Positive Feedback: Why It's Important and How to Give It

By Indeed Editorial Team

11 February 2021

Feedback is a tool used to reinforce positive behaviour and support behavioural changes in the workplace. While it's helpful to deliver constructive criticism to people for them to improve in certain areas of their work, positive feedback is equally helpful. In this article, we discuss what positive feedback is, how to give and receive it and the benefits of using positive feedback in the workplace.

What is positive feedback?

Positive feedback is communication that highlights a person's strengths and achievements. While providing feedback is commonly a manager's job, people at all levels in the workplace should try to recognise the good things their colleagues do.

Benefits of positive feedback

Positive feedback can transform any workplace in any industry. Giving positive feedback more regularly:

  • Improves engagement: Feedback about what people are doing right can result in increased engagement both with their work and their colleagues. A more engaged workplace culture makes people feel comfortable highlighting issues that need addressing and sharing new ideas.

  • Strengthens organisational culture: Positive feedback creates a more supportive and collaborative workplace, which can lead to happier, more skilled employees, stronger teams and better company culture.

  • Supports a certain standard of work: Every organisation has its level of standards expected at work, and positive feedback helps support those standards. Providing more positive feedback can also increase motivation, which can improve the standard of work and make new standards even higher.

  • Develops performance: This kind of feedback helps people recognise what they do well and get even better, which promotes skill-building and personal improvement. Improving performance can increase productivity, which benefits both individuals and the organisation as a whole.

  • Is cost-effective: Developing a supportive, positive environment can increase productivity and reduce inefficient work. Together, these add up to cost savings.

How to deliver positive feedback

For your colleagues to be receptive to your feedback, you must deliver the feedback appropriately. Here are some key tips to consider when providing positive feedback in the workplace:

  1. Try to link positive behaviour to business goals and objectives

  2. Praise groups of people

  3. Be specific

  4. Reserve positive feedback for impactful behaviour

  5. Give feedback throughout the year

1. Try to link positive behaviour to business goals and objectives

Providing feedback so fellow employees improve or maintain their quality of work can improve the company overall. When giving positive feedback, explain how the colleague's actions demonstrated the organisation's values, improved productivity and accuracy or helped the team meet a big goal.

2. Praise groups of people

If you think a team of people could benefit from the positive feedback you want to give, try to meet with them as a group to provide the feedback in person. You could also send a group email or message, make a company-wide announcement or reach out to those colleagues' manager.

3. Be specific

Detailed and specific examples show people how and why they're doing good things at work. Give as many details as possible in your feedback so that the person understands what they did well. Here's an example of meaningful positive feedback:

'Good job on the presentation! You backed up your argument with facts and your analysis was accurate. The audience also responded well to your presentation skills as you were engaging and you communicated the information in a clear and interesting way'.

In this example, they list specific details about the colleague's presentation so they can maintain or improve their quality in the future.

4. Reserve positive feedback for impactful behaviour

Try to give feedback when someone goes out of their way to be great, exceeds expectations or handles a tough or important job well. Reserving positive feedback for these larger moments can make positive feedback more special and impactful.

6. Give feedback throughout the year

While you can provide positive feedback to an employee during an annual performance review or peer review, you can give positive feedback at any time of the year. Doing so fosters a culture of continuous improvement at the workplace and reinforces and awards great performance sooner.

Positive feedback tips to keep in mind

Being clear and concise with your feedback is the most effective way to help people understand what they're doing well. Here are some other tips for providing positive feedback effectively:

  • Give feedback quickly. Feedback should be as immediate as possible to ensure employees get the most benefit from it. If you see someone doing something well, address it as soon as the recipient has the time and mental capacity to fully absorb your feedback.

  • Make it regular. Positive feedback should become an ongoing part of how you interact with people at your workplace. You can act as an example to promote continuous positive feedback on your team.

  • Use examples. Highlight examples of what people are doing well, such as handling difficult tasks or consistently meeting tight deadlines, so that they know what to continue doing and have a reference point to remind them.

  • Highlight achievements. Try to highlight a person's good work and achievements in front of other people, such as at team meetings or office lunches.

  • Master the delivery. Find the communication tools that help you best deliver positive feedback. If you feel most comfortable and have had the most success giving feedback via email, continue to hone your written feedback skills.

Giving constructive criticism

While positive feedback is vital, it is also a good idea to let others know when they have the opportunity to improve the skills and qualities that will help them succeed. Here are a few tips for providing constructive criticism:

  • Limit the number of compliments

  • Provide solutions to the issues you mention

  • Make negative feedback the exception, not the rule

  • Try to deliver constructive feedback in person

  • Remain objective

  • Set an example

  • Be open to receiving feedback

Limit the number of compliments

Giving a compliment before and after your feedback, also known as a 'feedback sandwich', may dilute the impact of your feedback. They may not understand that they have improvements to make or may focus only on the positives. It's best to start the conversation by pointing out what they did right and end with how you think they can improve.

Provide solutions to the issues you mention

Constructive feedback helps people understand why certain improvements can benefit them. For example, if an employee frequently sends emails with spelling errors, explain why sending an error-free email is important, such as that it ensures effective communication and makes the company look professional and polished to clients. Provide an example, and reiterate why they should consider proofreading before sending communications. Help them come up with a plan to improve their spelling and catch typos.

Make negative feedback the exception, not the rule

While providing consistent constructive feedback is a necessary part of a job, contributing too much negativity, complaints and constant criticism can be counterproductive. Try to balance each piece of constructive criticism with a piece of positive feedback that can keep colleagues motivated.

Try to give constructive feedback in person

It's often better to give constructive criticism face-to-face rather than by email or chat. In-person communication allows you to use facial expressions and tone to properly convey your feedback, and you can better understand their response to the feedback with their tone and facial expressions, too. This can create more open dialogue and promote respect.

Remain objective

Constructive criticism should be used only as a method of encouraging others to improve as members of their team and in their career. Be objective as you talk about any performance issues you see to make sure that any personal issues are not involved. You can also approach the colleague's manager with your feedback so they can deliver objective feedback in your place.

Set an example

If you are providing constructive feedback to others in specific areas, make sure that you are also doing your best in those areas. This ensures that your feedback is trustworthy and reliable. Also, when you are doing your best in certain areas, others who need to improve can approach you with questions or tips on how to get better.

Be open to receiving feedback

Being open to receiving constructive feedback increases your empathy so that you become better at providing constructive feedback to others. You can also get better at certain skills when you are open to receiving constructive criticism at work, and these skills might be crucial for advancing in your career.

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