“Is there a politically neutral way to compliment someone at work?”
The short answer is ‘yes, it’s easy’. However, Ellen Vanstone from Metro News seems to think it’s ‘yes but avoid it unless you’re gay’. It seems neither the contributor asking the question, nor the journalist responding, have heard of complimenting someone’s character.
This was her advice:
“If you are a straight male, and you want to compliment a female on the street or at work, try it out on a male first: “Hey buddy, I like your hair!” or “Man, you look fierce in those jeans!” If that seems creepy and inappropriate, it’s probably creepy and inappropriate to say to a female, too.”
But if you want to say “girl, you look fierce in those jeans!” make sure to check your sexuality, you profession, and your location first:
“If you’re gay and you want to compliment a person of the same sex, the male-female power dynamic may be less of an issue. But you are still strongly advised to comment only if, a) The subject of your compliment is not a subordinate in the workplace hierarchy, and b) You live in a large, cosmopolitan city where tossing out same-sex compliments in public won’t get you killed.”
If you find this a little confusing at first, relax. Patience will deliver you to the simplest rule of all:
“The best rule might be to avoid personal comments in public or at work altogether.”
Simple. The way to provide a compliment to someone you work with is, don’t.