The Feedback Balance
Some of us are really good at giving positive feedback. Others are really good at giving negative feedback. Not many seem skilled in providing both, what we call balanced feedback.
When most or all feedback is negative, people know what you don’t like, but they often have to guess at what you do like or want from them. They may feel overwhelmed and discouraged by the criticism, and they may take it personally. They don’t read minds, and so are often confused about what you really want. They may lose confidence, since everything they do seems wrong. In addition, if the only time they hear from you is when you have a complaint, they may soon begin to feel defensive, or try to avoid interactions with you.
If all you give is positive feedback, people can have an unrealistically high view of their worth and performance levels. Because they receive unbalanced responses, they can have confidence above and beyond their actual performance levels. This can lead to employees becoming complacent and lazy and hence their performance falls.
Balanced feedback provides a response on what is being done well as well as what could be improved. The positive comments builds confidence and reinforces the “good” behaviour you want to see more of. It clarifies expectations. It feels good. The negative feedback is given factually and preferably with suggestions for improvement. By being honest and straightforward, and by being balanced, the people you influence can build skills and confidence at the same time.
Feedback to employees is information regarding their performance and also is information they can act on. Feedback must be shared in a manner that is understandable to them and is perceived by them as being provided in a highly respectful manner. Sharing feedback involves skills in effective listening, verbal and non-verbal communications, and working in multi-cultural environments.
Clearly, finding the right balance of feedback is key to motivating your employees. However, that is not to say there is a ‘perfect balance’ of feedback. You should tailor your levels of encouragement and criticism to each individual, as everyone will react differently.