I think my boss was a cheerleader in another life — Ask a Manager


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.



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