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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

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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 May 28, 2020

10 Success Principles for Living Your Dream Life

10 Success Principles for Living Your Dream Life

Are you stressed out and overwhelmed, wishing you had more time to do the things that really matter? Are you ready to do something better, something special in your life or your career?

You were born with a gift that no one else in the world can express like you. When you dance to your own music, you naturally develop your innate abilities and excel in work and life. You are a total rock star. But when you live someone else’s idea of who you should be, it throws off your groove.

Many people—maybe you—stopped following their dreams way too early in life because their talents were ignored, minimized, or shamed. They didn’t have the chops to win an American Idol competition or nab an Olympic gold medal, so they stopped expressing their inborn gifts altogether.

You don’t need to be an award winner to rock your life. Living your dream life is about discovering your superpowers and feeling vibrant and joyful when you use them. It’s about owning what makes you unique and finding like-minded people to support you.

Here are 10 success principles to help you live a rich and rewarding life on your terms that have worked with thousands of people in my workshops and will work for you, too.

1. Get a Hobby to Move Closer to Your Dreams

If you never became a professional dancer or a world-renowned author, it does NOT mean you should stop dancing or writing! These activities make you come alive, even if you “only” do them as favorite pastimes.

Engaging in a hobby is one of the most important success principles you can follow to move closer to your dreams.

When you try something creative for the first time or in a long while, you begin to see opportunities at work and in life that you were unaware of before. You also feel happier and more energized, according to a recent study from New Zealand.[1]

Some of my most burned-out executive clients reinvigorated their careers by discovering a creative outlet that refueled them after the workday ended. Research at San Francisco State University shows that having a hobby lowers stress and helps you succeed at work.[2]

So, give yourself permission to try new things and revisit old passions you gave up long ago. Setting aside just one hour a week for personal exploration can significantly change your life.

Who knows? Your creative outlet could transform into a thriving business or lead to a new profession down the road.

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2. Focus on Your Strengths, Not Your Weaknesses

Did you know that you are more likely to succeed when you develop your natural strengths rather than work on your weaknesses? The problem is that you probably don’t know where your true talents lie.

Here are a few options to help you discover your unique strengths. You can:

  • Take the VIA Character Strengths Survey[3]
  • Try Gallup’s CliftonStrengths Assessment[4]
  • Answer a few Superpower Questions

Once you understand what makes you tick, you can use these skills at work and your personal life to get more done in less time. If you boost your unique abilities through practice and study, you can accelerate your career and become a leader in a field that matters to you. It’s worth investing in yourself this way.

3. Jumping off a Cliff is NOT Required

Here’s the deal: most people are too afraid to change. When participants first come to my workshops, they tell me they have mouths to feed, bills to pay, and fear that if they follow their dreams, someone will get hurt.

The old saying “leap and the net shall appear” does not comfort them. Because they are hesitant to plunge into the unknown, they believe their only option is to stay put where they are in life. Can you relate?

You do not have to sacrifice the life you have now to start a new one. I was a psychology professor by day and singer by night for years before I transitioned into a full-time music career.

Just take a little time out each week to do what enlivens you through a hobby, volunteer work, etc. Get a feel for it.

Is it what you really want? If so, increase the time you spend doing it and make the transition when the time feels right.

4. Give Your Inner Critic Some Love

The main culprit that keeps you from stepping outside your comfort zone and getting the life of your dreams is KCRP or K-CRAP – the radio station that plays 24/7 in your head. The moment you try to do something interesting with your life it slaps you down with such chart-topping killer hooks as “Who do you think you are?” and “You’ll never be good enough!”.

Have you ever noticed that KCRP’s mean-spirited DJ sounds like your parents, teachers, bosses, and other authority figures who shut you down creatively? These folks don’t need to stifle you any longer (although they often still do) because your inner critic does it for them. That keeps you stuck in a rut.

To break free, try thinking of this DJ as a gruff old grandfather who gives you crap to keep you safe. Remember, this grumpy grandpa is woefully out of touch with the times. So, his stern opinions don’t really matter much, do they? Give him a pat on the back for his good intentions, and put your focus back on what makes you come alive.

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This success principle will give you the courage to venture into the unknown where you can dance to the beat of your own drummer.

5. Embrace Your Inner Weirdo

Many of us don’t go after our dreams because we’re afraid folks will find out how odd or strange we are. But our little eccentricities often turn out to be our greatest strengths. Yes, it’s good to be quirky.

Odds are, you lost track of your true passions and talents before you were even old enough to know you were getting off-track. You became slowly “adulterated” by learning to:

  • Take on family roles that don’t match who you really are.
  • Spit back what teachers taught you in school rather than risk getting bad grades for being original.
  • Hide parts of yourself that don’t seem acceptable to certain social groups.

The price for fitting in is that you may wind up leading a life that doesn’t fit you all that well. Your true calling becomes clear when you embrace what makes you different from others and allow yourself to stand out from the crowd, even if it feels awkward.

Often, the very qualities you view as your flaws are your greatest gifts.

6. See the Bigger Picture to Find Your True Calling

I cannot stress the importance of this success principle enough. Your true calling is right in front of you. But you may miss it because you’re looking for it in the wrong place.

To “see” it clearly, try widening your point of view.

Case in point: Maria felt she needed to retire early from being a police detective, so she could travel abroad. I encouraged Maria to think of ways that she could continue to serve as a law enforcer (a career she loved) and travel overseas at the same time.

A few months later, Maria landed a job with the United Nations in Bosnia training the local police force to understand and embrace human rights procedures.

Like Maria, you are an everyday rock star capable of accomplishing greater things than you can imagine. Is what you’re looking for right in front of you, too? Do you have an inkling of what it may be?

Look beyond your day-to-day activities, your current job, and even the town you live in. View your life from an eagle’s perspective and be open to new possibilities.

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7. Try a Little Wish-List Magic

Pretend I’m your fairy godmother and I give you permission right now to be your most magnificent self. What kind of life would be music to your ears? It doesn’t matter whether it seems unattainable or even downright crazy. Write it down on a wish list.

Get quiet. Be honest. Think big.

What would you like your career, your relationships, your health, your finances, and your spiritual life to be like? Jot down enough details so that your wishes seem tangible to you. Then, look at this list every morning before you start your day and every night before you go to sleep.

Sounds silly? It’s not. It works! Permitting yourself to daydream about a rich and fulfilling life is the first step to manifesting it.

8. Take Breaks to Get Clues About Your Ideal Future

Did you know that working straight through to a deadline leads to diminishing returns? Research shows that taking a break for 15 minutes every 75 to 90 minutes can help you recharge, refresh your focus, and get more done in less time.[5]

Wait, it gets better! A Stanford study shows that walking increases your creative output increases by 60 percent. Doing repetitive activities such as walking, running, riding your bike, swimming, and sweeping allow solutions to problems to pop into your mind out of nowhere.[6]

What does this success principle have to do with creating your dream life?

These mini-breaks allow you to get vital clues for what to do next to attain your ideal future. Plus, you won’t waste precious time and energy getting lost in other people’s agendas.

9. Take Action on Your Inspired Ideas

Once an inspired thought pops into your mind, take action.

This is one of the most powerful success principles for turning your dreams into reality; the sooner the better. Whatever it is—from calling an old friend to taking a new route home—be sure to do it!

Pay attention to your oddball hunches. You need to go after what you want, not just dream about it. As comedian Jim Carrey warns,

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“You can’t just visualize and go eat a sandwich.”

10. Count Your Rockstar Moments

Still not sure you have what it takes to get your dream life? This final success principle is guaranteed to help.

Make a list of everything you’ve ever accomplished. As you read back through it, put a star next to each item, and let it sink in.

You’ll be pleasantly surprised by how good you’ll feel about yourself afterward. You’ll also see how effective you’ve been in the past at getting what you want. You’ve succeeded before, you can succeed again.

You already rock. You just need to own it. Trust me, you’ve got this!

Final Thoughts

Eleanor Roosevelt said,

“The future belongs to those who believe in the beauty of their dreams.”

Following these success principles will help you find the time and energy to do the things that really matter and live with clear intention.

By spending just one hour a week doing something you love, focusing on your strengths and achievements, embracing what makes you different, and acting on inspired ideas, you can create a life that is a perfect fit for you, step-by-step.

If you don’t have a clue about what your dream life could look like yet, don’t worry. Your heart knows. It has been “talking” to you for a long time. It’s just being muffled by KCRP, buried under a lot of “shoulds” and fear.

This article can also help you figure out the life you truly want to live: How to Get Motivated and Be Happy Every Day When You Wake Up.

Stand still, get quiet, and listen. It’s constantly telling you what you need to do to realize your own rockstar potential. It may be just a whisper now, but the more you pay attention to it, the louder it will get, and the easier it will be to follow.

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Featured photo credit: Rahul Dey via unsplash.com

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