I think my boss was a cheerleader in another life

A reader writes:

I know it’s strange to complain that my boss praises me too much — but she does, and it’s getting on my nerves! Just for completing fairly basic tasks, she’ll say “You’re crushing it!!” or “So grateful for you!!” I feel like there’s a cheerleader waving pom-poms in my face, or maybe some amped-up Peloton instructor screaming encouragement.

I’m bothered on several levels: 1) I’m just more of a low-key person, and this isn’t my thing. 2) I’m experienced enough that lavish praise for every little accomplishment feels patronizing. And 3) I don’t like the job. I’m making a good-faith effort to do the work well until I can find something else, but the hyper-enthusiasm just makes things worse when I don’t really want to be there.

The job is fully remote, so a lot of this is happening over Slack and email (with occasional video calls). If we were in person, I feel like it would be easier to act politely put-off by all this (weak smiles, mumbled responses). That’s not as easy on Slack, though I try — maybe just sticking a minimal “thumbs-up” emoji on her over-the-top praise, hoping she’ll see that I’m barely putting up with this and definitely not feeling extra motivation.

I don’t know if you can suggest anything on this, though I’d love some ideas. (I definitely don’t want to have a conversation where I end up revealing that I’d really like to quit!) But maybe you can run this letter as a public service announcement that not all employees are motivated by cheerleading!

The fact that it’s mostly happening over Slack and email actually makes it easier to simply ignore. You don’t need to respond to messages like “You’re crushing it!!” or “So grateful for you!!” You could mentally convert those things to a lower-key “thank you” and just let them be the last message in the exchange.

Your boss probably isn’t expecting “THANK YOU I’M SO GLAD TO BE HERE I LOVE EVERY MINUTE OF THIS WORK” in response anyway. In fact, you don’t even need to do the thumbs-up acknowledgment every time. It’s really fine to let her enthusiastic cheers be the end of the thread. Throw in a smiley-face in response occasionally and you’re good.

It also will help if you can let go of the idea that you need to find a way to let her know that you don’t like this style of encouragement. It sounds like you’re looking for a way to get her to stop — or better yet, to understand you — but truly, the path of least resistance is to just not care. The methods you mention using if you were in-person (weak smiles, mumbled responses) probably might not have worked anyway — she might just take them as further evidence that she needs to help pump you up. Really, the only way to get it to stop would be to have a conversation where you explain that this style is off-putting to you … and I just don’t think you need to bother when it’s easy to ignore.

That’s especially true since you’re actively working on leaving; if you otherwise loved the job and wanted to build a long career working together, there would be more potential benefit in speaking up.

{ 215 comments… read them below }

    1. Throwaway Account*

      I also have no advice but maybe some comic relief?
      If it helps, the youth today read the thumbs-up emoji as the middle finger. So maybe in OP’s mind it is two birds, one stone?

      1. sparkle emoji*

        As an old Gen Z with younger siblings, I’ve never known anyone who felt this way. If someone told you the thumbs up upset them, that might be a unique quirk of theirs, not a larger trend in the youth.

        1. Richard Hershberger*

          I am far from expert in emoji culture, but I have read the claim that emojis have undergone enthusiasm inflation, with the result that a mere thumbs up can be seen as passive-aggressively unenthusiastic to the point of being snarky. I neither endorse nor deny this claim.

          1. Happy Camper*

            It’s replaced ‘k’, or if that doesn’t ring a bell for you it’s basically a passive-aggressive “I’m fine”

        2. Spencer Hastings*

          I’ve never heard of this either. Where I work, we use it to mean “I saw this” or “I’ll do the thing you’re requesting” or something like that, depending on the specific context.

          1. Happy Camper*

            Oh not it a work context at all! That’s just how internet culture has mutated it.

            1. MigraineMonth*

              There’s a game I used to play with my friends where one person chose a set of cards and the others tried to interpret those cards to solve a murder mystery. After about 10 rounds, we had so many associations and inside jokes about what certain cards meant that when a new friend tried to join they couldn’t win a single round.

              Subculture meanings can develop really quickly (using the thumbs-up emoji sarcastically within a particular internet community), but everyone still understands/uses the original meaning (yup) outside of that group.

              1. selena81*

                That makes sense. It’s easy to forget that in the interconnected world there are still local groups with their own habits and in-jokes.

                And also there are many content-starved media that absolutely ~love~ to print ‘kids are laughing behind your back about your use of emoji’ stories.

            2. Spencer Hastings*

              OK, sorry, yeah, I pattern-matched the comment upthread into one of those “you’re using X thing wrong, it REALLY means this other thing!” phenomena, which it wasn’t.

              Still, though, I use it socially in the same way. (Person A: “Let’s meet at noon on Sunday.” Person B: *thumbs up*)

          2. Hush42*

            Where I work we use it in the same way… except that I have a Gen Z employee who still reads it the way others have noted- in a passive aggressive manner. If I am not thinking about it, he will send me a message to which I just respond with a Thumbs up because that is all the message warrants. Every time I do that he asks me if I am mad at him. Since I know it stresses him out I try not to use it with him, but definitely slip sometimes.

        3. Throwaway Account*

          I promise you, it is the trend! Look on TikTok. The thumbs-up emoji has been increasingly seen as passive-aggressive since at least 2015 and that is morphing into it as a sub for the middle finger.

          1. Just Another Cog*

            This made me spit out my coffee. I had no idea it was now a middle finger. Now I won’t see it any other way.

          2. allathian*

            Context and code switching. Just because it’s morphed into the middle finger in some contexts doesn’t mean that the same thing’s happened everywhere.

          3. londonedit*

            Right, I’m officially old, because I had no idea about this. Mind you I’ve also never used TikTok (social media left me behind when Snapchat came about and I had no idea what that was for).

        4. Chas*

          I’ve seen people saying this on Instagram, as well as a similar kind of idea that putting a period at the end of your last sentence in a text message is also supposed to be considered rude, rather than just normal punctuation habits.

          In both cases I suspect it’s just something that a tiny number of people believe, but it’s being blown up on social media as “the new standard” or “something all Gen Z believe”. It’s not something my Gen Z niblings have every mentioned and I’ll be surprised if I ever meet anyone offline who believes either.

      2. Benevolent Banana*

        My boss also does this, overly thanking me. But, to be fair, she just got rid of (retired) some very stubborn employees. Maybe LW1 can reframe in theory mind that their boss is genuinely thankful that they don’t have to constantly follow-up so they’re actually very thankful.

        1. thanked too often*

          this is true. I had a boss who way too into the praise for what I thought was normal stuff. We went out for lunch once and she let me know how bad some of the other employees had been. Some in comparison I was amazing.

    2. Laser99*

      This will be an unpopular opinion, but if this is the worst thing my boss did, I would count myself lucky. She’s not forcing the LW to leave a note on a co-worker’s family member’s grave, or refusing to let her off work for her graduation, or flinging cheap-ass rolls around.

      1. Grizabella the Glamour Cat*

        I agree!

        Maybe I’m weird, but it doesn’t seem that obnoxious to me. I don’t think I’d mind unles I had reason to believe boss was being dishonest or sarcastic or something.

        1. allathian*

          I’m pretty low-key and generally don’t emote much at work, I’m a fairly senior IC with nearly 20 years of experience in my current career and 35+ years of experience of working. I’d find that overly cheerful demeanor patronizing and infantilizing like the LW, and I’m quite happy in my current job.

          Toxic positivity can be nearly as draining as constant negativity, and I’d find that constant cheerleading toxic.

          That said, I wouldn’t necessarily respond any more than Alison recommends, and I definitely wouldn’t acknowledge most chat messages unless they contained an actionable item, and then I’d focus my response on that. And I’d probably bring it up in my exit interview.

      2. selena81*

        ‘someone else has it worse, how do you dare to complain about anything’

        LW only comes of as mildly annoyed, and I would be too: overly enthousiastic praise eventually becomes patronizing.
        It is patronizing in the sense of ‘did you think I would ~not~ do this task satisfactory’ and in the sense of ‘please stop talking like a motivational guru’

        1. Managing While Female*

          I don’t think that this is what Laser99 meant. Obviously, the LW is more than mildly annoyed if they wrote into an advice column about this. If they were only mildly annoyed, they could have shrugged it off, but they haven’t. Just like over-praising can become meaningless with its over-use, so can over-complaining about every workplace annoyance and reading too much into every interaction to find a perceived slight or underhandedness. It just turns into bitterness after a while.

          I agree that always writing off someone’s complaints as “well someone else has it worse” is too dismissive – people are allowed to have everyday annoyances even when there are bigger problems in the world. That said, it’s still good to keep perspective and know when you’re letting a little annoyance fester into something bigger.

      3. Butterfly Counter*

        This is kind of where I land, too. I used to be one of those cheerleaders to the people around me. It’s not because of my personality (I’m as low-key and reserved as a person can get), but because it was something I was actively taught to do and I am a good student.

        This might be a thing in girls’/women’s high school/college sports (maybe in my particular region), but my coaches would potentially deny playing time if we weren’t enthusiastically encouraging our teammates. I got used to it and grew to appreciate it. When you’re gasping for breath and have to do another drill, a teammate’s cheer leading seemed to help me. And when I had the strength to encourage someone else, I did so, too. And it’s a habit I haven’t fully lost 20 years later though I’ve toned it way down

        I teach university. Yes, I realize not all of my students will love my upbeat encouragement, but their mild annoyance is outweighed by the potential positive outcomes of struggling students knowing someone is enthusiastically on their side, even when I’m the one grading them.

        1. Lenore*

          Yes, this describes me too! I’m generally reserved and low key, but know how lost and alone I can feel when I’m completing tasks but don’t know if anyone notices. So I try to praise people publicly, and draw attention to their positive traits & behaviors in meetings so they feel seen.

          This letter had me second-guessing my approach, but your comment underline for me that I’d rather risk leaving someone mildly annoyed than have a great colleague feel unappreciated.

    3. Goode*

      Sympathy…for someone who gets complimented?

      We’ve really jumped the shark as a society, haven’t we.

      1. Whomp There It Is*

        Snarky replies…on an advice website?

        I cry for the downfall of our world.

  1. Petty_Boop*

    Ugh I hate that, too! Sadly, it sounds like it’s her personality and she’s one of those aggressively perky people. She was prolly told once, “you need go give your staff positive feedback and reinforcement,” and she took it wayyyyyy too much to heart. Try what I do for these type of annoyances, a (mental….or not) drinking game. I mentally take a shot each time and then guage how drunk I think I’d be if I were really doing it. Harmless and since my colleagues also do it, we have fun with it.

    1. JSPA*

      I have sometimes gone with aggressive positivity when I also kinda secretly hate the job and am overcompensating. And/or figure everyone else must also hate it, so I’m extra thankful that they’re still there.

      LW, whether this is true or not, might it make the situation more bearable if you thought of it that way?

      1. selena81*

        Now that would be a somewhat funny plot-twist. And not at all unreasonable to think that more than 1 person dislikes working at the company.

    2. ferrina*

      Or — plot twist — she’s not actually that perky and feels like she has to put on a brave face. She uses exclamation points in her writing to make everyone think she is happy and excited, when in reality she’s dour and unenthusiastic. Before any on-camera meetings she loads up on caffeine and sugar so she can seem energetic, then has a sugar crash right after the meeting and needs to take a nap.

      1. SchuylerSeestra*

        Or she genuinely is proud of OP//thinks her messages are encouraging/trying to keep morale up.

        It can be difficult to gauge tone in written communication.

      2. Glazed Donut*

        Yes, I have worked alongside one of these people! She told other people that I should use more exclamation points! Because I came off as too serious! And that she herself had received feedback that she was too cold/had RBF, so she started using more exclamation points in her writing and that was the best feedback she ever received!

        1. Panhandlerann*

          Oh, man. My rule about exclamation points, learned long ago from someone-or-the-other, is that you should operate as though you have only five exclamation points to use in your entire life. It’s crushing to see to what extent such a rule has seemingly no place in the universe any longer.

          1. selena81*

            I think exclamation points are more common nowadays.
            But it’s still true you shouldn’t overdo it.
            If everything has exclamation points than nothing has.

  2. Rondeaux*

    Agree completely – just ignore and/or give a couple thumbs up/smiley faces every once in a while.

  3. i like hound dogs*

    This reminds me of a sign my mom hangs up around the holidays that reads TODAY I WILL BE JOLLY. My husband and I privately joke that Santa sometimes wakes up on the wrong side of the bed, reads his affirmation, and sighs to himself, Today I will be jolly. I will. I can do it. It’s fine. I don’t need a mental health day at all.

    But anyway yeah I have no advice but this sounds very tiring. It took me decades to realize that most people find this sort of thing tiring.

    1. Antigone Funn*

      Hahaha, “Santa doing affirmations in the mirror” is going to carry me through the holidays this year.

      I’m jolly. I’m a jolly elf. I’m a jolly old elf and my belly jiggles like a bowl full of jelly! Let’s crush this, Rudolph!

    2. Sleeve McQueen*

      Ha, this reminds me of the letter writer who had a colleague who would sign off emails with something like “May you have the kind of day you deserve” and apparently, didn’t mean it as an Irish curse.

    3. selena81*

      I grew up in the ’80s and ’90s. So many motivational speakers in de media.
      It feels like the internet played an important role in everyone realizing ‘i hate their stupid fake enthusiasm, anyone else hate them too?’

    4. SarahKay*

      Go and look up Raymond Briggs’ version of Father Christmas. I was given the book aged about twelve and loved the grumpiness of it.

  4. MisterForkbeard*

    I mean, tell your boss you appreciate it but you do find it a little jarring.

    Alternately, since this is happening on Slack just give them an emote icon of a Thumbs Up or a Thank You and then ignore it. Maybe record a little bit of it for reviews later “I got 340 messages from my manager this year telling me I’m crushing it”, and then move on.

    1. Melicious*

      People do tend to exaggerate positivity in casual writing like slack. It’s a way to convey tone and emphasis when you don’t have a body to give context to your text. I’m assuming this is at least partly what’s going on.

      1. Gracie*

        Literally every time someone does something I asked for, my go-to on Slack is amazing, thank you! because I feel like I need the exaggerated warmth to not sound like I’m being passive aggressive with just a “thank you”

        1. selena81*

          ‘thank you’ could be read as passive-aggresive, therefore I sometimes put a smiley-face at the end.
          But I work in the Netherlands so any more enthusiasm would be really weird (unless someone actually did an ~amazing~ job)

          1. Janne*

            Yes, I’m Dutch too and my supervisor can reply “fine.” in a chat without it being interpreted as passive-aggressive: just neutral. I think this wouldn’t work in other countries from what I read here! :D

            I notice that I do use more exclamation marks in English. Not words like “amazing” though — “great” is probably my strongest one. It feels like exaggeration otherwise.

      2. KaciHall*

        Every single morning, every single member of my team sends out a cheery ‘Good Morning!’ to our group chat. All but one of us is generally in the same office. I’m a prime example of the opposite of a morning person and it is just so grating. If I just post ‘Morning’ without the good, or exclamation mark, I get questioned if I’m feeling okay.

        Weirdly, most of us just say ‘morning’ or nod in greeting. If I don’t say anything, no one notices. But dear sweet baby Jesus are they concerned if I don’t put “Good morning!” on slack.

        1. JustAnotherCommenter*

          “Weirdly, most of us just say ‘morning’ or nod in greeting. If I don’t say anything, no one notices. “

          this is such a great example of how communicating tone in person and tone over text are very different communication styles. In person, a neutral “morning” or a nod with anything other than a sour face is a perfectly simple way to communicate a greeting with the indication that this is a normal fine day. But because we don’t get the benefit of people’s faces or body language in text there’s nothing to indicate the “mood” of the words without adjectives, punctuation, emojis etc. so a lack of those indicators tends to come across as either vague (leading people to ask what’s up) or naturally negative because in text the absence of a tone indicator often reads as negative rather than neutral.

        2. Anony*

          My team does this, but that’s just because we’re all remote in different time zones, so it’s our way of saying, “hi, i’m online and so if you need to bother me, go for it.” And it’s a nonprofit space so it’s a good thing Slack doesn’t charge us by the exclamation point.

          Fortunately no one seems to care when I just say “morning.”

          1. I Have RBF*

            This is what my team does too. I say “Good morning” in chat when I log in. It’s my way of saying I’m on and available.

            1. allathian*

              When my org switched from Skype to Teams during the pandemic, we started by doing that. But now people have mostly stopped doing this, for a number of reasons. Firstly we found it disruptive, secondly it’s easy enough to check someone’s Teams status, and finally because for us Teams is a semi-synchronous means of communication, meaning that we can post whenever we remember something and there’s no expectation of an immediate response to ordinary messages.

              If it’s genuinely urgent, we can tag the person and use the exclamation point to flag it as important. In the three years since spring 2021, I’ve received exactly two IM messages that were flagged that way, and they were “drop everything else and do this” emergencies.

  5. animaniactoo*

    Potentially this is also less about you specifically vs relief and enthusiasm to finally have someone competent in the position.

    Sometimes it is really hard to find someone who does those low-level, low-key tasks well precisely because they are boring and basic stuff.

    But they do need to be done, and done well, or they become a burden that takes up a lot of a manager’s time and energy in a way that can be super frustrating.

    Even if that is not the case here, would thinking of that possibility and giving it the benefit of the doubt help your mindset at all?

    1. Smithy*

      Yes 10000%.

      While this is likely this supervisors style, when teams have been without support staff – particularly competent/high performing support staff, that enthusiasm as relief can come from a genuine place. Things like scheduling meetings with many people and competing calendars aren’t necessarily hard, but can be very time consuming. So someone coming in and taking that over well with all meetings set, with the right agenda, right people, and so no one is being asked to join at 4am or 11pm is sometimes easier said than done. I certainly wouldn’t want huge praise for a task like that, but I also get the appreciation of powering through such a task.

      1. Also-ADHD*

        Heck yeah! I’m not a perky, enthusiastic person, but someone doing those admin tasks if we’ve not had a coordinator on that stuff for awhile is life changing— I would actually be this grateful for that type of work, frankly, more than almost anything else a report or team member can do. (I have ADHD so a crucial admin doing that stuff does seem like a superpower to me.)

      2. Anony*

        I was worried we would scare our new guy when he started. We’d been dealing with either no support staff or support staff not doing a very good job for literal years. So he came on board and immediately was doing a great job and we were all so close to just running up to him in tears thanking him for…doing his job. But we were really that grateful. Never underestimate the power of competence.

    2. TootsNYC*

      also, if those tasks are rote and boring, a manager might feel they really want to make the employee feel valued, and that their efforts are important and noticed, not taken for granted.

      I try to not let my personal preferences get too carried away when other people are well-intentioned but just different from me.

      1. Ramenista*

        “also, if those tasks are rote and boring, a manager might feel they really want to make the employee feel valued, and that their efforts are important and noticed, not taken for granted.”

        God this, so much. I hired a new report a few months ago, and unfortunately most of her current taskload is pretty basic, despite her killer experience. It’s just what needs doing right now, and while I’m trying to also pass on stuff more in her experience, I’ve definitely been overcompensating by heaping on the praise for the mundane stuff because it *is* crucial work right now, and I don’t want her to feel like we aren’t going to challenge her.

        But also I’m a fairly new manager, and this probably isn’t the route I should be going with it.

        1. Theon, Theon, it rhymes with neon*

          What I would do is point out to her the real-world benefits of her work. “Thanks, that saves the whole team time placing orders,” or whatever the actual benefit is.

          Competent professional adults are more motivated by making a difference than by pleasing an authority figure, and too often praise is the equivalent of “I’m pleased with you!” Which is not to say managers *shouldn’t* praise, but they shouldn’t use it as a substitute for more critical forms of motivation.

          I would also be up-front with her about your desire to change her workload, what timeframe you’re looking at, and what the odds are of it happening in that timeframe. Is it dependent on factors outside your control, like getting budget for a new hire? Or is it just that this set of work needs to be done right now, and once it’s done, you can move on to assigning your report more interesting things?

          1. Anony*

            “What I would do is point out to her the real-world benefits of her work. “Thanks, that saves the whole team time placing orders,” or whatever the actual benefit is.”

            This is a really good point. I mentioned in another comment that our team was almost ridiculously effusive when our new operations person started and was….good at it. It was what he was hired to do, sure, but years of no support staff or support staff that constantly created problems will really leave you overjoyed. Him being good at the job cut meant the rest of us didn’t have to spend literal hours every week cleaning up a new mess or doing someone else’s job (and therefore delaying our own jobs or working late). It meant that everyone functioned more effectively and the work was higher quality across the board.

            1. Theon, Theon, it rhymes with neon*

              See, I’m the kind of person who, if people are really effusive in the praise sense when I’m just being moderately good at something, I feel condescended to by their low standards, but if people are really excited that having someone in my role allows them to work on all these other projects, or just not be overwhelmed all the time, then I feel super motivated.

              There’s someone on my team who’s increasingly taking over the very specialized role I was hired for, which is allowing me to branch out and up, and I frequently and enthusiastically bring to their attention all the things that are getting done as a result of their freeing me up by doing what used to be solely my job.

    3. Semi-retired admin*

      I really like this perspective, so thank you for that. My former job was a mix of the mundane with some pretty high level responsibilities. More than one supervisor would lose their minds with praise for the mundane, and virtually ignore the high level stuff. I would get so frustrated by that. It made me feel like they didn’t know what I was doing or how good I was at it. My current part time gig is all the mundane, and the level of praise makes me internally roll my eyes, but they have had long running staffing issues so your comments make sense in relation to that, too.

      1. ferrina*

        My boss does this! She’s a great boss, but every so often she’ll get really excited about something that is a basic part of my job. I think it’s because as animaniactoo said- she’s just really, really excited to have someone competent in the role. If I weren’t, all of the work would fall to her and she doesn’t have the bandwidth. So she’s extra grateful she’s not in it alone.

    4. Angstrom*

      Yes! Somebody doing the simple, boring tasks that nobody wants to do often gets high praise. It’s a combination of appreciation and relief. :-)

  6. tb3*

    It may be (possibly) that your boss is aware that you are not thrilled with the job itself and that she thinks being “encouraging” is the best way to keep you around. I’ve definitely had managers get wildly enthusiastic at the point where they sensed I was looking around for a new opportunity.

    1. Antigone Funn*

      Yes, my boss also amps up the gratitude words when the team is unhappy. It’s the only thing he can offer us, since we certainly aren’t going to get raises, promotions, autonomy, or interesting work to do.

      1. MsM*

        My boss does this for stuff that’s particularly boring. I just see it as an acknowledgment of “I know you’d rather be doing literally anything else, so thank you.”

        1. ngogogo*

          Totally agree with this. When I get overenthusiastic it’s often because someone is doing something that requires them to be meticulous but is mentally unchallenging, such as tracking. That goes double if I know they are unhappy or the task is beneath their abilities.

    2. Sloanicota*

      Yep, this was my read. The boss may sense that you’re not very enthusiastic. Appreciation may be the one thing she can offer, so she’s trying to offer that. This might help you accept it in the spirit it’s given and let it roll off your back if you’re already looking to leave. (I had a boss who was always super appreciative at weird times – usually when he wanted me to do really low-level admin work for him, not on stretch assignments I cared about – and it was actually harder in person. I can roll my eyes to slack).

      1. JustAnotherCommenter*

        Agreed! I think when someone is feeling unhappy in their job they can ascribe much more over the top positivity to this kind of praise than is often actually being communicated. It can feel like the other person is wearing rose coloured glasses when you’re seeing things as they are but a lot of the time you’re the one wearing “everything sucks” glasses. (Poop coloured glasses?)

    3. Not Tom, Just Petty*

      I thought that, too. Like OP is giving off a vibe of not feeling like the job is a great fit. Spitballing, but things boss might note: not coming up with ideas like other people or simply not participating as much in meetings. And boss sees it from her perspective, that OP thinks she is a bad fit into the job (combined with fully remote, so no impromptu check ins or chance to see you meshing well with coworkers).

    4. H.Regalis*

      I was wondering the same thing. Maybe she can tell that the OP is kind of meh about things and is amping up the friendliness and appreciation to fix it, but it’s having the opposite effect.

      I personally do like getting some praise, but Praise Levels over 9000 would turn me off too when it’s out of all proportion to your work.

  7. Consonance*

    As Alison said, I get the sense from OP that they want they want their boss to understand them or get the tone right with them in providing praise. But OP also says that they don’t like the work and are actively looking to leave. If I were OP, I’d use that information to help me not care about the positivity. Is the end goal that you get the manager to communicate with you in your preferred way? What would that accomplish for you? It’ll take effort and energy to manage the relationship, but your goal is to end the relationship entirely. It’ll be easier and simpler to let it be for now.

    1. JustAnotherCommenter*

      Toxic positivity is when someone does not allow for negativity by constantly encouraging people to “look on the bright side” and countering challenges or frustrations with unrealistic positives.

      It’s not when someone is a little overly enthusiastic with their thanks for an employee doing their job.

      1. SchuylerSeestra*

        For real. I feel like some people default to any sort of positivity demeanor as toxic.

        Toxic positivity isn’t always bad. Some people feel encouraging statements can build resiliency, while others feel it minimizes thier struggle.

        1. ABC*

          It does feel a bit like certain corners of the Internet have redefined toxic positivity as “other people being happy when I’m not happy.”

        2. allathian*

          Toxic positivity is always bad, by definition. Positivity isn’t, although where you draw the line between ordinary positivity and toxic positivity depends on the person. One person’s positivity is another’s toxic positivity.

          Of course, a total refusal to see any problems, challenges, and frustrations for what they are and going full Pollyanna on them is toxic regardless.

          That said, while I appreciate it when my internal customers or my managers recognize my skills and give me effusive thanks for going above and beyond, a simple thanks (or thumbs up to acknowledge receipt) is all I need when I’m just doing my job.

          Effusive thanks for doing a simple part of your job can feel infantilizing, like the person who thanks you is positively surprised that you were capable of doing it. Often it’s an expression of the genuine gratitude people feel when someone takes a boring part of the job off their hands, but if the same person expresses no appreciation for the more interesting and challenging tasks that you’re equally capable of doing, it doesn’t feel particularly well-intentioned.

          1. Andromeda*

            I was about to disagree with you but OK, actually I do see what you mean.

            I think “refusal to see… problems, challenges and frustrations” is verging on fanficcy though. There isn’t really any indication that that’s happening in this case. Manager’s behaviour sounds grating, especially (or only?) to OP in particular, but it doesn’t sound like she’s a bad manager from this letter alone.

  8. Funfetti*

    I think it’s her also trying to compensate for the fact this is a remote job. It’s hard to show thanks sometimes if you’re not seeing the person for those day to day interactions.

    I’m in the wedding industry and I swear I’ve now added MORE EXCLAMATION POINTS to my emails because you’re working with different people all the time trying to get a bunch of stuff done at crazy time for crazy reasons. I think we’re all trying to balance getting things done while combating fear we’re coming off as hard asses – because tone is really challenging via email/Slack some days.

    1. Not Tom, Just Petty*

      Yes. Boss may be new at fully remote and trying to find a good “voice.” Much like a preschooler learning to use an “inside voice” over an “outside voice,” Boss is learning to moderate how much YAY YOU! v hey, thanks for picking that up/meeting that deadline.

    2. CityMouse*

      That was my immediate thought because I’ve trained remotely and HAD to cheerlead a trainee because she felt disconnected and was constantly worried about her performance. so Boss could have had one of those as well and is overdoing it for LW.

      I’d just ignore it from LW’s perspective.

      1. allathian*

        Possibly, but that gives the boss no opportunity to learn that not all employees need this effusive encouragement and that some actively dislike it. That said, I’m not sure how the LW could let the boss know that while still maintaining a good relationship.

        Do you now default to cheerleading all your trainees because one needed it? If not, how did you recalibrate?

    3. PotsPansTeapots*

      Yeah, my first thought was that there’s a good chance this boss is less aggressively positive in person. Tone is really hard to get right in text and people managing remotely can be tough. Better to have a boss who leans positive than negative, though I see how it could get annoying for the OP.

    4. AFac*

      To exclamation point or not to exclamation point? That is the question.

      Suppose I wish to convey thanks.
      * Typing ‘Thanks.’ could be construed as rote, or passive-aggressive. (See: ‘using periods in texts is a sign of aggression/sarcasm/insincerity’ thoughtpieces.)
      * Typing ‘Thanks!’ could be construed as over the top or condescending, or too informal for the situation/recipient. If you’re a woman, it could sound like a Valley-Girl or uptalk affect that could result in people taking you less seriously.

      And now that short ‘Thanks’ reply has taken me 10 minutes to write as I decide how I should convey my gratitude.

      1. Lady Sally*

        Agree… my current choice is usually “Thanks very much.” Or “Thanks, I appreciate it.” In an effort to avoid either of the above implications.
        That will probably change tomorrow though.

  9. ThisAllTheTime*

    When it escalates to, “you’re a rockstar!” is when my head explodes. I really can’t stand that one.

    1. Goldenrod*

      “When it escalates to, “you’re a rockstar!” is when my head explodes”

      Oh, you are so right. I hate that one.

      I worked in a Business School one time, and they would say that to each other, and I would think, “you guys are literally the exact opposite of everything that rock and roll represents.” :d

      1. Resident Catholicville, U.S.A.*

        It’s worse when your coworker declares themself a rock star and then…really isn’t a rock star. One of my bosses had to tell her to knock it off- it was really out of character for the organization and she came across as very conceited.

        1. NotAnotherManager!*

          It has been my general experience, a couple of decades in, that people who tell you they are rock stars pretty much never are and the people who actually are would strongly be prefer not to be called that.

  10. Dawn*

    If I were to hazard a guess: you’re working remotely and you don’t like the work, and you’re probably not the only one, and your boss is probably trying very hard to get people to stay and engage with it.

    Been there, done… well, not that, exactly, I can’t be that cloying, but definitely made an extra effort to praise people and try to keep their spirits up.

    1. morethantired*

      Yeah, my first guess is that the manager knows the work if boring and they have trouble keeping people who are good at it. If you can’t offer any real perks (like money) or give more interesting work, praise is the only thing you can give.

      1. Random Bystander*

        Ironically, perhaps, giving praise when you (general) know that the recipient actively hates the job, it is quite the opposite of morale-raising. I get one of those emails and I have to go off and ugly-cry for a bit before I go back to my work.

        1. Dawn*

          I’m very sorry that you’re dealing with that, but I’m not necessarily certain that’s a very common experience; that almost sounds like it goes beyond even active hatred.

        2. morethantired*

          I think most people aren’t going to assume people are going to hate being praised at work. It’s usually the case where people don’t get praised enough. I’m sorry you’re having a tough time at work.

  11. JustAnotherCommenter*

    I’m not quite as bubbly as LWs boss, but I do find I tend to be more enthusiastic in my praise over chat in a remote environment for 2 reasons:
    1. When we’re working remotely it’s that much easier for people’s hard work to go unnoticed and I want to make sure that the effort is clearly recognized and appreciated.
    2. Tone can be SO hard to convey over text. A “Thanks for the report” message can be interpreted in a lot of different ways depending on the receiver and a great way to ensure clarity in the tone is being a little extra bubbly – “Thanks for that report, you crushed it!” isn’t as open to interpretation in tone.

    Granted – I work in an industry with a lot of egos and delicate personalities so the benefit of seeming a little extra enthusiastic to more low-key folks definitely outweighs the risks of upsetting people with a perceived lack of recognition in my case.

    1. Slow Gin Lizz*

      See, I think that, “Thanks for the report” is all that is really necessary and I don’t think there’s any way to interpret the meaning of that any other way unless the recipient is an odd duck. “You crushed it” would be okay on certain occasions where the report is really complicated or took a long time to pull together, but it’s really unnecessary to use it every time one of your employees sends you a report. But it sounds like it is necessary in your workplace, JAC, so of course you shouldn’t stop doing it.

      My supervisor and I recently had a conversation about this, because we have a terrible coworker (not on our team but above is in the hierarchy) who effusively praises us all the time for really basic things (“Thank you for responding yes to my question, you’re doing a great job and I’m so thankful for all that you do for us!”) and we are both people who would prefer not to get that kind of empty praise. She actually said to me that she was thinking that maybe she didn’t say things like that to me often enough and I replied that I don’t want or need that kind of “encouragement,” so don’t worry about it.

      1. JustAnotherCommenter*

        See, I think that, “Thanks for the report” is all that is really necessary and I don’t think there’s any way to interpret the meaning of that any other way unless the recipient is an odd duck.

        That’s exactly my point though, to you that’s without a doubt the way to convey a simple but genuine and positive thanks and you can’t imagine any other way to interpret it – but there’s nothing to specifically indicate the tone of that sentence so you’re reading the tone of it based on the way you and your circles communicate.

        But for some people it would read as really flat and not genuine, some people would read it as though there’s a “but…” coming, some people would read it as rushed and just an acknowledgement of receipt rather than a comment on the quality of the work etc etc etc.

        I actually think this difference really is the divide between people who use specific tools to convey tone in their text and people who prefer to imply tone in their text.

        To people who prefer to imply a “you crushed it, thanks for that report!” can read as someone loudly saying “YOU DID SUCH A GOOD JOB!!!!” because they typically would only use language like that when they’re being especially effusive and want to indicate a bigger deal.
        But for people who prefer to use specific tools to indicate tone a “you crushed it, thanks for the report!” is more akin to walking by someone’s desk and casually saying with a smile and a positive tone “thanks for sending that report, it looks great” – the bubblier language is a way to compensate for not being able to convey the genuine positive tone in their voice and smile on their face.

        It really comes down to simply having different communication styles and that’s ok.
        Everyone should strive to “read the room” a little then adjust accordingly and avoid assuming negative tone or ill intent unless it’s confirmed!

  12. Goldenrod*

    aahahahahhaha, this is so funny!

    I agree with Alison’s advice to just shrug and ignore it. Also, I think this bit of information which you shared is key: “I don’t like the job. I’m making a good-faith effort to do the work well until I can find something else, but the hyper-enthusiasm just makes things worse.”

    I think this is why it’s grating on you so much. My boss in my current job is lavish with praise and I LOVE IT.

    BUT: I remember when I was in a retail job that I hated. I did something nice for a customer and he was so sweet and appreciative, and expressed that by exclaiming, “You have found the RIGHT job for you!!”

    And…I hated that. I found it totally deflating. He meant well, but when someone affirms your identity in a way that doesn’t work for you, it feels bad.

    Your real problem is that you just don’t like the job. This is just a reminder of that. Next time your boss does this, you can silently say to yourself: I’ll be out of here soon.

    Good luck!!

  13. Fake Kirkland Coffee*

    Just like Alison said: treat this as a translation issue. When you see those overly effusive praise messages, just mentally translate them into “Thanks. I appreciate you.” Without exclamation points :)

  14. I'm just here for the cats!*

    OP I think you work for the same person my mom does. OMG is that lady so annoying (I’ve met her a few times). Not only is she a work-aholic who came in on holidays and worked from the hospital when her mother was dying but she over exaggerates every little thing. When people were still in the office she would print out certificates and good job flyers like everyone was in kindergarten. They are tech support for a small company and most people are in their late 30s to near retirement age. Now they have these meeting that are just full of pep and my mom says its a waste of time.

  15. JustaRando*

    I feel like I could have written this letter myself! For about 2 years I had two supervisors, each with opposite management styles; one basically ignores me and the other was too over the top with weird praise (got a ‘great job’ chat after scheduling meetings for him). I have 20+ years professional experience, and my best supervisors were always somewhere in the middle, so all the dumb praise made my eyeballs roll right to the back of my head. The issue ultimately resolved itself when the boss-of-over-the-top-praise was let go over the holidays and now I am hardly spoken to at all during the workday, *sigh*.

    1. Festively Dressed Earl*

      I wonder if LW’s boss is overcompensating for a colleague or predecessor who was overly negative and hard to please?

  16. Managing While Female*

    I understand that this feedback is over-the-top, but I’d just like to point out that often when you’re a woman and a manager, there’s no way you can win with this. Everyone hates the way you interact with them. You’re too terse in your emails; you use too many exclamation points to show you’re not being terse; you’re too encouraging; you’re not encouraging enough; you’re not making this job fun; ew, why are you trying to make it fun when it’s work?; you don’t ask me about my life; why are you asking me about my life? mind your business!… And so on and so forth.

    Maybe men deal with this too, but I kind of doubt that they’re asked to walk this tightrope of being authoritative and professional while also not being tone-checked for sounding too ‘mean’.

    1. Jennifer Strange*

      All of this. I could recite America Ferrera’s entire Barbie monologue here (but I won’t).

    2. EA*

      Yes, yes, this! I feel for the boss, to be honest, because it sounds like she has an unsatisfied employee and is trying to show the employee that she appreciates their work, although it does sound a bit excessive.

      I’d recommend the OP just ignore the comments. It’s a little weird to expect that she’s going to someone understand from your thumbs up of her comment that you DON’T like the comment. So just stop reacting altogether if it’s really that grating to you.

    3. JustAnotherCommenter*


      And it’s not like LWs boss is crying literal tears over joy when the job is done, they’re just using more enthusiastic versions of “thank you.” I get that it’s a bit over the top, but honestly I find complaining about it to the point where someone wants to see if they can address and change the behaviour a disproportionate response.

    4. NotAnotherManager!*

      This, so, so much. And you will never make everyone happy – for every LW, there is someone who feels unappreciated if their boss does NOT demonstrate this level of effusiveness.

    5. lost academic*

      Good lord this so much. And you’re so much more likely for junior staff to complain about how you NEVER TELL THEM THEY’RE DOING A GOOD JOB (whether it’s true or not) and get dinged for it in reviews.

      No one expects men to be ‘nurturing’ managers so if they aren’t seen as kind and supportive they are absolutely not taking a hit for it and generally quite the opposite. Since we expect it of ALL WOMEN any evidence that it’s not happening is a weird indelible stain.

    6. Green Tea*

      Yeah, when I read this letter, I mainly just felt sympathy for OP’s boss. There really is no winning, sometimes.

      1. Toxic Workplace Survivor*

        Ding ding ding ding! This, completely. I tend to be somewhat effusive in praise as a manager but I don’t lie, I simply speak the thought out loud when I am grateful to have had help or I notice extra effort or a thing that is small but important and a thankless task is completed well. I can imagine not everybody wants that exact style but I have had years of experience being a high performer who is taken for granted and I refuse to be that boss.

        The fact this is at all a conversation I need to have with myself is difficult to remove from my gender.

    7. Distracted Librarian*

      Thank you. This boss is expressing appreciation. Must we complain that she’s doing it wrong?

      1. Spencer Hastings*

        I got the impression that the boss was praising the LW for really simple stuff as well, and I can see how that might feel condescending.

        “You totally crushed it!” in response to something I worked really hard on? Great! The same thing in response to something super basic? That would be annoying.

        1. Jennifer Strange*

          I can definitely see how that would be annoying, but I also think it’s important to realize that “super basic” isn’t the same for everyone, so it may be that what’s super basic to the LW is amazing to their boss. For example, my boss was amazed that I was able to look at the edit history of a Google sheet and see who had made a specific edit. I thought everyone knew how to do that!

      2. Cinn*

        I once knew a manager who nominated one of his employees for an (entirely well deserved) internal award and admitted part of the reason he did it was because he knew his employee hated being in the spotlight and he wanted to get him out of his comfort zone. (This was not a new employee but one with decades of experience and expertise.)

        So yeah, admittedly, completely different to the kind of praise the LW is discussing. But I just wanted to give it as an example because imo there are definitely incorrect ways of giving people praise.

    8. roster gang*

      completely agree. i’m not naturally a complimtenter, or a positive person (nor a woman, but am perceived as such, so be it) but i want my team to feel like i care about what we’re doing even though logically i know none of us care.

      but – at the end of the day, i’d rather give a compliment to someone who helped me out, and have them not care about it, than risk being rude by not noticing the work they did for me.
      i feel like i can’t really win on that front, i can’t read minds about how to perfectly praise people.

      like OP, i am also compliment teflon – i find that people don’t notice the stuff i’m proud of and go over the top for things i do by accident – but i think how you handle compliments is ultimately a you problem. compliments are fine.

  17. Alton Brown's Evil Twin*

    Yeah, this is definitely a Slack/Teams/email problem. Nobody back in the dark ages would draft multiple memos with the formal business language equivalent of “you rock, dude!”. Way too much time and effort.

    But you can throw that off electronically in just 15 seconds. If this was face to face, your boss might be sticking her face in her cube and trying to high-five you a dozen times a day – but even that takes more work than a Slack message.

    1. allathian*

      Granted, work cultures have also changed. I’m in my early 50s and I’m in Finland. My parents who were born in the mid-1940s never got any praise as kids because the attitude was that to praise a child would make them proud. Parents could be proud of their kids and praise them to other adults, but they didn’t tend to say anything to the kids themselves.

      But it seems to me that each generation expects more praise and thanks than the previous one, because a parent who never shows any appreciation for their kids as people, rather than simply for what they accomplish, is considered at least borderline abusive today. In some ways I think it’s good, because most of us do like to feel that our efforts are appreciated and valued and that we’re valued as human beings. But being effusively praised for a simple task that you can do half asleep feels like being back in daycare and being praised for eating without making a mess.

  18. i drink too much coffee*

    I’m probably alone in this, but I love bosses who do this because I came from a place of absolutely no validation and severe criticism, so I’m all down with praise now hahaha.

    1. oranges*

      Yeah, as a person motivated by Words of Affirmation, I’d love this boss! Tell me more about how AWESOME I am, lol.

    2. Goldenrod*

      You’re not alone, I loooove praise! After working for really mean bosses, I now can’t get enough.

      (And I’m Gen X BTW)

    3. CR*

      Same! I can’t believe someone is complaining about their boss sincerely complimenting and encouraging them. Isn’t it nice to be appreciated??

      1. AnonORama*

        If you haven’t experienced it, this sounds amazing. But it can get waaaaay over-the-top. I’ve experienced both, and while it’s way better than the meanness and abuse, it still starts to grate and seem patronizing. There’s definitely a happy medium involving sincere thanks and maybe some extra praise after a big win, or the completion of a particularly time-consuming or unpleasant task.

      2. sb51*

        IMHO the hard part is when you have cultural (whether actual non-work culture or just your past team history at work) differences – if you come from a place where gushing praise is the basic acknowledgement of a successful task completion, you start mentally registering it as such. And often, in that same place, silence kind of means that everyone is thinking to themselves: “if you don’t have anything nice to say, don’t say anything at all”. Whereas another place may critique quickly if something is even the slightest bit not-right, and silence means all is well; gushing praise is reserved for extraordinary feats.

        Neither is better than the other, IMHO; they’re just different. You learn to register what you’re used to. And some people are better at adjusting to a new culture than others.

    4. Festively Dressed Earl*

      I suspect LW’s boss either came after a zero validation boss or is working under one. Be the change you wish to see in the world.

    1. not nice, don't care*

      Do we have some kind of thing for wanting actual results from work? Or just not being driven by empty praise?
      This GenXer prefers cash and being left alone to get shit done.

      1. NotAnotherManager!*

        Yep. I accepted a long time ago that I *am* my generational stereotype. Pay me and leave me alone is my ideal.

      2. 653-CXK*

        Same (GenX)…my focus is to start from A and end at B, and a simple “thank you” and a monetary token of your esteem (even as little as a cup of coffee or the remnants of your group lunch) is sufficient. Please leave the “appreciate you” and “you’ve got this” filler at the door.

        (Sorry for being a grouch. Those phrases are like fingers to a chalkboard.)

    2. AnonORama*

      I am, although I know you weren’t asking me. I like praise, but would rather have a raise. (Sincere praise — things in the vein of “thanks” or “this is really strong work” — is great, although it’s not money. Syrupy praise like you’re talking to a 5-year-old is grating, and I doubt that’s generational.)

      1. allathian*

        Yes, this, also Gen X.

        Granted, I work for the government and getting a raise is like getting blood from a stone, even if I love the job security and benefits, and the fact that my efforts are benefiting the common good rather than making some already wealthy people even richer.

        I like getting good scores in my annual reviews, and I like knowing that my manager sees it when my coworker and I go above and beyond. I also appreciate critical feedback where appropriate because that makes it possible for me to do an even better job (I had written “improve” but my feelings about whether or not I consider myself to be a good and worthy person are only marginally tied to whether or not I get the impression that others think I do a good job).

        But for completing ordinary tasks, I’m fine with getting no response most of the time, even if I appreciate a simple “thanks” or thumbsup as an acceptance of delivery.

    3. Goldenrod*

      I’m Gen X and I will take ALLL the praise anyone wants to heap upon me, thanks in advance! ;p

      1. AvonLady Barksdale*

        Also Gen X. I love getting praise and I simultaneously find it difficult to accept. “You CRUSHED that sale!” “Yeah, thanks, no big deal, the other guy did most of the heavy lifting.” This is why I love emojis so much. I can add something shiny to make them all think I’m just as enthusiastic and that way they will keep telling me I’m crushing it yet there’s little effort on my part to meet them there and we’re all happy.

  19. Elle*

    It’s so hard to be a boss. Some people want praise, some don’t. Trying to figure out how to give praise virtually

      1. Snarl Trolley*

        This is definitely fair. As someone who’s now experienced both extreme sides of the management communication spectrum (ie, kitchen work’s yelling swearing demands vs current job’s effusive marshmallow-fluff gratitude any time you blink), I’ve begun just…building spreadsheets to track which reports need the big bubble-letters appreciation each workday and which reports only need a genuine “Good job, I appreciate it” on a finished project every few weeks. Once the door is open for the conversation, I’ve been lucky to have staff who can express what they’re looking for from me, and it’s worked out well so far!

      2. ijustworkhere*

        I agree. Today its someone being annoyed at being praised too much, tomorrow its the person annoyed they aren’t praised enough.

        And then there is the person who really appreciates the praise and doesn’t think it’s too much or insincere.

        Having a bit more tolerance and detachment can be very helpful. Life is full of people who have quirks and behaviors that may not exactly align with our preferences.

    1. East Coast Lifer*

      Yeah for all the consideration and care this site (rightfully) encourages managers to take with respect to employees, the bar seems impossibly high for managers, who are also human. Especially for harmless stuff like this where it’s a matter of personal taste and no way to make everyone happy, seems best just to let it go and accept that you have different preferences.

      1. Managing While Female*

        Yep. Had to take a break from this site for a long time for this reason. While I appreciate the good advice and some managers are just really bad at their job and suck as people, soooo many comments make it clear that sometimes it doesn’t actually matter what a manager DOES, they’re just going to hate them because they’re a figure of (often just perceived) authority.

  20. Mary*

    Has anyone found that people like this tend to get mad and nasty really quick when something going away?

    Maybe I have too many horror stories, but it reminds me of the bosses (who called me a rockstar) put me on a pedestal at first, then knocked me down the second something happened.

  21. Jennifer Strange*

    Honestly, the fact that this is on Slack leads me to believe it’s a combination of wanting to keep it brief (people don’t tend to write much on Slack) and the overuse of exclamation points that tends to come with texted communication due to the lack of tone to convey feelings. I also find it interesting you feel receiving the comments via Slack make it harder to deal with since it’s easier to quickly glance at and just ignore (maybe even roll your eyes if you are so inclined).

    By the way, when I saw the post title I thought this was legitimately going to be about a boss who previously was a professional cheerleader or something.

  22. Ellis Bell*

    I will definitely join you in your PSA, OP that praise only works when it’s sincere, proportionate and tailored to the audience. I do agree with Alison’s take on it though, that there’s absolutely no need to match the tone in any way. Just steamroller it with the most minimal nod/thanks you possibly can. I will loan you some Britishness if you like; it’s practically illegal here to respond to praise. Try: “Thanks. Also….” / “It was literally nothing. But (subject change) might interest you a bit more ..” / “Yeah it’s good to have this one filed away” / “My pleasure, and I’d like to look at something similar when we do Y”. “I try. Which reminds me…” The subject change is totally key, don’t let the acknowledgement take up more than one or two beats, before just getting back to business.

  23. Emily Byrd Starr*

    That’s funny, I didn’t realize that my mother-in-law was anyone’s boss.

  24. Starchy*

    I empathize with you. I have a boss just the same and relate to points 1 and 2, unlike point 3, I love my job. It’s so weird to me getting major kudos for doing your regular job.

  25. oranges*

    LW wrote three reasons they’re bothered by their boss’s enthusiasm, but I’m guessing it’s almost entirely #3.

    When you firmly hate your job, anything and everything becomes “b*tch eating crackers.”

    1. Jennifer Strange*

      Yeah, I agree. I think if they enjoyed their job more it wouldn’t bug them quite so much.

    2. Lydia*

      Yeah, OP…It’s not her, it’s you. And that’s okay! You’re ready to move on, and now everything feels like too much.

    3. Slow Gin Lizz*

      Nah, I think all three of LW’s reasons for being bothered are valid. Now, is it likely that LW is more bothered by it in the past because LW is looking for a way to leave this irritating manager? Maybe, but it’s also equally likely that LW is looking for a way to leave *because* of this irritating manager (and that this manager’s praise style is only one of many reasons why the manager is irritating).

      While reading this letter I was actually asking myself if the fact that the colleagues I have who do this are my least favorite colleagues because they pile on the empty praise or if they’d be my least favorite colleagues anyway regardless of their stickers and candy management style (hat tip to a commenter in a lower thread for that wording). Either way, I do not think it’s a coincidence that one of them does virtually no actual work but keeps piling on the empty praise; the non-workers among us like to try to fool people into thinking that their praising others is actual work.

  26. AnonTech*

    Yup, as other posters have written, you are not alone! I am a seasoned professional in a technical field and have never been a warm and fuzzy person (or a cheerleader for that matter). I do feel that some managers think they need to boost me up because I’m naturally quiet and low key. Hey, if you want to give me money, or more time off, I’m all for it and will be grateful, but I definitely don’t need or appreciate lip service for tasks that I could do in my sleep.

  27. Keyboard Cowboy*

    My skip-level is like that, both in person and online. He’s like a golden retriever sometimes. But keep in mind that people with that energy level are used to the fact that others around them don’t have it – you really don’t have to match, I think they’re used to people taking it at even keel or not really reacting well to the over-praise. With my skip I just smile or “haha, thanks”, or redirect the credit to my team. Or don’t say anything at all and ask about the next thing on my mind instead.

    1. Goldenrod*

      Ha ha! I work for a Golden Retriever and I love it.

      But, to be fair, I’ve had a lot of bad bosses. After working for a toad, a spider, a shark and a snake….I’ll take the friendly dog, please!

    2. Carlie*

      I am a golden retriever, and you are correct – I’m just being enthusiastic about how much I appreciate people, and I don’t expect a response to it. I pull it back with people I know are honestly irritated by it, but in general I like telling people that they make life easier and happer for others. The danger is when you do that but do nothing else to back up that appreciation in tangible ways (raises, time off, ect), or at least are honest about how awful it is that you can’t do so when you can’t.

      1. Goldenrod*

        “I am a golden retriever, and you are correct – I’m just being enthusiastic about how much I appreciate people, and I don’t expect a response to it”

        These are good points. I LOVE your management style, don’t ever change!

        Some of my coworkers will sometimes tease my boss about how he’s praising them “too much” and, honestly, what I always think to myself is “they haven’t had enough bad bosses, so they don’t realize how lucky they are.”

  28. Alex*

    I totally get this. I’m also a person for whom over-the-top praise for stuff I don’t really value just makes me feel angry. For the most part, this is *my* problem and I have to remind myself that no one is praising me to annoy me.

    (This personality trait also pops up in my dating life. I can’t stand people who are overly complimentary about my looks and one of the reasons I broke up with someone recently is that they would. not. stop. it even when I asked them to, yes it annoys me that much!)

  29. Aerin*

    I find it kind of weird that LW thinks this is harder to deal with because it’s on Slack. That kind of stuff is just the background noise of Slack/Teams to me. Hell, I even feel more comfortable calling it out when it’s chat. Like, recently we did some testing where a bunch of us had to login at 6am. A couple of managers came in very enthusiastic, woo let’s do this. My response was to point out that it was entirely too early for exclamation points–which got a lot of laugh responses, including from said managers.

    I think this is in “bitch eating crackers” territory. It’s mostly annoying because you hate the job, not vice versa.

    1. Snarl Trolley*

      I wonder if it being virtual praise means they aren’t constrained by irl social standards that would expect them to not be overtly eye-rolling at it, so they end up being more bothered by it simply because…they -can- be more bothered by it, without their boss seeing them. Which just self-fulfills and increases the Secret Ire each time.

  30. Honey Badger just don't care*

    Alison nailed it on this one. I’ve got a new boss who I swear just needs to have kids and be a dad cuz he spends a lot of time reminding his professional, adult staff that it’s going to rain so drive carefully, checking to see if I’m packed for my holiday trip, making sure we all know to wear warm clothes when it’s cold outside. Same kind of low grade annoying stuff like the Cheerleader boss but hilarious when you realize that I’m at least twenty years older than he is. At first, I was letting it get to me. I am in my 60s! I do NOT need someone to remind me to pack for a trip! But finally I did what Alison just recommended here. I just let it roll off like water off a duck’s back. Life is easier that way plus, he let’s me be me and doesn’t worry about it so I’m granting him the same.

    1. AnonORama*

      Ha, maybe he should become a spin instructor! I don’t find the Peloton instructors super scream-y, but I used to take in-person spin class and this kind of cheerleading was rampant. Headache city, lol! (OT, but I’d rather have perky than the ones who scream constantly about calories, earning your food and making your body smaller like some other platforms *cough*Les Mills*cough*)

    2. Luanne Platter*

      Why do you say he just “needs to have kids and be a dad?” That seems like an inappropriate thing to say about anyone.

  31. super anon*

    OMG sounds like my partner’s previous supervisor. We call it the ‘stickers & candy’ management style. Totally spineless wretch who let higher ups do terrible things to lower level staff without a peep of protest, but would then dole out stickers and candy with kindergarten-level chirps of praise. Definitely not acceptable when the work involves being assaulted and dealing with catastrophically mentally ill people.

    1. anon_sighing*

      Oh, how interesting! I have never heard of this style of manager being the “iron fist, velvet glove” type. My experience is they’re the more buddy-buddy type that don’t understand the flow of power and make things awkward.

      The situation you described sounds unbearable!

  32. Snarl Trolley*

    I work in a very Golden Retriever Communication Style type office/company, with this kind of effusive marshmallow fluff coating every and any interaction with both colleagues and managers alike, so I feel you a LOT, LW. That being said, I’m with Alison on just aggressively filtering it out – yes, it seems condescending and patronizing, not to mention a waste of time, but it’s also helped me pin down management styles I want to avoid while looking for other work, which is super useful IMO. Even if it’s not a deal-breaker for an otherwise ideal job, it’s been great to have the opposite end of the spectrum in communication styles from my history of kitchens/hospitality work (where it’s far more….harsh, expletive-ridden demand typ “communication).

    TLDR, looking at it as a useful data point in your job search helped me compartmentalize it out of my daily pet peeves + wishing you a solid middle-ground communication style wherever you end up after this one!

    1. Slow Gin Lizz*

      “…but it’s also helped me pin down management styles I want to avoid while looking for other work.” Oooh, same here! Excellent point. (I swear I’m not trying to be a golden retriever communicator here, I really mean it!)

  33. Distractinator*

    It’s perfectly legit to reply “Haha glad you liked [minor thing]! But really I know (we all know) we’re in great shape for these minor checkpoints – please save up your enthusiasm for when we [big milestone]”

    1. anon_sighing*

      I would discourage this. You should accept compliments gracefully…not try to correct them or schedule them. LW would be in better shape being honest about how they are being received while acknowledging the intention is likely sincere – “I would prefer to receive this kind of praise when the project reaches a significant milestone, so the entire of body of work is appreciated rather than parts!” Then can add, “could be embarrassing if the bits don’t come together the way they should! :) Thank you!”

      To me, this is a communication issue.

      1. JustAnotherCommenter*

        Honestly I’d discourage your response too and keep it to your first bit of advice:
        “You should accept compliments gracefully…not try to correct them or schedule them”

        It’s weird to reject praise and appreciation from most people but especially a boss. If it doesn’t feel super genuine – does that really matter? A part of a managers job is to appreciate/motivate/encourage their team, they’re trying to do the basic requirements of their job just like the people they’re praising.
        If it feels grating because of other issues (lack of pay, benefits, team issues, workload etc.) then those are the issues worthy of discussion.

        1. anon_sighing*

          You can accept the compliment and then communicate how to receive them. I would be appreciative of someone telling me how I can best motivate them and not annoy them (which it’s doing to LW). Otherwise, LW gets more and more annoyed and the giver of the compliment isn’t getting their point across (it’s having a negative effect they presumably don’t want.)

          Again, this is a communication issue and not a rejection of things. You’re not saying “don’t” here, you’re saying “thank you but this isn’t having the intended effect and here’s maybe how you can it.” You can accept it when it happens but you don’t have to just sit there and take it because they want to do it their way only.

          Whether it’s worth bringing up is up to LW — this happens at my work (and many others from these comments) and I just let it go and try to keep a straight face. But clear LW wrote in and I didn’t, so I assume they maybe do need a way to frame this. It sounds like they just don’t like this job, period, and being able excessively complimented on top is just a thorn on top instead of a cherry.

          1. anon_sighing*

            Just taking it on – OP is annoyed at the frequency and how big the compliment is compared to the task. OP can’t control what they’re gonna say nor when they say it, but they express themselves and they can say “thank you, I appreciate that you want to motivate me.”

            50% of AAM letters are a lack of communication. The other 50% are just bad bosses. I don’t see a bad boss here, so it’s communication to me.

            1. allathian*

              Or simply say nothing and shrug it off. Because clearly that attempt is failing, badly, and I sincerely doubt that the manager is self-aware enough to see the sting behind the compliment: “thank you, I appreciate that you want to motivate me… but your effusive thanks do the opposite for me and I wish you’d stop.”

              That said, there’s nothing the manager can do to motivate the LW any further, and the only way to get out of this is to go work for someone else.

          2. JustAnotherCommenter*

            “It sounds like they just don’t like this job, period, and being able excessively complimented on top is just a thorn on top instead of a cherry.”

            That’s exactly my point though. The compliments are a side effect, not the problem. LW is going to have issues with this job regardless and it’s not worth complaining to their manager that “you’re not praising me right!” when changing that behaviour isn’t going to change how LW feels about the job. Honestly, I’d wager that if LWs manager was the opposite LW would feel like their hard work isn’t being recognized at all because their actual issue is that they’re unhappy with the job.

            If LW loved this job and wanted to stay long term and build a career there it might be worth a conversation, but I still think that would depend on how their coworkers react to the manager and the general company culture.

  34. Clawfoot*

    Ugh, I feel you.

    In my case, every team meeting we hear “you’re all doing fantastic work” and “we appreciate you all so much” and “you are all crucial to our success” and “we’re doing so well and exceeding all our goals and you’re all a huge part of that.”

    And yeah, it’s nice to hear it and be appreciated, but when actual raises come around it’s always “it’s not in the budget” and “we’re already overspending” and “nobody is getting more than 2%” when cost of living is rising like crazy.

    After a while, all the praise and thanks start to sound a little hollow if they’re not actually backed up by tangible rewards.

    1. Managing While Female*

      I understand the frustration, but a lot of times (and this is the position I’m in), managers have to supervise people but have absolutely zero control over their compensation. In my position, I don’t even know what their compensation is. All I can do is tell them I appreciate their work and advocate for them during performance review season, but that doesn’t guarantee that they’re going to get 10% raises and promotions. Still, I’m the one on the front lines, and the people making decisions are out schmoozing with clients. They don’t have to be the face of those decisions.

    2. Slow Gin Lizz*

      Wait, do you work with me? I am attempting to find a new job because we get this kind of praise all the time at our staff meetings and from the very person who would be able to control how much we are paid (all the while making more than double what most of us make) and it’s maddening beyond belief. Meanwhile they keep hiring more people to assist the folks in charge when what they really need to do is get rid of all the people in charge who don’t do anything and pay the rest of us a living wage. I’ve had four interviews at a place I’m really hoping will hire me and wow, I can’t wait to get out of here.

  35. anon_sighing*

    I just tolerate it, but I completely sympathize with you LW. I have an superior who lavishes praise like this and says how much they love working with people very regularly in a reassuring way. I acknowledge a lot of this is my discomfort with compliments in general, but also because it seems too frequent and given too loosely.

  36. Danielle S.*

    When I hired my first report as a new manager, I praised them in front of the larger department for jumping in and doing a great job the first week. They told me privately afterward that they preferred to get praised and recognized for actual tasks they did a good job on – not just general positive feedback.

    I took it as a learning moment, and made sure that I was explicit from then on about what I was praising for. And kept it a bit more low-key, like “Thanks for jumping on that email” or “John Smith noticed this piece was broken and proactively went about fixing it – great job!” type things.

    So – depending on the manager, maybe being direct would help?

    That said – I’ve had a manager that praised me in an over-the-top way, and it made me uncomfortable because I’m also a low-key type of person. I learned to just shrug it off and ignore it.

    1. lost academic*

      I don’t think you did a wrong thing at all, and the report probably missed that. Praise isn’t just about the person receiving it – in particular, in that context, it was also about the larger audience and for a new employee, the general recognition and attention were also important. Specific praise does indeed matter, but that doesn’t mean that general praise doesn’t have its place.

      A lot of my praise in my job is specifically to bring to the attention of someone who has influence over the employee in terms of raises/ bonuses, promotions, job assignments, etc, a particular situation/accomplishment/behavior/whatever that I want to to place front and center. I will care a lot more in that case about the person I’m talking to then about, but both are part of the overall audience (and should be, because in particular junior staff need to see both feedback that’s specific to their development and feedback that’s specific to much longer term and larger scale goals).

    2. MicroManagered*

      Nah. That was a “them” issue, not a “you” issue.

      “So-and-so’s done a really great job jumping in their first week!” is a super-normal thing to say.

      Yes specific praise is great. But your report was the one being weird by making an issue out of that comment.

    3. anon_sighing*

      I worked with a student who’s idea of “work” was like…a major project. Which isn’t remotely our work, most of it is routine but detail oriented. I don’t think they realized how many mistakes and how…unprepared some other people are while still getting to keep their job so their routine great work was just a baseline for them but it was “WOW! We REALLY are impressed!” for us.

      I think that’s what changed how I give compliments – I try to be specific about why I am giving them (“based on past experience, it usually takes people a couple of months being here to jump in like that, so great work!”) Ultimately some people are shy about being complimented in public, too.

  37. subaru outback driver*

    I agree this is easy to ignore.

    I also really feel that the answer to the question really missed an important mark. My first thought is that since this job/team is remote the manager is doing this to give feedback and to try to provide some kind of social construct for the job that one would get in the office.

    I also think the LW not liking the job is definitely influencing the feelings of the LW.

  38. Lacey*

    I also hate this kind of meaningless praise, but it truly is fine and easy to just say “Thanks!” and move on.

    1. Lydia*

      The thing is, we don’t know if it is meaningless. For all we know, the OP’s boss is being sincere, but the OP is just Done With This Job.

      1. anon_sighing*

        They are 100% done with the job and I think that’s the issue.

        They can ignore it or communicate to their boss about it, but someone suggested the praise and their job satisfaction may be connected somehow and I don’t think that’s a theory out of left field.

      2. Lacey*

        I don’t mean that the boss is insincere, I just mean, it’s generic praise.

        For example, an old boss would always say, “Thanks! You’re a rockstar!” when I finished any task.
        That doesn’t mean anything.

        A different boss would give me actual feedback on what she appreciated about my work. Or what needed improvement! That was far more palatable to me.

  39. Ramenista*

    As someone who is very similar to the boss (like, to the point that this is helpful for me probably being overly enthusiastic with a new hire), it could also be coming from a place where they’re just genuinely glad you’re there, or are inexperienced in giving actual, substantial feedback that is more than just a gold star and a pat on the back. It couldn’t hurt to let them know how you want to be spoken to, if you feel comfortable.

    But this is definitely making me realize I probably also need to tone it down a bit in my own enthusiasm and cheerleading, so thanks for writing this letter.

  40. 1-800-BrownCow*

    When I saw the part of the letter saying the position is fully remote, it made me wonder if the boss thinks they need to amp up the praise since they don’t interact face-to-face. I often hear people who are fully remote feel like their hard work and efforts go unnoticed because they aren’t in the presence of their team or manager daily or weekly. I too would find it a bit annoying, but since it’s just a message a not accompanied by a overly enthusiastic, squealing voice praising me, I would be relieved that I could just brush off the comments, maybe acknowledge one every so often with a thumb’s up. Or even a response of “Thanks, but you don’t need to praise me so much for just doing my job. I don’t need the extra encouragement to do the work!”.

    On another note, maybe she used to manage one of my former direct reports who expected praise for each and everything he did, including showing up for work each day!! It was exhausting and honestly annoying when I’d find out he was grumpy because no one acknowledged or thanked him that day. Ugh. But I at least knew it was a him thing and not something most people constantly want or expect, including myself.

  41. Pleasantly Persistent*

    One of the people I worked for last year is like this. She kept calling me a rock star (so I made a playlist with songs that mention rock stars for the whimsy).

    This person is genuinely kind and supportive, and sent some fervent emails on my behalf to my contracting firm. One of those emails got me a bonus last year.

  42. Sara without an H*

    Like several upstream commenters, I think your boss is trying to figure out how to keep remote staff engaged, and isn’t doing very well at it.

    But if you’re already looking for another job…why bother doing anything about it? If you were planning to stay with this company long-term, it might be worthwhile to try to help her understand better ways to motivate you. But if you’re already working on getting out, it’s not worth the trouble.

    I’d just stick with “Thanks!” or the “thumbs up” emoji, add this to your file of “Silly Boss Tricks,” and keep working on finding your next position. Alison has lots of good advice in the archives.

  43. Glazed Donut*

    Oh man, I’ve been here. With mine, everything good was AMAZING. Sent an email? AMAZING! Submitted a report? AMAZING! Put in a request for time off? AMAZING!!!
    I think in this case, the boss may be picking up on the OP’s ambivalence toward the role/work, and trying to use this to promote a sense of “you’re the right fit and so great please don’t leave.”
    And, also, I’ll add that as a past recipient of this, it’s not as easy to ignore as AG suggests! Ignoring it all — not doing the thumbs-up, or a Thanks! or a response — can be interpreted as not being a team player or not being warm or whatever else other excuse this particular type of boss may give.
    In my particular relationship with this behavior, the rub was two-fold: the boss expected me to do the same thing with my own team (who were MUCH more laid-back and chill than AMAZING! all the time), and my boss was cheerleading me for doing things she neither knew how to do or could do on her own. So it felt like she was offering praise without really understanding the situation.
    OP, I feel for you. I’d suggest just a thumbs-up reaction, maybe sprinkled in with some smiling emoji variations, to get you through.

  44. Red Reader the Adulting Fairy*

    Clearly we need to hook this boss up with the buddy-buddy employee from yesterday. :)

  45. Higher Ed Expat*

    Honestly it sounds to me like she took a feedback workshop and only heard that part that praise should be frequent. She may have missed that it should also be authentic, specific, and that she should have asked her employees how they like to receive feedback (both positive and constructive). This sounds inauthentic, over the top, not meaningful and clearly not what the OP needs/wants!

  46. Higher Ed Expat*

    Honestly it sounds to me like the supervisor took a feedback workshop and only heard that part that praise should be frequent. She may have missed that it should also be authentic, specific, and that she should have asked her employees how they like to receive feedback (both positive and constructive). This sounds inauthentic, over the top, not meaningful and clearly not what the OP needs/wants!

  47. Raida*

    Honestly I’d just tell her “I appreciate the clear amount of effort you put into praising and thanking staff. So I feel that you’ll be open to knowing what works for me specifically, as a manager who cares about how their staff are doing.
    For me, I work well with confirmations like “I can see the report” and appreciation ranging from “thanks” to “thanks for your help on this one, it’s appreciated”. For me, “you’re crushing it!” is far too much and results in me feeling disengaged.
    Just let me know if you’d like to have a chat about this.”

    You front load with a compliment, state an assumption that she *is* a good manager and a good manager would *obviously* want this information, give examples, don’t get personal, and outline results.

    If she gets upset or offended by this, then you can say “I didn’t intend to suck all the joy out of your job, am I the only person you’re effusively expressive with? Let’s discuss finding a middle ground.”

    1. allathian*

      This seems unnecessarily risky considering the fact that all the LW really wants from this manager is a decent reference at some point in the future when she’s ready to leave her next job.

  48. AcadLibrarian*

    I’d just like to ask that we cut managers a little break. It’s hard in this hybrid environment and everything being slack or teams messages or emails. We’re told in our employee surveys that nobody feels appreciated or seen, they don’t think their work matters, etc and we’re trying to combat that without being fully comfortable in the new hybrid environment. I’m only 44, but that means I’d been working for 20 years in an office before the pandemic. It’s hard to build the relationships in a virtual work environment.
    And seriously, if I wanted to get rid of everything that ever annoys me, I’d have to live on a desert island. Being annoyed is a state of being for humans dealing with other humans. Shrug it off.

  49. ariel*

    I personally am way more effusive in type than I am in person – trying to convey emotion when my face isn’t visible, I guess? So maybe your boss’s in-person version would be lower key IRL – I don’t know if reframing it that way would help, but it’s worth a try. Exclamation points = 1 genuine smile.

  50. Andromeda*

    I’m an IC, not a manager, but usually pretty effusive on Slack (eg “hero, thanks”, smiley faces, palms-pressed-together emojis when asking others to do things for me, exclamation marks. Not, like, constant exclamation marks, but I’ve been known to put two after good morning messages in team chat…) Roughly what percentage of people do you reckon this annoys? Trying to tell if I should dial it back.

    I wonder if general perkiness, and standards around it, also vary by country? I’m a Brit and I’d probably cringe a bit at someone saying “you crushed it” unless something was really important/difficult. But I’d also say we tend to be more deferential than the standard scripts I see here. I’d be inclined to use a lot more softening language than Alison often does.

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