we actually do have an intranet that shows someone’s supervision chain. But I was more wondering re: people located in other organizations; I am in local government and work with a whole ton of people from other public entities, various nonprofits, etc.

  25. long time reader first time poster

    I used to send around an ‘all team’ email as a project post mortem, highlighting each team member’s contributions and thanking them for their particularly big wins. I’d cc: the big bosses on this.

    I think it was always very well received, with the exception of the one time I left one team member off the list. He’d totally effed up EVERYTHING you could possibly think of on the project, and I couldn’t think of a thing to say that was good. In hindsight, I should have made something — anything — up just so that I could include him, because he made a huge stink about being left out and that wound up overshadowing anything good I’d had to say…

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