January 9, 2009

I'll Give You Something to Cry About

I just got an email from a client comparing the fun level of our last meeting to a painful dental procedure. It was in jest, true, and followed by a big ol' sloppy paragraph of praise. But why undercut the praise at all?

We've all heard about people who can't take a compliment, but what about people who can't give one? Now, I've been known to make a joke at someone else's expense from time to time - but with a few key differences:

  1. I usually make fun of people in person (not in a broadcast email to a bunch of people who weren't even at the meeting). I do this in the hope that the person I am skewering might rise to the bait, fire back with a witty retort, and much hilarity will ensue.
  2. My jokes are way better. Root canal? Come on!

What is the most memorable backhanded compliment you've received (or given) at work? Leave your story in the comments.


katybee said...

I was sitting in a wrap-up meeting for a major site redesign. My boss was handing out praise, person by person (picture a line of dirty-faced orphans straight out of Dickens with bowls in hand waiting for their portion of gruel). The praise was prefaced with a detailed explanation of what their role/contribution to the project was (because after 5 months of 10-12 hour days and some weekends, it may not have sunk in yet).

I was the last person in the "praise line" I guess, and my boss (standing) just looked down at me and said ... "and Katy, well, I just wish she could be cloned."

Huh? And maybe there was some cake and punch, but the speaking part of that meeting was abruptly concluded with that very odd remark. I was baffled and admit that this orphan felt a little short-changed. My teammates responded within a few days by mocking up a Wired Magazine cover with an article about me being successfully cloned. I still have it.

Jean said...

I've occasionally gotten "Wow, you look so much better!" Er, why can't people just say "great"? Why do they need to imply that I looked like crap yesterday?