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

By Indeed Editorial Team

Updated 18 December 2022

Published 20 January 2020

The Indeed Editorial Team comprises a diverse and talented team of writers, researchers and subject matter experts equipped with Indeed's data and insights to deliver useful tips to help guide your career journey.

Feedback is a tool used to reinforce positive behaviour and support behavioural 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 recognises another's strengths, achievements or successes. Giving and receiving positive feedback is beneficial for everyone. While providing feedback may seem like a managerial function, you should also make it a priority to recognise the strengths of your colleagues as this can help them recognise 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 being presented to the individual. If you're in a position to give positive feedback, think about how you can provide specific details to your audience so they understand exactly why what they did was exceptional. Here’s a good example of providing meaningful positive feedback:

“Nice job on the presentation! You backed up 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 are providing your colleague with specific details about their presentation that they can use in the future. From your feedback, your colleague will gather that:

  • They utilised strong facts to back up their argument.

  • The facts they used to back up their analysis were appropriate.

  • Their delivery was strong and kept the audience engaged.

If you had provided vague feedback instead, you would not have given your colleague insight into what their strengths were during their presentation, and as a result, they would not know what to keep doing and what not to do in future presentations.

How to deliver positive feedback

While your feedback should be specific to the individual and the situation, there are a few best practices you can consider when preparing to give feedback:

  1. Whenever possible, link positive behaviour 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.

  4. Be as specific and 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 its value.

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

If you are a manager, don’t wait until an employee’s annual performance review to provide them with positive feedback. Instead, aim to give both positive and constructive feedback regularly to help keep employees motivated and engaged.

Related:

  • How To Give and Accept Constructive Criticism

  • Positive Body Language: Definition, Examples and Importance

Benefits of positive feedback

While some individuals thrive on receiving constructive feedback, emphasising on only negative or constructive feedback can decrease morale, reduce productivity and could potentially cause employees to feel underappreciated or unsure about their impact on the job. As a result, it’s beneficial to make positive feedback a regular part of the workplace as it can bring benefits to the employee, your team and the organisation as a whole.

  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 organisation’s standards can help you and your colleagues maintain the quality of behaviour 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 organisation.

  4. Positive feedback is cost-effective
    Developing a supportive, positive environment can both increase productivity and reduce attrition within teams. 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 how they can 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 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 constructive 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. You can even 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 almost always a better idea 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 and grow in their career. As a result, 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 to another colleague, it is always best to practise what you are critiquing in your own work. If you need to improve on the same things you are telling others to fix, 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 practise listening to and absorbing criticism from others just as you would practise 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 . In order 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 only provide positive feedback. In other words, don’t feel the need to wait to provide positive feedback until you can also provide 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. Utilise team meetings or all-staff emails to recognise an employee's good work when appropriate.

Related:

  • Maintaining a Positive Attitude at Work: 10 Top Tips

  • What Is a Feedback Model? (With Definition and Types)

  • 10 Examples of Positive Manager Behaviour (With Benefits)

  • How to Handle Receiving Feedback (Step-by-Step Guide)

Regardless of your position in your current career, it's important to recognise 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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