Last updated July 8, 2024

Giving positive feedback in the workplace

Benefits of Giving Positive Feedback

If you want the best results when trying to help employees improve in the workplace, giving positive feedback that is constructive and genuinely helpful is essential.

Get it wrong and feedback can be seen as criticism and create more problems than it solves.

If feedback is seen as being positive there are added benefits in that the employee can feel that they:

  • Are being guided and learning (aiding their career path and own development)
  • Can gain new skills through being guided
  • Are respected and valued (when feedback is taken as a helping hand)

As a company positive feedback can:

  • Improve productivity
  • Create happier employees (when they feel valued and worthy of your time)
  • Mean more skilled employees

Positive Feedback in the Workplace Tips

1. Encourage the Employee

It is such a delicate balance to give feedback that the employee will take onboard and see as guidance with a positive connotation.

What can greatly help is to include positive words of encouragement when providing guidance.

Let them know, for example, that you know that they are very capable, that you believe in them, and that this feedback is aimed at helping them grow further.

2. Focus on Growth

The way and manner in which you provide the feedback is essential as you want to make it clear that you are focused on their growth and that this guidance you are providing them with, will benefit them personally too.

By taking onboard the feedback you provide them, you want the employee to see that they are also building their own skills and that it is an opportunity for career development and growth.

3. Creative and Innovative Thinking

Not every employee takes on board feedback in the same manner.

In fact, as a manager, you will find that they take advice very differently because we are all individuals and each of us has a different way of accepting ideas.

For this reason, innovative thinking can help you find creative ways to give suggestions and input to employees who might be very sensitive and who otherwise might struggle to accept feedback.

4. Actively Listen to Your Employees

Whilst giving suggestions, also listen to your employees.

There might be reasons you were unaware of until now, of why the employee perhaps did something a certain way.

This insight can be valuable for you as it also acts as feedback for you as a manager, and gives you a better chance to manage well.

As a leader, active listening skills can be extremely worthwhile and you might want to learn how to be a good listener.

Active listening means being someone who not only talks but who is able to listen intently and to truly take in what the other person is saying.

5. Explain the Impact

Explaining the impact of their actions or behaviour, when providing feedback, can help to give a sense of ownership to the person.

Provided you give the guidance in a sensitive enough manner, explaining the impact of their actions can be a powerful way to give feedback that leads to improved results.

In other words, you can turn what might have been an issue into positive feedback in the workplace.

6. Recognition

When we talk in terms of positive feedback in the workplace, feedback is a wonderful opportunity to give recognition for any achievements your employees or team have made.

Giving recognition, even if only a few simple words of acknowledgement, can be an incredibly powerful way to keep hard-working employees onboard.

This is feedback that is justified and positive and many employees just want to be acknowledged when they do good work.

Feedback examples of positive recognition might include:

  • Saying thank you to the whole team because they worked hard to complete a recent project on time successfully.
  • “Thank you Denzel for mentoring three members of the team. I know everyone involved is very grateful”
  • “Great job done Sarah for dealing with the large number of customer service issues that came up last week. We’ve now solved the issue and because of your hard work, the customers who raised the issue are happy”

If you are training managers in how to give recognition, these free feedback activities might be useful.

7. Be Sincere

It is important to be sincere when providing feedback to your team in order for it to be taken on board and accepted. The employee needs to feel a level of trust and that the advice and guidance is fair.

As a manager or team leader you need to be emotionally intelligent and this is a skill you need when managing others effectively.

To be sincere, being able to put yourself in the other’s position and being able to understand their motivations and reason for doing things, will greatly help you as a leader.

Feedback Training Course Materials
>> Feedback Training Course Materials

8. Give Specific Examples

The idea of feedback is really to create positive change and a positive outcome, be it to increase productivity, help an employee upskill, or keep a good team atmosphere and a happy workplace.

One key way to achieve this is to ensure that when giving feedback, you give clear and easy-to-understand examples.

Let me give you some examples of bad feedback and how it can be turned positive using specific examples.

Examples of Positive Feedback

Collaboration Skills Example:

  • Communicated Badly: “I’ve noticed that you’re not a team player. You need to work better with others.”
  • Communicated Well: “I’ve noticed that you often work independently, even on team projects. Collaboration really helps us as a team to move forward. How can we better support you in getting involved with the team effort and sharing your ideas?”

Productivity Example

  • Communicated Badly: “Your productivity record is poor. You need to start working faster.”
  • Communicated Well: “I’ve noticed that your output has been lower than usual. Is there something such as any training that might help so that we can find a way to help you? Let’s try and find a solution together.”

Meeting Participation Example

  • Communicated Badly: “You rarely if ever contribute anything useful in meetings.”
  • Communicated Well: “It’s been noticeable that you’ve been quiet in the last few meetings. We value your input and would love for you to be more involved. Is there anything we can do to encourage you to get more involved and share your thoughts more during meetings?”

9. Timely Feedback

It is worth remembering that providing feedback in a timely manner can make a definite impact.

There are two key considerations in terms of making feedback timely so consider these positive feedback examples:

  1. Try to provide feedback as soon as possible – if there was a problem in a meeting, for example, try to approach and give feedback soon after the meeting to the person/s concerned. Wait a few weeks and the person might have forgotten about what they said or did in the meeting and the impact of your feedback thus is lost.
  2. Time it for maximum effect emotionally speaking – Do also be careful to wait until emotions have died down as needed. You want the person to be in an emotional state where they are likely to take in the feedback you provide. (Learn more about ineffective vs effective feedback).

10. Employee Engagement

If you are in any doubt, statistics from a Gallup study show that positive feedback in the workplace has a direct link to employee engagement.

When feedback is used effectively it results in a happier and more skilled workforce.

For this reason, it is essential that managers are fully trained in feedback skills, given that the manner in which they communicate with employees they manage has a direct impact on your business or company.

In simple terms, if you are interested in improving employee engagement, upskill your managers to improve their feedback management skills.

11. Use Positive Body Language

As a manager giving feedback to your team, you should always be aware of your own body language and the way you communicate to them non-verbally.

When giving them advice, try to have an open posture (i.e., avoid crossed arms), and do not, for example, stand over the person. If they are sitting down, you might, for example, want to pull up another chair so that you are on the same eye level.

12. Match to Their Personal Goals

Tying in any feedback, both positive and negative, with the goals of the person in question, is a great way to give more meaning to the recommendations you are making.

Think beforehand, for example, about the career path that you know an employee is on (from your 1-to-1 meetings) and see if you can use the feedback as a way to motivate or help them on their own journey.

13. Lead by Example

You will find it much easier to give feedback that has an impact if you are someone who leads by example.

Being a leader who your team respects and whose advice they value, means that feedback will often be taken much more positively when given.

14. Create a Positive Work Environment

For employees who are happy in their work and where they work in a team where it’s a positive environment, receiving feedback will often feel less personal and more natural.

If you are a manager, work to create an overall positive team atmosphere including through showing strong emotional intelligence as a leader.

15. Structure Feedback

If you manage a team, you most likely already hold annual appraisals and regular one-on-ones.

Whilst some feedback needs to be given as soon as possible after an event, for guidance that you wish to give that can wait until the monthly catch-ups, use these catch-ups.

Monthly one-to-one catch-ups can be a wonderful way to give (and also receive) feedback.

They give a more structured format and make guidance you give seem more positive and expected.

16. Give Direct Feedback

Make sure also to give feedback directly to the person who needs to receive it.

Whilst this might seem obvious, do ensure that you communicate directly with the person who the guidance is for in order to maintain trust, clarity and transparency.

17. Highlight Specific Strengths

You can make sure that feedback comes across positively by highlighting the specific strengths of the person you are talking to.

They might benefit from certain advice but why not first highlight the positive things they have contributed to the team and create a positive atmosphere?

18. Listen to Your Employees

It is worth remembering that when we talk about feedback, that feedback is a two-way thing.

Some of the best ideas and information you can get as a manager is from your team, particularly given the range of skills they are likely to have in their areas of expertise.

Try to embrace any suggestions and ideas that come from your team.

19. Embrace Innovative Thinking

It is important also to embrace innovative thinking and be willing to guide and if necessary, mentor any employees who are willing to think outside the box.

Embrace the idea of a growth mindset and be willing to guide anyone who can bring innovative thinking and solutions to your team.

20. Remain Objective

If you decide that you need to give feedback to someone, in order for it to be positive, make sure that you:

  • Do not allow any personal biases to come into it
  • Are concerned with the behaviour or situation that needs input on, rather than anything to do with the person’s personality
  • Keep your own personal feelings separate from the professional

21. Offer Solutions

It is important also to ensure that you offer solutions to create a positive scenario moving forward.

What is the way forward, can you yourself do anything to also help, and what has already been done well that can be built upon.

Further Resources

If you found these positive feedback in the workplace activities and exercises helpful, you might also be interested in the PowerPoint slides and training materials (see below):

Feedback training materials

>> Effective Feedback Training Materials

Dr Valeria Lo Iacono
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