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The Carletonian

The Carletonian

The Carletonian

The Worth of a Compliment

< like to do something that’s rare nowadays: I’d like to compliment someone for a job well done. More specifically, I’d like to thank the folks in the Career Center for helping one frazzled senior navigate his way through the scary process of figuring out what he’s doing with his life. During a recent visit to the career center, I was very impressed by the amount of attention I was given by the Career Assistant. Furthermore, the programs they have are great, and I left feeling more confident about everything.

No, I am not writing this at the behest of the Career Center. Though there does seem to be a lot of institution bashing from students these days (Why can’t Bon Appetit let Frenchy be great?), my goal isn’t to do PR work for their image. I’m writing this because it’s important to pay people a compliment every now and again. Sadly, I think it’s a dying tradition.

I’ve always been a stickler for manners. One of my pet peeves in high school was when someone arrived or left the lunch table without saying “hello” or “goodbye.” In the words of Stephanie Tanner, “How rude!” (I just realized how many freshmen are too young to understand that reference. Let alone the large number of Carls who grew up in a TV free home. Sorry if I lost you there.) Greetings are so simple, and yet, often unobserved. I think it should be just as natural as wearing a seatbelt. Sure, the consequences of not wearing a seatbelt and failing to say “hello” when you arrive late to our 4th libe study group are different. Still, better safe than sorry, as my Cub Scout leader Mr. Coley would say.

Even if I’m especially sensitive (i.e. obsessive compulsive) about politeness, I see compliments as particularly important. Recognizing someone’s hard work is not just a way of expressing your appreciation; it provides constructive feedback about how someone is performing. When I get great service at Carleton, be it from my awesome tour guide back when I visited in high schoolor Cherrie in the snack bar, I seek out a manager and let him or her know. As someone who has worked in a variety of service fields, I know the boss is often the target of irate customers. Consequently, employees usually hear from their manager when they do something wrong, but rarely if when they do something right.

For my friends in the math department, there is quantitative data to back this up. At the grocery store where I once worked, management claimed that 75% of shoppers who have a bad experience in our store would tell two other people. Only 15% of shoppers who have a good experience bother telling anyone, whether it is an employee or someone in the neighborhood. That’s rough. It’s probably why the store had a policy that when a customer reported having a great service experience, the employee received a gift card. It was like dangling yarn in front of a kitten.

A grocery store gift card aside, a compliment provides a certain amount of validation no amount of money can. It’s crucial to feel like your work has merit and that you play an important role in your organization. You can make six-figures a year, but if you don’t feel that your work has value I don’t envy your work experience.

I recently saw famed comedian Louie CK live in the Cities. At one point, he argued that college kids are slackers compared to previous generations of workers. He compared the apathetic twenty-year-old Best Buy employee to the sixty-five-year-old worker who wears a bowtie and is going for a “Nobel Prize” in selling stereos. Louie believes the American work ethic is in decline. To some degree, that’s true. Thus, now more than ever is the time to recognize those who go the extra mile.

Personally though, it feels more complicated than that. Many workers do take pride in what they do, but the public feels entitled to great service. It sends chills down my spine when I want to acknowledge someone’s work, only to have a friend tell me I’m not obligated to because “these people are just doing their jobs.” Yes, they’re doing their jobs, but being passionate and thorough at work is a lot different than just showing up. It takes commitment to excel.

There are a lot of great resources at Carleton that are undervalued. I’m not talking about academic programs or facilities: I’m talking about human resources. Some of these people work behind the scenes; some are more visible. Regardless, whenever I have a great experience with Carleton staff, I always try and let a superior know. If we continue to expect great people to look out for us, we need to be looking out for them.

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