Positive Feedback, Negative Feedback, or No Feedback

Some say feedback is the most important form of communication that occurs at work. Feedback is a term frequently referred to in the academic world of organizational behavior as well. Feedback has two purposes: 1) it can help us to understand how well we are achieving goals; and 2) it can help us discern if we have understood a message.

Leaders should not be shy about giving positive and even negative feedback. Feedback of both types is a critical component of improving performance and engagement. This might be hard for some to believe – especially the idea that negative feedback can increase engagement.

We question if negative feedback could possibly be linked to increases in engagement because no one enjoys getting negative feedback. It can hurt our fragile egos, make us worry about our job security, and wonder if our boss values our contributions. Remarkably, a 2009 Gallup poll found that employees who received negative feedback were 20 times more likely to be engaged than employees who received no feedback at all. 

Most workers thrive when given positive feedback because it can have the opposite effect of negative feedback: it can positively impact our fragile egos, increase our sense of job security, and underscore our feelings of being valued. Less surprising is the fact that employees who receive positive feedback are 30 times more likely to be engaged than those who received no feedback at all. 

The obvious conclusion that can be drawn from this research is that feedback of ANY kind is important to improve work performance as well as engagement.

If we personalize the somewhat tricky issue of negative feedback and ask ourselves, “When am I most apt to accept negative feedback?” I think we would find that we are MOST ABLE to accept negative feedback from those we trust and those we believe, ultimately, value us.

It is for this reason that I encourage leaders to build trust and increase the likelihood that employees feel valued by them. The easiest way to do this is to provide regular comments that specifically address the good works of employees (or in other words give regular and specific positive feedback). When a concern pops up, address the concern in the same prompt and direct manner (or in other words also give negative feedback).

And above all else: DON’T SAY NOTHING. When employees are operating in a void, questioning what is good and what is poor performance, and wondering whether their boss even notices the work they do, the organization loses.

Frequent feedback is key to reaching your organization’s performance and engagement goals.

 

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