The Power of Positive Feedback

Feedback. It’s such a simple construct and yet it can make such a huge impact on a business. Feedback is important at work because it helps employees understand their strengths and areas for improvement, fostering professional growth, and enhancing overall performance and productivity. 

But feedback, although a simple construct, isn’t always done right. There is a fine line between impactful and unaffecting feedback. Make your feedback too instructive, and you’re teetering on the realm of micromanagement. Make your feedback too ‘real’ and it can be demoralizing. Only displaying positive emotions without any signs of negative feelings or reactions, and there becomes a real chance of creating a workplace built on toxic positivity. 

When positive feedback is done right, it has the power to increase business success drastically. It’s been found that 67% of employees who feel that their leaders focus and feedback on their positive traits are more engaged, compared to 31% of employees whose leaders focus on the negatives. When managers focus on developing employee strengths, they are two times more likely to engage with their team members. In another study conducted, the engagement rate was three times higher in employees who received positive feedback than those who didn’t. 

You’ll find a lot of studies suggesting the 3:1 ratio is the magic feedback ratio for success; three pieces of positive feedback for every 1 piece of negative feedback. However, other psychological research finds that positive feedback is needed even more. In fact, one study suggests a ratio of 6:1 is the most effective. 

Benefits of Positive Feedback

Positive feedback has several benefits for both teams and individuals, which is why it’s so important in the workplace. When delivered effectively, it can: 

  • Boost morale and motivation 
  • Improve engagement
  • Increase job satisfaction 
  • Reduce staff turnover
  • Improve performance
  • Improve communication, transparency and trust 
  • Encourage growth and development

Boost Morale & Motivation

Acknowledging and appreciating employees’ efforts and achievements can boost their morale and motivation. When employees feel valued, they are more likely to stay enthusiastic about their work, lifting spirits within the workplace and cultivating a motivational environment.

Improve Engagement

Positive feedback can contribute to higher levels of engagement. Hearing and understanding that they’re doing a good job and genuinely making an impact allows employees to feel more connected with the work they’re doing, boosting engagement rates. You’ll find employees are far more committed to their work and the overall goals of the business. 

Increase Job Satisfaction

Positive feedback can contribute to higher job satisfaction by reinforcing the idea that employees’ contributions are meaningful and recognized.

Reduced Staff Turnover 

Increased rates of job satisfaction have a knock-on effect on staff retention rates too. The more positive feedback employees receive, and the more engaged they feel at work, the lower turnover you’ll begin to see. High turnover can be costly for organizations, so retaining talent through positive reinforcement can have financial benefits.

Improve Performance 

Positive feedback can serve as a performance enhancer. When employees receive praise and recognition, it acts as a reinforcer, and so they’re more likely to continue performing well. Feedback can also give employees an idea of their strengths and what they excel in, enabling them to build on their successes. 

Improve Communication, Transparency & Trust 

Positive feedback can improve relationships between employees and their leaders, which can subsequently provide a space where open and honest communication can occur. This can benefit collaboration as a result, making it easier and more effective.

Encourage Growth & Development 

Positive feedback can be a powerful tool for personal and professional growth. It can highlight areas of strength and success, helping employees identify where they excel. Like the 6:1 ratio teaches us, positive feedback can also help employees take on constructive criticism better, when they know their accomplishments are acknowledged. This way, weaknesses can also be built on, providing more opportunities for growth and development in the workplace. 

Avoiding Toxic Positivity 

Positive feedback, as we now know, can be beneficial for an organization. But be wary that it’s not becoming too positive. A false sense of positivity in the workplace can be incredibly toxic and can reduce staff concerns or challenges to very little. 

Some tips for avoiding a toxic positive working environment include: 

  1. Actively listening to employees and asking for feedback. 
  2. Encouraging transparency, honesty and openness.
  3. Holding leaders accountable.
  4. Recognize achievements and reward them. 
  5. Be supportive, but don’t force your advice. 
  6. Avoid sayings like “it’ll be fine”, “it could be worse”, or “time heals everything”.
  7. Look at creating a coaching culture in the workplace.

Types of Feedback

Feedback can take many forms. That being said, presenting the information and then actively partnering with individuals or employees to put together actions and changes where necessary often produces the most positive outcomes. There are two main types of feedback that tend to occur:

  1. ‘In the moment feedback’

This is where spontaneous but constructive feedback that builds trust, lends support, and facilitates open communication is given. 

  1. ‘Truth Talk’ 

Truth talk is feedback that highlights what no one else is willing to mention, and is often crucial for positive changes to occur by highlighting what effects particular behaviours can have. This might often come across as negative, so ensuring this feedback is constructive can often allow employees to take it on more willingly. This type of feedback is often more prepared, following observations over time. 

Making Positive Feedback Effective

When trying to walk the line between effective and ineffective positive feedback, practice makes perfect. Here are some of our tips to make sure your positive feedback strategy works. 

  1. Play to your employee’s strengths: Rather than focusing on weaknesses, reward employees on their strengths and play to those when assigning other work. This way, positive feedback becomes more organic, and employees become more motivated by their continual successes.   
  2. The 6:1 ratio: If one piece of positive feedback comes with a string of negative comments, the chances are your employees aren’t going to take it on board, and instead feel demoralized and overwhelmed by the negatives. So, make sure the positives out way the negatives. 
  3. Encourage counter-feedback: Traditional, one-way dialogues can be overwhelming and de-motivating. A two-way dialogue can often be the most collaborative and effective kind, and by actively listening and asking for feedback, you’ll also find employees feeling more valued and ready to take feedback more seriously. 

How to Structure Feedback

One tip for making feedback more effective is to use a feedback model. An example model that could be used is the SBID model: Situation, Behavior, Impact, and Discovery. 

  • Situation: Providing context for feedback. 
  • Behavior: Describing behavior objectively. 
  • Impact: Describing what impacts that behaviour made. 
  • Discovery: Asking for their perspective, and how they would like to move forward. 

Using a feedback model means you can standardize feedback to try and get the best outcomes possible.

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