The Playbook For The Modern Man

If Anyone Has Ever ‘Complimented’ You Like This At Work, It’s Actually An Insult

If the insult is true then it is not an insult but a statement of fact—and one that is potentially very helpful.

We’ve all been complimented, at one time or another, only to sit back on it five minutes later and question the sincerity of the complimentee’s goodwill. From, “Your hair looks good… for once,” to, “You look great… for your age,” there is an unending stockpile of backhanded tributes one might receive.

When it comes to your friends, relatives and even ‘frenemies’, you can probably let it go. After all: it’s not going to affect your ability to purchase a Rolex. However, when these sneaky insults come from a co-worker, a boss or a client, you really need to be switched on to it, both for your sanity and for your career progression.

To help you with this aim, we did a little research into some common—hidden—office insults and sought professional expertise from Psychology Today and Monster in how to deal with them in an effective, courteous manner. So, without further preamble, here they are.

Hey, You’re On Time!

If a co-worker shows surprise at your arrival you know they’re either an anal *sshole (as in, you’re normally on time, but were late yesterday and have now returned to your timely ways) or you have a punctuality problem.

The solution? No need to consult the experts for this one. Just get to the darned office on time (and if you’re late maybe don’t stop by Starbucks for a large iced-coffee).


Wow, You Look Very Professional Today

If your boss treats your 10/10 outfit as an anomaly then you know you need to step up your game. If it comes from a jealous co-worker, however, then take heed from the experts over at Psychology Today, and respond with humour (“I didn’t realise the word professional existed in your vocabulary!”) or by ignoring it.


I Appreciated The Wisdom In What You’re Saying, But…

If your manager says this to you, then, as the good people over at Psychology Today admit, sometimes you just need to accept it: “This may seem like a very weak response, but in many cases is actually the strongest response of all.”

“If the insult is true or largely true, the person it came form is reasonable, and his motive is worthy, then the insult is not an insult but a statement of fact and, what’s more, one that is potentially very helpful to us.”

If it comes from a rival co-worker, however, you may want to return the insult. While not strictly professional, Thought Catalogue have some hilariously classy putdowns like, “I have neither the time nor the crayons to explain this to you.” Use them at your own discretion.

I’m So Impressed You’re Handling This Project So Well

Read: I didn’t think you were capable of this. While this indicated you have done well this time, you may need to work on projecting your capabilities if you want to be considered for a promotion or a pay rise.

You Did A Fantastic Job Handling That Project On Your Own

Read: you are an efficient employee, but we are questioning whether you are really as much of a “team player” as you claimed to be on your CV. If this sounds like you, remember, while they aren’t everything—optics really matter. Adjust your behaviour accordingly.

As for some general rules for dealing with office criticism, here’s what experts recommend:

  • React only when necessary
  • Don’t go into attack mode
  • Don’t conront your insulter via email
  • Focus on the big picture
  • Don’t take it personally
  • Accept that not everyone like you
  • Share your concerns

Read Next


Get exclusive content, special offers and latest news delivered to your inbox.


Show More

The playbook for the modern man

Get the very best of men's style, health, travel & culture delivered to your inbox.

Dont show me this again