Is Positive Feedback Harder To Give Than Negative Feedback?

Is Positive Feedback Harder To Give Than Negative Feedback? 150 150 Laura Sicola

I’m sure you’re familiar with that unpleasant feeling in the pit of your stomach when you realize you have to give someone negative feedback. You don’t want any drama and you try to avoid conflict, but eventually you have to find a way to tell them that the report needs to be redone, that they’ve been late for the third time, or that the promotion is being given to someone else.

While it may not be surprising that, according to a recent HBR study, 21% of people will avoid giving negative feedback to direct reports, the same study revealed that 37% of people also don’t give positive feedback!  At that point, the question becomes: Is it actually harder to give praise than critique?

The article proposes a variety of reasons why people don’t give positive feedback, ranging from being “too busy” and forgetting, to feeling like a boss should be tough, or that giving praise was a sign of weakness.

Most intriguing to me, however, was the idea that some people don’t give positive feedback because they don’t know how. So from here, let’s look at three simple strategies for giving clear and effective positive feedback.

K.I.S.S.

No, I’m not suggesting you do anything that will warrant a call from HR. You are probably familiar with the age-old acronym K.I.S.S., or “Keep It Simple, Stupid.” Praise doesn’t need to be emotional, gushy, effusive or melodramatic. People just like to know – especially from you “tough graders” out there – that they have met your standards, produced high-quality work, or been successful at completing a difficult project on time and under budget.

Simple comments like, “Thanks for getting that piece back to me so quickly,” “The layout looks terrific, nice job,” or “Looks like you got everything back up to date, much better” are all that is needed to let people know where they stand. It also provides a sense of closure, which helps keep them from worrying that there may be more bad news to come, so they can comfortably shift their full attention to the next task on the list.

Be Specific

Generic comments like “good job,” while better than nothing, don’t tell the person what it is that you like about it, and can often feel perfunctory and insincere. Whatever it is, referencing the specific effort or product helps them to understand what is most important to you and encourages them to focus future efforts on achieving similar outcomes.

Even if it is just following up on something for which you had previously given negative feedback, acknowledge that the specific problem was fixed to appropriate standards and what positive outcome it promotes, e.g., “This new layout is much cleaner, and the image really pops; the client is going to love it.”

Look in the Mirror

If you’re really stuck for how to give praise, ask yourself, if you had done that work, how would you want to be appreciated? Be the boss you wish you’d had, and offer the word of praise that would have been meaningful to you.

Don’t worry that offering praise will make it seem like you’re “going soft” or that people will slack off once they think you’re happy. On the contrary, for many people, praise is actually a motivator. Success begets success, and feelings of success beget more behaviors of success.

What’s critical to understand is that when people feel like they receive sufficient positive feedback, it makes them more open to hearing and accepting negative feedback from the same person. This is because they know that the boss is fair and clear, and that all feedback, whether positive or negative, is honest and comes from the heart.

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Do you have trouble giving feedback, whether positive or negative?  Or do you have other questions or feedback about this issue? If so, contact me at laura@vocalimpactproductions.com or click here to schedule a 20-minute focus call to discuss it with me personally!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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