Years ago, I worked at an office where the only time I ever heard from my manager was if I fell short of expectations. Without positive feedback, I felt like all of my wins went unnoticed and that they didn’t matter nearly as much as my losses. This caused me to lose motivation and my productivity began to suffer. It also pushed me to leave the company and seek better opportunities elsewhere.
While it’s important to let employees know where there are areas that need improvement, it’s equally important to give positive feedback so they know where they shine. Giving positive feedback boosts morale, instills confidence, and motivates employees to do their best. It also helps you retain great people who will move your business forward.
A survey by the Society of Human Resource Management found that 80% of HR leaders work at organizations that have an employee recognition program.
Of those leaders, 89% reported their recognition program helped improve the overall employee experience. 86% said it improved employee relationships and 84% said it improved employee engagement.
There are many ways to give positive feedback, but first you must understand what it is.
What is positive feedback?
Positive feedback is the act of recognizing and praising someone for their accomplishments, strengths, and talents. Positive feedback tells an employee what they’re doing right and what they should continue to do.
“If you focus on what someone shouldn't do without also touching on the things they should do or keep doing, you're only providing half of an instruction,” says HubSpot’s Historical Optimization Team Manager Amanda Sellers. “Good constructive feedback paired with positive feedback, on the other hand, is a balanced way to paint a whole picture, resulting in more effective outcomes.”
In the workplace, positive feedback from leadership can come in many forms, such as congratulating someone on hitting an important milestone. It can also be in the form of highlighting an employee’s important contribution in a team assignment.
“My approach is that any time I get or have positive feedback about someone I work with, whether I’m their manager or peer, I pass it on,” says our Director of English Growth Aja Frost. “This is such a great way to help others understand how they’re perceived and recognize them for their work. I aim to be as specific as possible.”
How to Give Positive Feedback
Though every employee is different, it generally helps to do the following when giving positive feedback:
- Link the positive behavior to business results. For example, explaining that an employee’s understanding of social media algorithms has increased the company’s engagement across platforms.
- Reward them for their hard work with something you know they’d appreciate, such as a digital e-gift card from Rybbon or a gift from Reachdesk.
- Deliver the feedback as soon as possible after noticing the employee’s achievements or strength.
- Whenever possible or appropriate, deliver positive feedback in front of others.
- Be specific and detailed in your feedback. Include the who, what, where, and why of the matter, so the recipient can apply the feedback to future projects.
It’s also important to check in and ask about their preferences. In one of the earliest conversations I had with my manager at HubSpot, I was asked how I prefer to communicate and receive feedback. Did I prefer email, video call, virtual chat, or some other way? This has helped us communicate effectively and I definitely suggest asking your employees the same question early on.
Positive Feedback Examples
Of course not everyone knows the right thing to say in every situation, but don’t worry! Here are some examples of positive feedback that you can give in different scenarios to encourage your employees’ success.
1. When an Employee is Being a Team Player:
“I appreciate your commitment to keeping everyone on your team focused and up-to-date with their tasks. Thanks to your efforts, the project was completed on time and impressed our clients. Thank you so much for your hard work. That kind of team player mentality is an asset our company values highly.”
2. When an Employee Needs a Boost in Confidence:
“Hey John! You’ve been doing an excellent job lately. Since starting here, you have shown so much growth. The quality of your work improved and your ability to multitask has helped our projects run smoothly. Thank you for your hard work, and don’t hesitate to reach out if there’s anything I can help you with.”
3. When an Employee Hits a New Milestone:
“Congratulations to Sarah on leading her first social media campaign. To watch her grow from an assistant to the bold leader she is now has been an honor. I can’t wait to see more of her amazing ideas going forward.”
4. When an Employee Completes a Difficult Assignment:
“Thank you so much for completing this task. I understand it was more complicated than we initially thought and required more time. Your positive attitude through it all and your attention to detail is much appreciated. While this was your first time completing such a task, we knew you were the right person to take it on.”
5. When an Employee Handles Conflict in a Professional Manner:
“Thank you for resolving the issue with a disgruntled client today. It’s not easy to navigate conflict with an unhappy client, but you handled it with such grace. Conflict resolution is an important part of the job and you clearly demonstrated your skills in that area.”
6. When an Employee Helps a Coworker:
“I just want to thank Jeffery for training our new hire, Jessica, and helping her acclimate to both her new role and the company. Jeffery has made himself available for all of her questions and has provided excellent guidance. All this has made Jessica’s transition into the company seamless.”
7. When an Employee Takes on Additional Tasks Outside Their Role:
“I just want to give a shout out to Michael for taking it upon himself to assume some of the responsibilities of the assistant manager while we look for someone to fill the role. His proactiveness has helped us immensely, and because of that we’ve been able to dedicate time to finding a successful candidate for the role without falling behind on our initiatives.”
8. When an Employee Exceeds Expectations:
“I just want to congratulate Laura for finishing strong this quarter soaring past her goal. We initially wanted to increase our following on social media by 15%, but thanks to her hard work we increased by 30%.”
9. When an Employee Takes on More Responsibilities:
“Promoting you to director of sales has proven to be a great decision given how well you adapted to your new responsibilities. Your flexibility as you take on new tasks has really pushed the department forward. We can’t wait to see how you continue to grow in this new position.”
10. When an Employee has Submitted Outstanding Work:
“Excellent job on this report, Adrian! It’s clear you’ve taken our notes into consideration and have paid close attention to detail. The way you’ve organized your finding makes this report easy to break down with the rest of our team. Thank you for your hard work!”
Everyone has their own preference when it comes to receiving feedback. However, always remember to be timely, detailed, and sincere when giving positive feedback to your employees. By doing so, you’ll foster a workplace culture that promotes growth, high morale, and employee retention.