The Importance of Positive Feedback and How To Deliver It To Others

By Indeed Editorial Team

April 1, 2021

Feedback is a tool used to reinforce positive behavior and support behavioral changes in the workplace. While it is beneficial to give and receive healthy criticism about areas for improvement, using positive feedback is equally necessary. In this article, we will 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 recognizes another's strengths, achievements or successes. Giving and receiving positive and feedback is beneficial for everyone While providing feedback may seem like a managerial function, individual contributors should also make it a priority to recognize the strengths of their colleagues. Using positive feedback helps individuals recognize and hone their skills, develop their areas of improvement and create a general sense of positivity in the workplace.

Providing meaningful feedback

For positive (or negative) feedback to be impactful, it should be well thought-out before presented to the individual. If you're in a position to give positive feedback, think about how you can include specific details so your audience understands exactly why what they did was good. This way, they can continue to do these things and improve upon them. Here’s a good example of meaningful positive feedback:

“Nice job on the presentation! You backed your argument with facts and your analysis was both creative and accurate. The audience also responded positively to your presentation skills as you were engaging and communicated the information in a clear and interesting way.”

In this example, you learn specific details about the presentation so you can repeat them in the future. You know that:

  • You utilized strong facts to back up your argument.

  • The facts you used to back up the analysis were appropriate.

  • Your delivery was strong and kept the audience engaged.

If the feedback would have been less detailed and specific, you might not know what your strengths during the presentation were or what to continue doing for your next presentation. Consider this scenario the next time you're in a position to provide positive feedback to your own team or co-workers.

How to deliver positive feedback

While your feedback should be specific to the individual and the situation, there are a few best practices you might consider when preparing your next piece of feedback:

  1. Whenever possible, link positive behavior to business results.

  2. Deliver the feedback as close in time to the event as possible.

  3. Deliver positive feedback in front of others, when possible and when appropriate, if you think they can also benefit from it.

  4. Be specific and as detailed as possible to help the recipient implement the positive feedback in future situations.

  5. Avoid giving positive feedback too often or for trivial reasons to maintain it’s meaning.

  6. Avoid delivering positive feedback in a condescending manner or tone and use tact when giving positive feedback to superiors.

Never save up all your positive feedback for an employee's annual performance review. Both positive feedback and constructive criticism should occur close to when events that elicit the feedback occur. Giving feedback regularly helps solidify it in the recipient's mind so they always know where they stand.

Benefits of positive feedback

While some individuals thrive on receiving critical feedback, emphasizing only negative, critical feedback can decrease morale, reduce productivity and could potentially leave employees feeling under-appreciated or unsure about their impact on the job. On the other hand, making positive feedback a regular part of the workplace has many benefits:

1. Positive feedback promotes engagement

Feedback about what people are doing right can result in increased engagement both with their work and their colleagues. Some of the benefits of increased engagement include comfort with sharing new ideas and pointing out problems that need to be addressed.

2. Positive feedback supports a certain standard of work

Giving and receiving positive feedback that aligns with your organization’s standards can help you and your colleagues maintain the quality of both behavior and work that your employer expects. This can help you be successful in your role and clear the way for raises and promotions.

3. Positive feedback develops performance

Positive feedback has the ability to improve certain skills and qualities, even if you are already a high performer or in a management position. Improving performance can increase productivity and translate to gains both for your career and your organization.

4. Positive feedback is cost-effective

Developing a supportive, positive environment can both increase productivity and reduce attrition. Together, these add up to cost savings as a result of meaningful, consistent feedback between colleagues and from supervisors to direct reports.

Giving constructive criticism

While positive feedback is certainly necessary, it is also important to let others know when they have the opportunity to improve the skills and qualities that will help them succeed in their career. As opposed to positive feedback, however, it can be difficult to know exactly when and how it is appropriate to offer a healthy critique. Here are a few tips for providing constructive criticism:

Avoid the “feedback sandwich”

With negative feedback, it's important to be constructive. You can certainly include a positive comment to ensure the recipient knows they are also doing things well, but avoid giving a compliment before and after your critique. Doing so may dilute what could be helpful and important feedback for the audience. Instead, start the conversation by pointing out what they did right and end with how you think they can improve.

Make your feedback helpful and constructive

Unlike negative feedback, constructive criticism helps an employee see where he or she needs to improve and why it's important to make those improvements. Constructive criticism presents both a critique and a solution, giving the employee a clear idea of how to improve.

For example, if employees consistently send emails with spelling errors, explain why sending an error-free email is important instead of just asking them to stop making mistakes. 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 healthy and necessary part of a job, contributing to an environment with negativity, complaints and constant criticism can be unhealthy. One method to avoid this is to offer a compliment or piece of positive feedback for every negative comment you contribute or overhear.

Avoid giving negative written feedback over email or chat boxes

It is a better idea in nearly every instance to offer constructive criticism in person. It's easier for others to misconstrue written communications because they can't hear your tone or read your facial expressions.

Don't use negative feedback to vent

Constructive criticism should be used only as a method of encouraging others to improve as a means of growing in their career. Avoid speaking with anyone other than the individual about the feedback you have to offer.

Display positive example for feedback you offer

Whether you are offering feedback to a direct report or another colleague, it is always best to practice what you are critiquing in your own work. If you have the same areas for improvement that you are trying to fix in others, your feedback can come off as insincere or unreliable.

Be open to receiving feedback yourself

Because receiving healthy criticism about your work can be difficult at times, you should practice listening to and absorbing criticism from others just as you would practice giving it. Doing so can help you improve your skills and succeed in your career over time.

Ask if you can provide constructive feedback

Unless you have been specifically asked to provide feedback or you are providing feedback to a direct report, always ask if you can provide constructive criticism first. This creates a sense of trust and allows the recipient to prepare for your conversation.

Positive feedback tips to keep in mind

Whether you're dealing with positive or negative feedback, it's important to be clear and concise. Here are a few additional tips for providing feedback in an effective way:

Give feedback promptly

To be productive, feedback must be immediate. Whenever you catch someone doing something well, address it as soon as the recipient has the time and mental capacity to fully absorb your feedback.

Keep positive feedback positive

It is perfectly acceptable to provide positive feedback for the sake of doing so. It is not necessary to wait until you also have constructive criticism.

Be specific

Always be specific with feedback so the audience understands what they should continue doing.

Make achievements visible

Give positive feedback in person and negative feedback in private. Utilize team meetings or all-staff emails to recognize an employee's good work when appropriate.

Regardless of your position in your current career, it's important to recognize the importance of appropriate, positive feedback. Focus on mastering your delivery to cultivate or contribute to a positive, constructive and supportive workplace.

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