How to Give Positive Feedback to Employees
How to Give Positive Feedback to Employees

How to Give Positive Feedback to Employees

Leadership Development, Employee Learning & Development, Company Culture, Employee Well-being   — 3 MIN


A striking 83% of employees say they appreciate all kinds of feedback—positive or otherwise. Positive feedback is especially lacking in most modern organizations, even though science has proven time and again how beneficial it is for individuals and teams. Knowing what positive feedback looks like (and what isn’t positive feedback) can help leaders determine how to deliver it systematically and authentically.

What is positive feedback?

Positive feedback is not simply offering compliments; it is more specific and involved. Positive feedback builds on an employee's strengths and provides the employee with the information they need to move forward to their next project with these same tactics and skills. Positive feedback lets an employee know what specific things they’re doing well in the hopes it guides them to perform similarly in the future.

What positive feedback looks like, and how to give it

Let’s go through three clear examples of how to give good positive feedback:

1. Public recognition 

In the weekly team meeting, the manager recognizes Gabriela for the work she did on securing a valuable partnership. Recognizing Gabriela in front of her peers makes her feel appreciated, confident, and like a valuable team member, and it shows her that her boss is impressed and proud. An employee feedback statistic says employees who receive recognition from management are 69% more likely to do better work

2. Face-to-face 

The manager could send out a message to the team saying, “Let’s give a round of applause for all the hard work Jada did this week.” While a leader could easily send an email, feedback is more sincere and impactful when done in person. As a leader, you can take time to sit down with your employees, have coffee, or just take a couple of minutes to give your employees genuine positive feedback. Here, a manager could sit with Jada over coffee and tell her, “You did an awesome job this week; thank you for being so thorough and insightful in your report.”

3. Specific

You might manage 100 people, or you might manage five. Either way, each employee should feel valued and recognized. It’s easy to extend a “Hey, great job today,” but it’s more impactful when you’re able to say, “Hey, Amin, your presentation today in the team meeting was so informative. I liked the statistics you found on what our target market is drawn to, and the charts you made were so engaging.” Specifics tell your employees that you see them and listen to them.

Other examples of positive feedback:

  • “The way you handled yourself in that meeting really made our team look prepared. Nice job!”
  • “I really appreciate that you proactively stepped in to help with XYZ. That really made a difference!”
  • “I like how you added top-line takeaways to this report. They summarized it well, and I think they will help people understand what’s in the rest of the document.”
  • “Thank you so much for hitting this deadline. This project was really important, and you helped us get it across the finish line.”

Why positive feedback is so important

Effective feedback in the workplace is essential for several reasons, and good positive feedback results in creating a positive work environment, employee engagement, and overall success of the organization. Here are some key reasons why positive feedback is important:

  • Boosts morale
  • Improves employee engagement
  • Builds trust and relationships
  • Encourages continuous improvement. Harvard Business Review found a direct correlation between employee improvement and up to a 50% increase in revenue. Higher revenue due to well-performing employees who are staying at their jobs because they’re happy ultimately means business growth.  

5 common mistakes leaders make with positive feedback and how to avoid them

The willingness and ability to give positive feedback to your employees is rooted in the best of intentions. However, if the feedback is not given properly, it could be far less impactful than you need it to be. Here are five pitfalls you can avoid to get your positive feedback working for you and your employees: 

  1. Not regularly offering feedback. 43% of highly engaged employees receive feedback at least once a week. Sure, you can offer feedback each quarter and in employee reviews, but to get your employees engaged, the more often you offer positive feedback, the better. 
  2. Giving feedback too late, when it’s no longer relevant. When an employee receives feedback for an accomplishment they achieved weeks or even months ago, the effect won’t land. Plus, if they had received feedback promptly, they could have used that information for things they’ve been working on since then. Weaving positive feedback into regular employee interactions like weekly meetings or everyday office greetings will mitigate this issue easily. 
  3. Focusing on the personal vs. performance. Sometimes it can be challenging to give feedback strictly based on performance, but personal preference can be blinding. This is a common mistake managers make when it comes to positive feedback. Ensure feedback is on the work that was done and not commentary on the person. For instance, telling an employee how smart they are doesn’t let them know what they did well, and it also may be crossing a personal line. 
  4. Giving feedback via email. It is better to deliver feedback in person. It's a more genuine approach, and it allows your employees to ask questions and be a part of the discussion in real time.
  5. Not getting into specific behaviors. Specifics matter to each one of your employees. Handing out generic pats on the back to your team isn’t going to reach the same level of meaning as a specific bit of feedback will. 

Knowing how to give positive feedback while avoiding pitfalls is a gamechanger for both leaders and employees

When delivered well, positive employee feedback can create a stronger, more pleasant workplace. As a leader, you can open up lines of communication using feedback that may have otherwise been neglected until performance reviews.

If you want to improve employee engagement, performance, and team morale, click here to schedule a free consultation with one of our learning experts.