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Dealing with Bosses and Coworkers/Fed up with self-congratulatory messages from bosses?


Dear Sir,
I work at a broadcaster, the biggest in my country. Every week, we receive two messages via email by two highest-ranking bosses. The content highlights what we achieved during the week. The tone is always positive (how good we are, etc).

I have to admit I am fed up with these types of self-congratulatory messages as it happens every week. They never deal with any negative story, always boasting how good we are. To add to the dissent, despite how good we are, the staff never receive any financial reward since at least 2005.

Is it normal to have this type of messages at a huge company? Maybe we have to accept it?

Dear Ben,

Thanks for writing to me.

The biggest media company in your country I'm assuming is the BBC, and that being the case, I'm amazed that they bother to congratulate you for anything, whether good or bad.

My guess is that they are sending you these messages because they believe that it's the right thing to do. They're ticking a box. They probably learned that they needed to do this on a management course or something like that. And to be fair, staff do need to positive kudos. But I agree with you; it can be disingenuous.

The blanket email I'm sure is because the size of the company makes it impractical for them to do it any other way. A better approach would be for them to encourage section or line managers to make specific positive comments about what you do right during the past week, and perhaps what lessons for doing things well could be drawn from them.

One idea you might suggest to your boss is called appreciative inquiry . This technique focuses on the good you do, and from that you can decide how to improve.

Let's consider the alternative. How would you feel if your company sent messages out that were only negative, saying in effect that you were never good enough? My guess is that it would first make you angry and then demoralized. You'd probably start looking for another job eventually.

So while the emails you're getting may feel insincere, I think that they're preferable to constant criticism.

My suggestion is that you create a filter for your email. Make it so that everything that comes to you from those people, or with that subject line, or something else that separates them from the ones you do need to read, and have them all go into a folder created for the purpose.

Then, when you have a moment, glance at one after the other. You'll save time, and it probably won't wind you up quite so much.

As for financial compensation, there a couple of things I'd like to mention.

The first is that doing a good job isn't grounds for a financial bonus. That's what you're paid to do. If the quality of your work is low, then you shouldn't be working there at all.

The second thing is that the company may not feel that they can afford it. Big companies have big overheads. For example, most companies - really since the 1980s - spend more than half of what they earn on personnel costs. So any bonuses have to be paid from what's left.

But, if you want to earn a bonus, then here's a good place to start. Think about what you can do that's beyond what you're paid to do that adds value to the company. Salesmen and woman can measure this sort of thing quite easily. They're paid to hit certain targets. Anything beyond that adds more value.

I suspect that this exercise won't be that easy for you; but if it's hard for you to figure out, then you can safely assume that it's just as hard for the boys and girls at the top to quantify it as well.

Feel free to write back if you wish.

Dealing with Bosses and Coworkers

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Dr Bruce Hoag, CPsychol AFBPsS


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Co-wrote (with Professor Cary L Cooper, CBE) Managing Value-Based Organizations: It's Not What You Think, published in 2006.

Academy of Management, British Psychological Society

Leadership & Organization Development Journal,

PhD, Organizational Psychology, Manchester Business School

Awards and Honors
Chartered Occupational Psychologist & Associate Fellow of the British Psychological Society; Ezines Expert Author

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