In my work as a leadership coach I work with Millennials who often complain they don’t receive enough positive feedback from their supervisors. I also work with leaders in their 40s and 50s who claim their younger direct reports continually crave recognition for a job well done.
Is the desire for positive feedback contributing to confirmation bias, looking to confirm what they already believe: they are a good performer in the workplace? And is this perhaps a symptom or result of what social media has created? Or is it merely related to a lack of confidence that they will grow out of as they mature in their careers?
For those reluctant to provide such positive feedback, are they preventing the opportunity to bring out the best in their employees? Do they believe delivering such comments is unnecessary and maybe even destructive? Or are they holding back because they didn’t receive it earlier in their own careers?
Regular feedback is important for anyone in order to understand what they are doing well and what they are doing not so well. It is also vital to know what to continue doing, what to stop doing, and what to start doing. This is integral to one’s growth and development whatever the job, and it shouldn’t be delivered only in awkward annual performance reviews.
Leaving out regular positive feedback is just as bad as leaving out regular critical feedback.
As I wrote in a post two years ago, what provides true satisfaction in the workplace is not the salary, job title, or other external expressions of worth, but whether or not the person feels valued by their manager, their peers and by the company as a whole. Conveying this appreciation costs you and the company nothing.
So why are leaders reluctant to dish out more compliments for a job well done and for the value they see their employees delivering?
It could be many are perfectionists believing there is always room for improvement and therefore little reason to praise. Some may be more intrinsically motivated and believe others should be as well. These leaders do their job because they gain satisfaction without the need for external rewards or recognition. Salary and regular promotions should be enough.
But are they?
Research has found that people often leave a company due to a bad manager. When employees find their direct supervisor doesn’t believe in and express the value they see in them, they seek greener (not necessarily based on dollars) pastures. This is bad for organizations as it leads to lower motivation, lower productivity and higher turnover.
In order to provide more positive feedback with the motivation needed to feel valued in the workplace, leaders can modify their approach in the following ways:
Catch employees doing things right
Provide positive comments in the moment. Don’t hold back your compliments until the end of the year. Instead, find ways to encourage individuals when you see them doing something particularly well. A little goes a long way.
Normalize positive feedback
In your regular one-on-one meetings, be sure to point out where you think the individual did something particularly well or worked especially hard since the last meeting. Don’t make a big deal about it, simply make a habit of stating your recognition of the value they bring.
Celebrate incremental victories for the individual or team
Don’t wait until the end of the year to celebrate overall performance. Provide praise at milestones and recognize individual contributions publicly. This simple recognition goes a long way towards people feeling valued by you and the organization.
None of this will matter, of course, unless you are sincere in your behavior. Your intended audience will sense a lack of genuine sincerity and your efforts will be wasted. Make your appreciation behaviorally specific and make it meaningful. This positive feedback will help provide the recognition necessary to bring out the best in your employees.