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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

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David Carpenter

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

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Last Updated on January 15, 2021

7 Ways To Have More Confident Body Language

7 Ways To Have More Confident Body Language

The popular idiomatic saying that “actions speak louder than words” has been around for centuries, but even to this day, most people struggle with at least one area of nonverbal communication. Consequently, many of us aspire to have more confident body language but don’t have the knowledge and tools necessary to change what are largely unconscious behaviors.

Given that others’ perceptions of our competence and confidence are predominantly influenced by what we do with our faces and bodies, it’s important to develop greater self-awareness and consciously practice better posture, stance, eye contact, facial expressions, hand movements, and other aspects of body language.

Posture

First things first: how is your posture? Let’s start with a quick self-assessment of your body.

  • Are your shoulders slumped over or rolled back in an upright posture?
  • When you stand up, do you evenly distribute your weight or lean excessively to one side?
  • Does your natural stance place your feet relatively shoulder-width apart or are your feet and legs close together in a closed-off position?
  • When you sit, does your lower back protrude out in a slumped position or maintain a straight, spine-friendly posture in your seat?

All of these are important considerations to make when evaluating and improving your posture and stance, which will lead to more confident body language over time. If you routinely struggle with maintaining good posture, consider buying a posture trainer/corrector, consulting a chiropractor or physical therapist, stretching daily, and strengthening both your core and back muscles.

Facial Expressions

Are you prone to any of the following in personal or professional settings?

  • Bruxism (tight, clenched jaw or grinding teeth)
  • Frowning and/or furrowing brows
  • Avoiding direct eye contact and/or staring at the ground

If you answered “yes” to any of these, then let’s start by examining various ways in which you can project confident body language through your facial expressions.

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1. Understand How Others Perceive Your Facial Expressions

A December 2020 study by UC Berkeley and Google researchers utilized a deep neural network to analyze facial expressions in six million YouTube clips representing people from over 140 countries. The study found that, despite socio-cultural differences, people around the world tended to use about 70% of the same facial expressions in response to different emotional stimuli and situations.[1]

The study’s researchers also published a fascinating interactive map to demonstrate how their machine learning technology assessed various facial expressions and determined subtle differences in emotional responses.

This study highlights the social importance of facial expressions because whether or not we’re consciously aware of them—by gazing into a mirror or your screen on a video conferencing platform—how we present our faces to others can have tremendous impacts on their perceptions of us, our confidence, and our emotional states. This awareness is the essential first step towards

2. Relax Your Face

New research on bruxism and facial tension found the stresses and anxieties of Covid-19 lockdowns led to considerable increases in orofacial pain, jaw-clenching, and teeth grinding, particularly among women.[2]

The National Institute of Dental and Craniofacial Research estimates that more than 10 million Americans alone have temporomandibular joint dysfunction (TMJ syndrome), and facial tension can lead to other complications such as insomnia, wrinkles, dry skin, and dark, puffy bags under your eyes.[3])

To avoid these unpleasant outcomes, start practicing progressive muscle relaxation techniques and taking breaks more frequently throughout the day to moderate facial tension.[4] You should also try out some biofeedback techniques to enhance your awareness of involuntary bodily processes like facial tension and achieve more confident body language as a result.[5]

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3. Improve Your Eye Contact

Did you know there’s an entire subfield of kinesic communication research dedicated to eye movements and behaviors called oculesics?[6] It refers to various communication behaviors including direct eye contact, averting one’s gaze, pupil dilation/constriction, and even frequency of blinking. All of these qualities can shape how other people perceive you, which means that eye contact is yet another area of nonverbal body language that we should be more mindful of in social interactions.

The ideal type (direct/indirect) and duration of eye contact depends on a variety of factors, such as cultural setting, differences in power/authority/age between the parties involved, and communication context. Research has shown that differences in the effects of eye contact are particularly prominent when comparing East Asian and Western European/North American cultures.[7]

To improve your eye contact with others, strive to maintain consistent contact for at least 3 to 4 seconds at a time, consciously consider where you’re looking while listening to someone else, and practice eye contact as much as possible (as strange as this may seem in the beginning, it’s the best way to improve).

3. Smile More

There are many benefits to smiling and laughing, and when it comes to working on more confident body language, this is an area that should be fun, low-stakes, and relatively stress-free.

Smiling is associated with the “happiness chemical” dopamine and the mood-stabilizing hormone, serotonin. Many empirical studies have shown that smiling generally leads to positive outcomes for the person smiling, and further research has shown that smiling can influence listeners’ perceptions of our confidence and trustworthiness as well.

4. Hand Gestures

Similar to facial expressions and posture, what you do with your hands while speaking or listening in a conversation can significantly influence others’ perceptions of you in positive or negative ways.

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It’s undoubtedly challenging to consciously account for all of your nonverbal signals while simultaneously trying to stay engaged with the verbal part of the discussion, but putting in the effort to develop more bodily awareness now will make it much easier to unconsciously project more confident body language later on.

5. Enhance Your Handshake

In the article, “An Anthropology of the Handshake,” University of Copenhagen social anthropology professor Bjarke Oxlund assessed the future of handshaking in wake of the Covid-19 pandemic:[8]

“Handshakes not only vary in function and meaning but do so according to social context, situation and scale. . . a public discussion should ensue on the advantages and disadvantages of holding on to the tradition of shaking hands as the conventional gesture of greeting and leave-taking in a variety of circumstances.”

It’s too early to determine some of the ways in which Covid-19 has permanently changed our social norms and professional etiquette standards, but it’s reasonable to assume that handshaking may retain its importance in American society even after this pandemic. To practice more confident body language in the meantime, the video on the science of the perfect handshake below explains what you need to know.

6. Complement Your Verbals With Hand Gestures

As you know by now, confident communication involves so much more than simply smiling more or sounding like you know what you’re talking about. What you do with your hands can be particularly influential in how others perceive you, whether you’re fidgeting with an object, clenching your fists, hiding your hands in your pockets, or calmly gesturing to emphasize important points you’re discussing.

Social psychology researchers have found that “iconic gestures”—hand movements that appear to be meaningfully related to the speaker’s verbal content—can have profound impacts on listeners’ information retention. In other words, people are more likely to engage with you and remember more of what you said when you speak with complementary hand gestures instead of just your voice.[9]

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Further research on hand gestures has shown that even your choice of the left or right hand for gesturing can influence your ability to clearly convey information to listeners, which supports the notion that more confident body language is readily achievable through greater self-awareness and deliberate nonverbal actions.[10]

Final Takeaways

Developing better posture, enhancing your facial expressiveness, and practicing hand gestures can vastly improve your communication with other people. At first, it will be challenging to consciously practice nonverbal behaviors that many of us are accustomed to performing daily without thinking about them.

If you ever feel discouraged, however, remember that there’s no downside to consistently putting in just a little more time and effort to increase your bodily awareness. With the tips and strategies above, you’ll be well on your way to embracing more confident body language and amplifying others’ perceptions of you in no time.

More Tips on How to Develop a Confident Body Language

Featured photo credit: Maria Lupan via unsplash.com

Reference

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