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Let’s face it: giving feedback is tough.
Whether you’re the giver or the receiver, the word feedback gets a reaction. I’d be willing to guess that “positive” isn’t the first word you think of when you think about feedback.
That’s probably why so many managers avoid giving feedback. In fact 37% of managers admit they are uncomfortable (or don’t feel capable of) giving feedback to their teams.
But feedback doesn’t have to be daunting or negative. In fact, quite the opposite. Feedback helps us better ourselves. It helps us improve, learn, and grow. Without it, we’d likely be stagnant in our careers — and our lives.
Research shows us that employees want feedback. In fact, 82% of employees appreciate both positive and negative feedback. We also know that employees are more likely to be engaged when they regularly hear feedback.
There are plenty of types of feedback. But there’s one particular type of feedback that can be incredibly useful: positive feedback.
Words matter — and the benefits of feedback speak for themselves. With positive feedback, you can engage your employees, drive performance, and reach your goals. We’ll leave you equipped with positive feedback examples to use with your employees.
What is positive feedback?
Let’s take a minute to understand what the phrase “positive feedback” means.
What is positive feedback?
Positive feedback is a type of feedback that focuses on strengths, contributions, and value. It reinforces what people are doing well.
Positive feedback is closely related to another concept, positive reinforcement. In positive reinforcement, you don’t constantly scan for what someone is doing wrong. Instead, you keep your eyes peeled for opportunities to acknowledge and praise specific behaviors.
If you’re a parent or teacher, you may be very familiar with the way positive reinforcement can shift the dynamic between an adult and a child. Well, we generally still respond better to positive reinforcement than negative punishment even when we’re no longer children.
The benefits of positive feedback
There are plenty of benefits of positive feedback. One big pro to positive feedback is increased employee engagement.
A Gallup survey reported the impact positive feedback can have on employee engagement. The survey reported that 67% of employees were fully engaged when managers focused on their strengths. Let’s compare that to the 31% of engaged employees with managers who focused on their weaknesses.
Positive feedback also builds trust and morale among employees. Combined with employee engagement, trust and morale boost motivation, and overall performance. Like many other aspects of the employee experience, positive feedback can have a positive ripple effect. It can help reduce turnover and keep your employees happier longer when done right.
In fact, research has been done on high-performing teams and positive feedback. Organizational psychologist Dr. Marcial Losada looked at the ratio of positive and negative feedback on high-performing teams. The ratio was around six to one. That means for every piece of negative feedback, employees need six pieces of positive feedback.
16 examples of positive feedback
Try using some of these positive feedback examples in your next conversation with a teammate or employee. Feedback is most powerful when it is timely (sorry annual performance review). Be on the lookout for the following opportunities to give positive feedback in the moment.
- An employee is being a good team player
- An employee is working overtime
- An employee is doing high-quality work
- An employee recently took on new responsibilities
- An employee reached conflict resolution
- An employee met their goals
- A teammate helped figure out a tough problem
- A teammate went above and beyond to deliver work
- A teammate needs a boost in morale
- A teammate contributed to company culture in a positive way
- A direct report learned a new skill
- A direct report came to you for input and advice
- A direct report recognized signs of burnout and proactively took steps to address it
- A direct report has shown improvement in a skill or task
- A direct report proposed a great, new idea
- A direct report modeled company core values in a noticeable way
An employee is being a good team player
Let’s say you’ve just hired a couple of new team members. These new employees needed some help throughout the onboarding process. One of your employees really took the initiative to help train and bring them up to speed.
“You really jumped in for the team to help onboard our new teammates. I really appreciate the extra work you took on to make sure the team was set up for success.”
An employee is working overtime
You notice one of your employees is working late hours pretty consistently. You don’t manage this employee but you’re worried about potential burnout. There’s a big project the team is rolling out soon, which you suspect might be the culprit.
“I’ve noticed you’re putting in a lot of hours on this project. I know how hard you work and how committed you are to this project. Is there anything I can do to help take lower priority projects off your plate? Is it possible to put other work to the side until this project is done?”
An employee is doing high-quality work
You work cross-functionally with another team in the marketing department. This team member has consistently delivered quality campaigns and briefs. You appreciate the work but you haven’t formally recognized the work.
“I wanted to tell you how much I appreciate the quality of your work. I can tell you take pride in your work and it shows in your deliverables. Good work, thank you!”
An employee recently took on new responsibilities
Let’s say a teammate recently quit their job. While you’re backfilling the position, another teammate is taking on some of the extra work to keep things moving.
“I know you’ve absorbed some extra work recently. Thank you for stepping up to help keep the team on track toward our goals. I appreciate the extra effort and initiative you’ve shown in these last couple of weeks.”
An employee reached conflict resolution
Recently, two teams were tasked with working together to reach a company-wide goal. However, there was some conflict in the approach. One team member felt it was best to prioritize the work in one way. The other team member disagreed.
This team member did a great job of navigating the differences by finding shared goals and reinforcing the purpose of the project. In the end, the two teams were able to come to an agreement about where to prioritize resources.
“Thank you for going the extra mile. You navigated this situation particularly well and were able to find a solution and keep both teams happy. I recognize that’s not an easy situation to handle but you exceeded all expectations.”
An employee met their goals
It’s the end of the quarter and you’re reviewing your team’s performance. One employee had set some particularly ambitious goals. You weren’t sure if they were going to meet them or not. But this employee proved you wrong and exceeded expectations.
“I’m really proud of the work you’ve done this quarter. You showed grit and courage. Thank you for all your hard work to meet your milestones.”
A teammate helped figure out a tough problem
Things were going well on this project. But suddenly, you’ve hit a roadblock. You and your teammate have to figure out how to get around this roadblock or else the project is at risk.
This teammate went above and beyond to engage the right stakeholders and seek advice. They used creative problem-solving to figure out a workaround.
“You were brilliant in finding a way for us to still move forward. The workaround you proposed really saved this project and I’m so grateful for your work to make it happen. Way to keep a positive attitude throughout.”
A teammate went above and beyond to deliver work
You recently asked a teammate for some research on a strategy that you’d like to consider implementing for a particular workstream. You expected a couple of ideas. But your teammate came back with three proposals, each with different outcomes, risks, and rewards.
“I’m completely blown away by the thoughtfulness and dedication to this project. You went above and beyond in your research. Thank you so much for your hard work!”
A teammate needs a boost in morale
You noticed another teammate has been quiet in meetings lately. You decide to have a conversation with them one-on-one to see how they’re doing. In this conversation, you learn this teammate isn’t feeling great about their work.
They are experiencing imposter syndrome — and feel like they aren’t contributing to the team. While you know this teammate does great work, you can see they need some reassurance.
“You have completed X, Y, and Z projects flawlessly in the last few weeks. You’ve been instrumental in the launch of ABC project. And you are always the first person to raise your hand to help someone else out. I admire your work and learn from you every day.”
A teammate contributed to company culture in a positive way
In hybrid and remote work environments, it’s been more difficult to stay connected. You notice that you’re not getting to know your teammates as well as you should. You’re missing out on the opportunities for social connections.
But your teammate decides to organize virtual social hours where “work talk” simply isn’t allowed. Through these social hours, you’ve been able to really get to know your teammates. It’s helped to build bonds and create connections.
“I was feeling lonely after not having the opportunity to connect with coworkers. Your work organizing social hours to help bring the team together really made an impact on my experience here. Thank you for noticing the little things and making a big impact.”
A direct report learned a new skill
Learning and professional development have always been a priority for your organization. But sometimes, it can be hard to carve out the time to learn a new skill.
Recently, one of your direct reports enrolled in an online course to learn about a different coding language. You were impressed by this upskilling opportunity and the new skills this person brought back to the team.
“Way to stay on your edge and challenge yourself. I’m proud of the way you took the initiative to grow in your role. Thanks for being a role model for others!”
A direct report came to you for input and advice
Usually, this direct report works pretty independently. You notice they tend to lean on their coach for personal development and professional career advice. But in a recent team meeting, this person turned to you for your input on a complex problem. You appreciated their vulnerability and willingness to learn.
“Thanks for leading by example and leveraging me as a resource. You showed vulnerability is not always having to know all the answers. I appreciate and value your perspective so it means a lot to know that you can turn to me for help!”
A direct report is feeling burnt out
One of your employees is juggling caregiving responsibilities at home. They have both their elderly parents and young children to care for. On top of it, you know that the workload has increased recently due to some high-priority deliverables.
“I know how much you have on your plate right now. But I also know how hard you work and how committed you are to every hat that you wear. You don’t have to prove anything right now, and there are no burning priorities.Take time for yourself today and make self-care a priority. Your team is here to help with tasks to alleviate some stress.”
A direct report has shown improvement in a skill or task
In a recent meeting, you notice some really great changes in the way this person presents information. They’ve taken your constructive criticism to heart and changed their approach.
Acting on input, modifying behavior, and being willing to learn and iterate on how they work — this is gold in an employee. And it takes energy and courage. Fuel that effort with positive reinforcement.
“You absolutely crushed that demo! You have made such big improvements from when you first started in this role. I noticed and appreciated how much you’ve worked on learning to tell the bigger story. Way to keep at it.”
A direct report proposed a great, new idea
Your team has been brainstorming new, creative ideas for an upcoming campaign. One direct report came to the team meeting with a fantastic, creative idea, especially for your company’s marketing organization. You’re impressed by the creativity and their courage.
“You came to the team meeting with a lot of imagination and creativity. You always challenge us to think outside the box. You showed real openness when the team started plussing and refining the assumptions. We’re so grateful for your passion to keep bringing big ideas. They have a big impact!”
A direct report modeled company core values in a noticeable way
You recently had a staff meeting. In this meeting, one of your direct reports went out of their way to make sure another teammate’s perspective was heard.
This teammate is usually quiet and can shy away from voicing their opinions. After being interrupted a couple of times, your direct report made sure this teammate had the space to share their thoughts.
“Thank you for modeling our core value of Bringing Out the Best in Everyone in the recent team meeting. It’s important that all voices are heard. I noticed you went out of your way to make sure everyone could share their feedback.”
When to give positive feedback
Giving feedback regularly can help employees continue to grow. And sometimes, it can be difficult to determine when to use positive feedback as opposed to other types of feedback.
Here are eight scenarios where you can give positive feedback:
- After launching or completing a big project
- When employees report feeling stressed, burnt out, or overwhelmed
- When employees get promoted or take on new responsibilities
- When teams collaborate well together to accomplish a common goal
- After someone provides upward feedback or speaks up in a meeting
- In an annual performance review
- After a teammate helps out another employee
- Any and every day your team members are at work
How to give positive feedback
Feedback can be given in a variety of ways. After all, we have plenty of communication channels to leverage, especially as our work environments become more remote.
You can choose to verbalize positive feedback face-to-face in a meeting. Or you might write a nice email to express gratitude or thanks. You might also take some time to recognize an employee in a team meeting.
But regardless of how you choose to communicate this positive feedback, there are tips to keep in mind.
- Be specific. Make sure you’re getting specific about what your employees are doing well. Not only does it tell them that you’re paying attention to their work, but it also makes them feel valued.
- Get the timing right. It’s important to be timely with your feedback, especially at the end of a big accomplishment.
- Recognize everyone in your team. Nobody likes when people play favorites. It’s important to look for recognition opportunities for everyone in your team.
- Make your feedback visible. Recognizing employees for their contributions in visible ways will have a positive impact. Try recognizing big wins in a team meeting or posting a congratulatory Slack message.
- Make it genuine and personal. Bring your authenticity to work. Make it personal, genuine, and authentic. With heartfelt positive feedback comes positive results.
Practice positive feedback today
Employee feedback is a critical component of the employee experience. When you amplify the good work of your team members, you’ll see better employee performance. Employee recognition can help take your team’s employee engagement to the next level.
Try practicing this new feedback mechanism. What ways can you reinforce positive behavior in your team? How can you empower a culture of feedback with positive feedback? How can you amplify your employees’ strengths to reach optimal results? Are you regularly asking for feedback? Are you receiving feedback from your employees?
You likely already have a great team. But you want to take your team’s performance to the next level and bring out the joy in the day-to-day.
With regular feedback and personalized support, you can unlock your team’s potential. BetterUp can help bring out the best in your employees and yourself.
Madeline is a writer, communicator, and storyteller who is passionate about using words to help drive positive change. She holds a bachelor's in English Creative Writing and Communication Studies and lives in Denver, Colorado. In her spare time, she's usually somewhere outside (preferably in the mountains) — and enjoys poetry and fiction.