“There is nothing better than a friend, unless it is a friend with chocolate.”
We like sweets. It’s just true. We like sweets at work. We like sweets in the form of chocolate cake, and we like sweets in the form of positive feedback. It’s not that we don’t seek out constructive criticism, we do. When well-delivered it’s like verbal vitamins that help us grow stronger. But, toss us a few Hershey’s Kisses every once and awhile, and watch out!
Carole Spiers, motivational speaker on stress management, and author of Show Stress Who’s Boss, offers a few tips on giving feedback and reminds us that there should only be two kinds: positive and constructive. When giving positive feedback:
Never hesitate. Give the positive feedback on the spot. Sometimes things can be forgotten.
Make it public. Let everyone in the company know of the employee’s achievement. Private is fine, but stating it publicly not only encourages the employee, but also can uplift the entire company into a more positive environment.
Be specific. Let the recognition be spot-on for what the employee did right.
Offering positive feedback is a good discipline. Its alternative—negative feedback—not only threatens morale, it can be the source of an even more negative hidden message. Consider the following:
|Negative feedback:||What the employee hears:|
|You overlooked . . .||You are careless.|
|You state that . . .||I don’t believe you.|
|You failed to . . .||You idiot.|
|You claim that . . .||You are lying again.|
|You do not understand.||You are obviously not very bright.|
|Your delay . . .||Your mistake . . .|
|You forgot to . . .||You are inefficient and careless.|
Try to avoid these negative phrases, and instead focus on constructive feedback. Here are some helpful techniques for tactful criticism:
Establish what’s good. But don’t sandwich the negative.
While it is important to acknowledge the positive, it’s also important to deliver negative news without hiding behind it.
i.e. You did a nice job mending the fence, however there are some areas that require improvement. Let’s discuss them so we can make it as good as it can be.
Every well-polished idea appears effortless, but rarely is. Never lead with a negative, you never know how long or how much effort it took someone to get to certain points in their project. Approach an ongoing project with positivity so you don’t come off as discouraging and unappreciative of their work as a whole.
Avoid sticking your “but” in where it doesn’t belong. Avoid using the word “but” at all cost. We have all heard “I really like this, but . . . ” This is an automatic turn-off to the person receiving the critique, and now your constructive criticism is falling on deaf ears. To be truly constructive, they’ll need to hear what you have to say.
The bottom line is that immediate and positive feedback is well received, it feels good to say it, it’s free, and it builds goodwill and positive morale. On the flip side, when criticism becomes necessary, avoid personal attack, focus on the constructive—and know the difference.