This Blog Post by Heidi Grant Halvorson is worth checking out, as it debunks the notion that we should only give positive feedback. There is a classic scene in the movie “Meet the Fockers.” In the movie, the lead character’s (Greg) father-in-law is stunned to find out that they make 9th place ribbons. He makes this discovery while perusing a shrine to Greg still maintained by Greg’s parents that feature a number of the mementos to mediocrity. I think it rather brilliantly illustrates the idea we should only encourage and never criticize. Criticism though is an important and necessary component of staff development, and understanding when to use each is important.
So what purpose does positive and negative feedback serve? Positive feedback does help to increase staff commitment by enhancing their experience and boosting their confidence. Negative feedback is more explanatory as it provides feedback on where staff needs to spend place additional effort, as well as offering insight into how they might improve.
With that understanding, you can see that positive and negative feedback each serve a purpose. For an inexperienced staff member, positive feedback may help them to stay optimistic and comfortable given the challenges they are facing. This added encouragement is something novices tend to need more than the seasoned pro. When you are dealing with an expert, and they essentially are looking for those opportunities for incremental improvement, it’s negative feedback or criticism that will help them achieve at the next level.
Keep this lesson in mind when trying to develop staff. This isn’t second grade soccer, so we don’t have to hand out 9th place ribbons. Negative feedback may be exactly what certain members of your team need to be on top of their game.