How To Get Rid of Saying “Good Job” Once and For All

There is one thing I came into the recognition field to do. That task was to ban saying “good job” as an act of feedback or recognition expression.

Yet they have brainwashed many of us since childhood from home and school, and then into the workplace, to both hear and use those two words. 

I am going to explain to you exactly why you must eradicate ever saying the words “good job.” Then I will give a simple way to replace those words. You will feel more confident about being able to give meaningful recognition. And you’ll be perceived as a more genuine recognizer.   

Why You Must Stop Saying “Good Job!”

Kids hear these words on the sports field. It amazed me how speech-language pathologists (my original career) and other clinicians working with children also said them. Then I found out there was no age barrier to using or hearing “good job.”

First off, you must ask yourself what exactly does the expression “good job” mean? 

The word “good” denotes something being satisfactory in quality, quantity, or degree. Thus, whatever task you are being acknowledged for is satisfactory. Not the most memorable feedback.

Further, when you look at the connotative meaning of the word “good,” it is very much a neutral word. If you were looking for something more positive, you might use a word like “amazing.” And on the negative side of the coin, you might say the word “awful.”

As for the word “job,” it is a mundane, ordinary word that says nothing about what a person actually did. They are none the wiser for having heard the attempted praise. It means nothing. Yet, we feel obligated to say those magic words, thank you, in response to hearing good job. Which means we reinforce millions of people around the world to repeatedly say, “good job.”

The words are non-specific and mean nothing, and they are neither meaningful, motivational, or memorable. They go in one ear and out the other. 

Here’s How To Replace “Good Job” With Better Words

Learning how to give more memorable recognition expressions is not about becoming a walking dictionary or thesaurus. Instead, you just have to be a great observer and listener of the wonderful actions and achievements people around you do in their work. 

Now all you need to do is mirror back what you saw to the individual in a meaningful way. I like to ask people to identify what they felt that caused them to be amazed or in awe of a person’s positive behaviors or performance. Try to capture in specific detail what you saw and how you felt. You are combining performance with feelings to give deeper moments of recognition. 

1. Develop a positive vocabulary. Learn a core set of positive words you can use in your written and spoken expressions of recognition. Apparently, the working vocabulary of most people contains only 30 percent positive words. Here are just a few beginning with the letter, “A” — absolutely, accepted, acclaimed, accomplish, accomplishment. Explore the potential choice of words that you rarely, if ever, use and put them in your recognition. 

2. Use the Two-Part Specificity Rule. I developed this rule as a strategy to overcome the dreaded “good job.” First part of the Two-Part Specificity Rule is to specifically describe the Action that you are recognizing a person for. This overcomes the “job” barrier and narrows down for the person what they did that stood out for you. The second part of the rule is to identify the Impact made. In your observations, see if you can determine how the person’s behaviors or performance impacted a colleague, a customer, a goal, or benefited the organization. Then tell them the difference their actions made in others.


Getting rid of the words “good job” as your automatic default for giving recognition might not be as easy as you think it will be. 

However, by replacing those two words with (1) more specific wording describing what they did and (2) using more positive vocabulary, you should be well on your way to becoming an outstanding recognizer of the great things people at work are doing. 

Recognition Reflection: How will you deal with trite and mundane attempts at recognition and eradicate meaningless words like, “good job,” “well done,” and “great”?

Roy is no longer writing new content for this site (he has retired!), but you can subscribe to Engage2Excel’s blog as Engage2Excel will be taking Roy’s place writing about similar topics on employee recognition and retention, leadership and strategy.

Please note: I reserve the right to delete comments that are offensive or off-topic.

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