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Submitted by US101 on


Isn't it better to save up positive feedback?

If I give positive feedback with the frequency that Mark's suggests I think it makes the feedback less meaningful.

My guess is a lot of mangers feel this way.

If my standards for giving an "atta boy" are high than my directs will feel even better when they do get positive feedback.

Do you agree?

WillDuke's picture
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Feedback isn't praise, feedback is feedback. When you give feedback constantly your people don't have to wonder if what they're doing is what you want. They know immediately what is working and what isn't working.

Removing uncertainty from your directs' lives is a tremendous gift.

US101's picture
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I definitely mean specific FEEDBACK, and NOT praise.

For example, "When you tell employees to wear their safety vests what happens is we avoid possible accidents. Thanks."

jhack's picture

The goal of affirming feedback is not to make them feel good. It's to increase the good behavior. That's why it's specific - you want them to know that wearing the vest is good and that you see it and that good things come from wearing the vest. They'll wear the vest. That's what you want. Same for all the other little things they do.

The fact that it's no big deal is important: it means that adjusting feedback is also no big deal. So nobody's bent out of shape for the little things that don't go well. They'll do it better next time.


WillDuke's picture
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JonP - you can alter the feedback a little if it feels too weird.

1. When you tell employees to wear their vests...
2. When all of your employees are wearing their vests...
3. When you keep accidents down...

The 3rd one is reaching a little, but I think you get the idea. Mostly, you want them to know that they're doing the right thing and that you notice. If you don't let them know, they might stop doing it.

I guess the point is that you're not going for impact. You're not trying to really let them know they're doing great. You simply want them to know that they're doing the right things and that you're noticing. Imagine if you will that every day the supervisor gets told good job for having everyone in their vests. Do you suppose everyone will be in their vests every day? And what is your goal? :)

Feedback is for minor adjustments. Think driving down the highway. Sometimes you're good, sometimes a slight shift is called for. Either way, no big deal.

TomW's picture
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You also need to consider the recency effect. If you praise someone for something they did 4 weeks ago, they won't know what you're talking about.

Feedback, positive or negative, needs to be as close to the event as possible.

US41's picture

Saving up positive feedback is not a good idea:

* Your employees will only receive negative feedback
* You will be seen as a source of negative feedback
* Your workplace will be felt as negative
* You will be seen as negative and your presence will become a negative
* Eventually, anything you say will be taken in a negative way no matter what it is

Don't save up feedback. Breathe.

rthibode's picture

Hi jonp:

On [url=]this... thread, Julia Doyle and I discussed a related issue -- basically, it feels silly to constantly give feedback on the same positive behaviour. For example, if I gave my admin feedback for being on time every day, it would be insulting. Maybe you could focus on new behaviours or improvements, and "save" your feedback for the everyday things you value to be delivered during O3s and formal reviews.

Is this part of what you're struggling with, I wonder?


US101's picture
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That thread helped. The main point I got was good feedback is all about customizing it to the individual.

I like your idea of "saving" feedback for everyday stuff I value and deliver that feedback during O3s and formal reviews.

I still question the amount of feedback (affirming or adjusting) M&M recommend. What about suggesting directs use self-monitored feedback tools? Such as to-do lists, project plans, tally sheets, status reports.

Many people have never thought of these tools as self-monitored feedback, but they can be.

rthibode's picture

I don't know about self-monitored feedback tools as a substitute for day-to-day feedback from you. Maybe these tools could be part of what you discuss during O3s, when you review progress toward a goal. Certainly having your staff monitor and report on their own performance could be an effective behaviour, and one that you provide feedback on.

From your original post, you say "frequency . . . makes feedback less meaningful." This could be true if every day you say "Hey Bob, when you come to work on time, I know I can rely on you and we get a full day's work done." But Bob will always be working toward new goals, be they sales targets, communication skills, precise sweater-folding, etc. I think if you target your day-to-day feedback there and it should be plenty meaningful.

Is there another reason you feel reluctant to give that much feedback, or are you really just concerned that it won't lead to better performance?

cwatine's picture
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I also think that it depens on the kind of manager you are.

If I don't "force myself" into delivering positive feedback, I know I will not deliver positive feedback. I have to remind myself before my O3 to give positive feedback.

And sometimes, it is feedback on something very obvious, like being on time. It is [u]not[/u] insulting.

What opened my eyes was a feedback my financial manager gave to ME. I was giving her a negative feedback about her not respecting the deadlines for her analysis.
She said : "Ok I will try to improve on that. Now, can I say something? I wonder if you realize that over the next 5 years we have been working together, the tax duties have never been late, the fiscal controls never went wrong, the treasurery was always ok, etc. etc. I would like to ALSO have your comment on that"

What a lesson for me !!!

Sometimes, we forget about the obvious.

WillDuke's picture
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That seems to imply that you're not giving enough positive feedback. :)

cwatine's picture
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No doubt about it.

juliahhavener's picture
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I wouldn't suggest saving up that feedback - constantly change it to what your directs are doing that day. I'm away from my desk a lot more than I like, but my team knows that I pay attention to everything. I'll walk by on my way to a meeting and give feedback about something I just heard that I really liked...or something that they could change. I know it works because of a few things I've heard from them recently that basically says 'she's away a lot, but she knows what's going on'. I am still working on delivering feedback more frequently because I don't feel it's quite 'breathing' yet.

I haven't seen a decrease in value with an increase in frequency - actually, I've found the opposite. They ask for feedback...even my most S/C centered person who really struggled with feedback not being a personal statement. He thrives on knowing he's doing the right thing or knowing what he's still fine-tuning.

US101's picture
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Thanks Julia. Good to hear that your C's and S's have moved from taking the feedback too personal.

So, giving lots of affirming feedback doesn't make it less personal. I don't think I've ever met a manager or employee who said, "My manager gives me too much positive feedback."

eagerApprentice's picture

[quote="jonp"]I don't think I've ever met a manager or employee who said, "My manager gives me too much positive feedback."[/quote]

Me either! :)

Actually, I have to just add that if my manager didn't give me feedback for awhile that was positive, I wouldn't think "Maybe he's saving it up?"; I would either think A-"He's not happy with something I'm doing, I need to change something... what"" or B-"He's either too busy or doesn't care".

Neither A or B are good.

US101's picture
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eageraprentice - good points. If you want your directs to guess where they stand, then sure, save up feedback, but don't blame your directs when you don't get promoted.

TomW's picture
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[quote="US101"]eageraprentice - good points. If you want your directs to guess where they stand, then sure, save up feedback, but don't blame your directs when you don't get promoted.[/quote]

... and definitely blame yourself when they leave because they are unhappy.