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Published on February 10, 2020

How to Provide Positive Feedback to Your Colleagues

How to Provide Positive Feedback to Your Colleagues

Most of us are familiar with the dreaded “yearly review.” It’s oftentimes viewed as little more than a paperwork requirement for the HR department, but that’s too bad, because when done properly, feedback is useful for the growth of both the worker and the organization. There are a lot of benefits to providing positive feedback, including increased employee morale, providing a pleasant work environment, and increased job satisfaction and performance.

However, providing positive feedback entails a lot more than just a pat on the back and saying, “good job.” In fact, positive feedback is woefully misunderstood and underused in today’s business culture.

What is Positive Feedback?

Positive feedback is feedback designed to reinforce a desired behavior. How does this differ from negative feedback? Negative feedback, instead of reinforcing, is designed to redirect an unwanted behavior. Here are two very simple examples:

Negative feedback: “If you don’t start backing up your reports with more facts and analysis to support your opinion, we’ll get someone who can.”

Positive feedback: “Good job on that report, I liked how you backed up your ideas with facts and analysis that supported your conclusion.”

Now, both statements encourage the person to use more “facts and analysis” in their report, but one takes a “vinegar” approach and the other a “honey” approach. You can probably guess which approach catches more flies.

Why Focus on Positive Feedback?

As stated earlier, positive feedback is associated with higher employee morale, a better work environment, and more productive employees. Additionally, a Gallup survey found that 67% of employees whose managers focused on their strengths were fully engaged in their work, as compared with only 31% of employees whose managers focused on their weaknesses. [1]

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Additionally, IBM’s WorkTrends survey of over 19,000 workers in 26 countries, across all major industries and thousands of organizations, revealed that:

  • Employees who receive recognition are more likely to be engaged at work. In fact, the engagement level of employees who receive recognition is almost three times higher than the engagement level of those who do not.
  • Workers who receive recognition are less likely to quit. Without recognition, about half (51 percent) of surveyed employees said they intended to leave their current positions, while with recognition, just one quarter (25 percent) said they intended to leave their organizations.
  • Employees whose organizations use multiple communication channels for recognition are more likely to feel appreciated and show a higher level of employee engagement. The more channels used for recognition, the higher the employee engagement level.

The findings show that positive feedback has a clear, constructive impact on employees. What’s more, the report implies that technologies such as social media and mobile communication could be strong candidates for the effective delivery of recognition, as they offer interactive, frequent, and immediate communication via multiple channels.[2]

Positive feedback is also an effective team management strategy. Studies have shown that high-performing teams share more than six times the amount of positive feedback of average-performing teams. In addition, low-performing teams share nearly twice as much negative feedback as average-performing teams. Again, the evidence in favor of positive feedback is clear. [3]

Why is Giving Positive Feedback so Difficult?

With all the benefits positive feedback produces in the workplace, why isn’t it used more? The answer to that lies in our own personality traits:

  • If, for example, a person didn’t get any positive feedback as they were “coming up,” then they may not understand its value for others.
  • Some people feel that negative feedback has more of an impact on business than positive feedback. However, studies show that this is not the case.
  • Managers may see positive feedback as wishy-washy and negative feedback as a sign that they are a strong leader.
  • Others may not think that positive feedback is warranted for employees “just doing their jobs.”
  • Some fear that positive feedback will have a demotivating effect on employees. In other words, telling someone that they are doing a “great job” will give them permission to not work as hard. Again, studies have shown this concern to be unfounded.
  • Finally, some people think that the only way for people to grow is through corrective feedback.

Another reason that positive feedback is underused today is the sandwich effect. For years, there was a school of thought that said that the best way to deliver negative feedback was to “sandwich” it in between two pieces of positive feedback. This was supposed to “lessen the blow” of the negative feedback. What it really did was to negate and devalue the benefits of positive feedback. So, let’s throw away that old, stale sandwich!

Effective Techniques for Providing Positive Feedback

When it comes to positive feedback, saying “good job” or giving your coworkers a pat on the back just isn’t going to cut it. If you want to encourage workplace harmony, increase productivity, encourage creativity, or achieve any of the other benefits positive feedback can provide, then keep these tips in mind:

1. Catch Them in the Act

As humans, we learn best when the reward (positive feedback) is given as soon as possible after the act has occurred. Don’t save up praise to be given at a later date. As the saying goes, if you see something, say something.

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2. Personalize It

Make sure to give your feedback directly to the person yourself. Also, you want to understand your colleague’s personality. Most people are okay with receiving positive feedback publicly, but not everyone, so it’s important to know your colleagues well and proceed accordingly. Also, as a side note, negative feedback should always be given in private.

3. Be Specific

Remember when we said that saying “good job” wasn’t enough? This is why: If you’re not specific in your feedback, then employees or coworkers can be unclear on what behaviors to continue. Saying, “Great job on your presentation to the client; you really nailed that sale” doesn’t give much information. Consider this feedback instead: “Great job on your presentation; I know that they aren’t the easiest clients. But you came in prepared and kept your cool in the negotiations. That’s what saved the sale.” This feedback highlights specific behaviors that you want to be reinforced.

4. Be Sincere

Just like everyone else, your colleagues can smell insincerity a mile away. So, if you don’t mean it, don’t say it.

5. Be Forward Looking

The goal of positive feedback should be to improve a person’s performance in the future. Praise those behaviors that you would like to see repeated.

6. Tie It to a Business or Professional Goal

“If you go into all your sales meetings as well prepared as you did this one, you’re going to be one of our top salespeople.” This statement acknowledges the benefit to both the company and the salesperson.

7. Make Sure Your Feedback Is Actionable

Focus on the specific behaviors that you want to encourage. Using overly generalized statements can cause more confusion and is generally not helpful. Identifying positive behaviors gives your colleague a clear road map of how to act moving forward.

8. Forget the “But”

Don’t try to mix in negative feedback; it will only serve to stymie any benefits from the positive feedback. Besides, everyone should have their “day in the sun.”

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9. Focus on Effort or Behavior

By focusing on a person’s behavior instead of on a trait or talent, you are encouraging your colleagues to develop a growth mindset. This is a critical component of both personal and organizational success.

10. Frame It in a Bigger Context

Everyone likes to feel appreciated, especially if they are a part of a team. “The way you were able to talk to that client to calm them down was great. You not only got them to stick with us, but you just insured that the sales department will make its quota this quarter.” By framing your positive feedback in a larger context, you’ve given them a sense importance beyond that of being just a cog in the wheel.

So, we’ve talked about what exactly positive feedback is, as well as its benefits and how to give it. The next question is:

When to Give Positive Feedback to Your Colleagues

There are no hard and fast rules about when to give positive feedback, as there are many situations where it’s appropriate, and it will probably depend on your office environment, your colleagues’ personalities, and other factors. However, positive feedback is definitely a technique that needs to be used more frequently. So, let’s talk about eight situations when you should always give positive feedback.

1. When Someone Meets or Exceeds Their (or Your) Goals

Now, I can see the wheels turning in your head, saying “Okay, I can see praising someone who exceeds their goals, but someone meeting their goals is just doing their job.” True, but if that person didn’t meet their goals, they would certainly be subject to negative feedback. So, recognize a job well done.

2. When They Go the Extra Mile

This seems obvious, but I have seen too many managers with the attitude of “Working late is part of the job” or “I do twice as much as they do; no one tells me anything.” This is a sure way to build resentment and cause employee turnover. Acknowledge the extra effort. It doesn’t cost anything!

3. When They Help Colleagues or Customers

Now, everyone in an organization is supposed to help colleagues and customers. What we’re talking about here are special circumstances. We’ve all dealt with the “customer from hell” or the colleague who falls ill or has a family emergency. By praising those who step in and handle these situations, you’re nipping future problems in the bud.

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4. When They Overcome an Obstacle

Bringing in a project under-budget despite setbacks, coming up with a unique solution to a problem, or just continuing to do a good job despite personal issues are all obstacles that should be recognized with positive feedback.

5. When They Take Initiative

Is there anything more frustrating than the person who says, “That’s not my job”? Praiseworthy is the person who takes the initiative to do what it takes to move the process forward, even if the action isn’t necessarily in that employee’s purview.

6. When They Need a Confidence Boost

Recognize that everyone is human, and we all have off-days. Sometimes an encouraging word from a boss or coworker is all that’s needed to reassure someone.

7. When They Model Good Behavior

This is one of the main goals of positive feedback. By praising good behavior, you are encouraging that behavior.

8. When They Do Something Minor, but Worth Recognizing

This is where positive feedback is under-used. Positive feedback is the key to making big behavioral changes. But the key to big behavioral changes is a lot of minor behavioral changes. Don’t be afraid to recognize positive incremental steps along the way.

The Bottom Line

Your co-workers have a major role to play in the quality of your work environment. Having a good relationship with them increases the likelihood of your success, productivity, and overall job satisfaction.

Knowing how to give positive feedback will help you show appreciation, develop leadership skills, and build a sense of community within your work environment.

More Tips for Giving Great Feedback

Featured photo credit: NESA by Makers via unsplash.com

Reference

More by this author

David Carpenter

Lifelong entrepreneur and business owner helping others to realize the American Dream of business ownership

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Last Updated on February 17, 2020

10 Ways To Always Be Yourself And Live Happily

10 Ways To Always Be Yourself And Live Happily

As you were probably told when you were in elementary school, “Just be yourself.” You can be a much happier person once you figure out who you truly are and when you learn how to be yourself.

If you are like most people, then you have probably told yourself that things would be better if there were certain changes in your life or changes to yourself. You can make those positive changes yourself. Be proactive, and have a more positive outlook about yourself.

Below are 10 ways to learn how to be yourself and live more happily:

1. Don’t Aim to Please Others

There is a problem if you are never doing what you want to do, yet always doing what everyone else wants to do. This Is Why You Shouldn’t Please Others But Yourself.

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Pleasing others can be a nice thing to do, but know where your boundaries are. Instead of always aiming to please others, you should do things for yourself as well every now and then.

2. Don’t Worry About How Others View You

Occasionally thinking about how others view you may make you change for the good, but you should not be constantly wondering about what others are thinking. You should change if you want to, and change into what or who you want to change into.

3. Learn More About Yourself

Do you know who you really are? Ever since you were young, you have been conditioned to be one way or another. It may be weird just to spend a day being your spontaneous self, but sometimes it is the only way that you can learn how to be yourself.

4. Appreciate Who You Are

No matter how weird you are, appreciate yourself! Each person is unique, and everyone has at least a little weirdness in themselves. Appreciate your weirdness and let it out.

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5. Be Confident with Who You Are

Do you ever doubt yourself? Doubting yourself can be very easy if you are constantly comparing yourself to others and wondering “What if?”

Instead of doubting yourself all the time, you should be confident with yourself and who you are. Showing confidence in yourself and your decisions will also show to others that you know what you are doing.

6. Forgive Yourself

Forgive yourself for thinking negatively. Forgive yourself for talking, without thinking twice. Forgive yourself for being rude to your superiors, your friends, your parents, or your siblings.

Don’t think negative thoughts about yourself for taking wrong steps or making wrong decisions. This kind of thinking puts your focus on the problem and not the solution. It’s better to say good things about yourself than to say negative things. Always saying positive things about yourself is a sign that you have forgiven yourself.

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These tips will be helpful for you: How to Forgive Yourself and Move Forward for a Happier Life

7. Stop Being Negative About Yourself

Do you look at everything as a glass half full or a glass half empty? It can be easy to be negative about yourself. When it comes to being happy, it is vital that you learn how to be yourself and to be more positive.

8. Find a Hobby That You Love

Everyone has something that they live for or that they love to do. Figure out what you love to do and make a hobby out of it. Doing what you love can make you much happier.

9. Learn from Your Mistakes

You can really learn more about yourself when you make a mistake. Here is Why You Should Be Proud of Making Mistakes.

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Mistakes in your life do not always need to be seen negatively. Think about what went wrong, learn from it, and move on.

10. Strive for What You Want to Accomplish

Being yourself does not have to mean that you have to be stuck in status quote. Aim for what you want to achieve and strive for that accomplishment. You can improve yourself while still remaining true to yourself.

More Tips About Staying True to Yourself

Featured photo credit: Adrien King via unsplash.com

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