Feedback is often used to strengthen positive behavioural attributes and encourage changes in
behaviour in a work environment. Feedback goes both ways because while giving and receiving
criticism in areas one can improve is important, positive feedback is critical too. In this article, we
will be looking at what positive feedback is, how one gives and receives it, and what benefits positive
feedback has in a work environment.
Positive Feedback: an Overview
Positive feedback is communication that takes note of someone else’s achievements, strengths or
successes. Providing positive feedback can seem like it should be a manager’s responsibility, but it is
equally important that colleagues offer each other positive feedback. Feedback offered by one
colleague to another can help them improve their skills, find out where they can improve, and create
a positive workplace environment.
For both negative and positive feedback to have an impact, it should be thought about carefully
before it is given to the recipient. When giving feedback, it is important to include precise details of
what the recipient did exceptionally well, so they understand why they are receiving positive
feedback. Here is a good example of positive feedback presented well:
“You did a great job on the sales pitch. You used facts to strengthen your pitch and your analysis was
done creatively and accurately. Because of your ability to engage with the audience and to
communicate clearly and interestingly, the client responded really well to your presentation”
The example provided above gives precise details of what the colleague did right and gives them
ideas on what aspects of their presentation they can use in the future. If you are the one providing
the feedback, your colleague will learn that:
● They used solid facts to strengthen their pitch
● The facts they used fit their analysis perfectly
● The delivery was effective because it kept the audience engaged
If you provided vague feedback, it would have been a lot harder for your colleague to know what
they did right and what their strengths were. In such a case, they would not have known what to
keep doing and what not to do in future presentations.
Delivering Positive Feedback
Even though your feedback should be customized for the recipient and to the situation, there are
some best practices you should follow when giving feedback to ensure it is received well:
- Try to establish a link between the positive behaviour exhibited by the individual to business
- Try to give feedback as soon as the event or situation ends or passes
- Positive feedback has a higher impact when delivered in front of others
- You should try to offer specific details in your feedback, so the recipient knows how to build
upon it in future situations
- If given too often, feedback can lose its value so try to hold back and only offer it sparingly
- Avoid a negative tone or demeanour when offering positive feedback to your superior
Those in a managerial position should give employees positive feedback and constructive criticism
regularly instead of waiting for their annual review to do so. Doing it this way ensures they stay
engaged and motivated.
The Benefits of Offering Positive Feedback
Some people love receiving positive feedback, but it can have an undesired outcome if you only
focus on negative feedback or offer too much positive feedback. Doing this can reduce employees’
morale, cause a drop in productivity, and can make employees feel underappreciated or confused
about the impact they are having on the business. Making positive feedback a regular occurrence in
the workplace can benefit employees, your team, and the whole organisation.
Positive feedback can increase engagement – Positive feedback, if done right, can lead to employees
who have higher engagement in their work and with their co-workers. Some positive outcomes of
this increased engagement include feeling comfortable talking about new ideas and sharing any
issues that come up and that need to be sorted out.
Positive feedback improves the quality of work – If you offer feedback that emphasises the
standards you expect from your employees, they are likely to maintain high standards and the
quality of output you expect of them. When these standards are maintained, you will have
succeeded in your role and helped your employees or co-workers improve their chances of getting
promoted or getting raises.
Positive feedback improves performance – Positive feedback that emphasises on improvement can
lead to improvements in certain qualities and skills, even for employees who already perform highly
or are in higher positions. This improved performance leads to improved productivity, which can
benefit your career or the organisation.
Positive feedback can result in cost savings – Positive feedback can help reduce friction between
employees and increase their productivity. Both of these lead to cost savings that result from
meaningful feedback between teammates and from superiors to other employees.
Offering Constructive Criticism
While positive feedback is vital in any organisation, constructive criticism is equally important.
Constructive criticism involves giving someone feedback that is not too positive to help them
improve their skills and qualities because if they do both of those things, they will be a lot more
successful in their careers. While positive feedback is easy to give, constructive criticism is much
harder. This is because it can be hard to gauge when and how to give it so that it is not taken
Here are a few tips that will help you when giving constructive criticism:
- Avoid “the switch” – When offering constructive criticism, you might be tempted to offer
compliments before and after the criticism. Negative feedback or constructive criticism is
meant to be constructive. Including positive compliments is allowed so that the recipient
knows what they are doing right. But sandwiching the criticism between two compliments
dilutes the message and obscures what could have been helpful to the recipient. A better
way of doing it is starting with positive feedback and then transitioning to and ending with
constructive criticism. This way, the recipient will be left with something to think about
rather than thinking everything they are doing is 100% right.
- Offer constructive and helpful feedback – Constructive criticism differs from negative
feedback in that constructive criticism is a tool for improvement. Constructive criticism
sheds light on what an employee could be doing better and why it is critical they do so.
Constructive criticism, in addition to offering a critique, also offers meaningful solutions on
areas of improvement while making it clear what those areas of improvement are. A good
example is an employee who sends out company or business communication that contains
spelling mistakes. One way of correcting them would be to tell them to stop doing that, but
that would not be too helpful. Instead, explain to them why and how these simple mistakes
impact your image and that of the business, and why it is important to ensure everything
they send out is error-free. You could then send them an example of what is acceptable both
for the business and third-parties, and encourage them to proofread everything they send
out as that paints the company in a better light. If you want to go even further, you could
help them formulate a plan on how they can improve and ensure no errors slip past them.
- Use negative feedback sparingly – When used right, negative feedback and constructive
criticism can both help create a positive and healthy working environment. Negativity,
constant criticism, and complaints have the opposite effect and can create an unhealthy
work environment. A good way of ensuring this does not happen is to try to offer one piece
of positive feedback for every piece of negative feedback you give.
- Avoid giving written negative feedback – Giving negative feedback of constructive criticism is
not something that comes easy to a lot of people. Because of this, you may feel like giving
such feedback over email or in a written form is better to spare both of you the discomfort.
This is not the best way to handle the situation, as written negative feedback or criticism can
be taken wrongly because the recipient cannot hear your tone or interpret your facial
expressions. Doing it in person as gently as possible is always the best way to go about it.
- Avoid using negative feedback to vent – While you may feel frustrated about an employee or
a worker, try not to talk about your criticism of them with third-parties. Instead, offer
criticism to the person in question keeping in mind that negative feedback or constructive
criticism are tools to be used to build someone up not to tear them down.
- Follow your advice – It is always a bad look if you are offering advice that you do not follow
yourself. To ensure your constructive criticism has as much impact as possible, try to always
follow your advice. If others see that you also need to improve on the things you are
criticising others for, the feedback you give can seem unreliable and insincere.
- Accept feedback when it is given – Receiving healthy feedback is not only beneficial for your
employees; it could also be beneficial to you. Although it can be hard to receive feedback from others, especially your juniors, try to listen and absorb positive feedback from others.Accepting criticism can help you succeed in your career by helping you enhance your skills.
- Do not offer unsolicited feedback – A common mistake people make is offering feedback without asking or being assigned to offer feedback or criticism. Unless you have been asked to do so, always ask the recipient if you can offer feedback. This way, you come off as trustworthy, you prepare the recipient for a difficult conversation, and you make it easier for them to understand and absorb what you are saying.
Helpful Positive Feedback Tips
Being clear and concise is very important when offering feedback, regardless of whether it is
negative or positive. To make this easier for you, here are some extra tips that will help you provide
feedback much more effectively:
- Offer your feedback immediately – To ensure increased productivity, feedback must be
given promptly. If someone is doing something right, it is important to give them your
feedback as soon as possible so they have enough time to process the feedback and the
mental capability to absorb the feedback and put it to work.
- Provide positive feedback as soon as you can – Some people feel like giving positive
feedback when they cannot add one or two criticisms can have an undesired outcome. It is
perfectly alright to keep criticism entirely positive.
- Specificity is important – You want the recipient to know what they are doing right without
any additional fluff. It is, therefore, important that you are as specific as you can, so they
understand what they are doing right, which ensures they know exactly what to continue
- Choose the time and place – Positive feedback that is given at the wrong time and place will
likely not have the impact you are looking for. Try to always offer positive criticism in public
and negative feedback in a private setting. Doing it this way makes achievements visible and
makes employees feel good about themselves and what they have been doing in front of
their peers. You should also take advantage of staff meetings to offer positive criticism and
to congratulate an employee for a job well done. All-staff emails are also a good avenue to
use for the same purpose. No matter where you are in your career or what position you hold, it is very important that you learn to appreciate the importance and use of positive or negative feedback as well as negative criticism.
Both positive and negative feedback offer employees and the organisations they work for massive benefits and should not be overlooked as tools of improved collaboration and cost-saving.
Focusing on delivery is also important to ensure feedback is taken as you planned it to be as that can
lead to the growth of a constructive, positive, and supportive work environment.