First, the good news. Managers are really good at giving praise to their employees. Now, the bad news. Most of the time the manager mistakenly thinks they are giving positive feedback when they dish out that praise. The problem is that there is a big difference between praise and positive feedback, and managers need to understand the difference if they hope to be effective. Here’s a quick look at both:
Praise is a general “feel good” statement to your employee. It’s not specific enough about job performance to let the employee know what he or she is doing well or what to keep doing. It is usually a quick sentence or two.
“Hey Mary, keep up the good work.” or “You’re doing a great job, Bob.”
Positive feedback is specific information about a job well done by your employee. It is objective and based on behaviors that have been observed on the job.
“Mary, I wanted to thank you for your contribution to the Atlas project. The reports you produced for the customer were thorough and accurate and it really helped the customer to see why our company was the right choice for this job.”
Praise alone often leaves the employee wondering what exactly they are being complimented on. Worse yet, without the specificity that positive feedback provides, will not feel appreciated for their efforts. Even if they are praised. With the detail that positive feedback brings, it lets the employee know that their manager is paying attention to their work and cares enough to tell them what they appreciate.
The message for managers is that if you have enough time to walk by and give praise to someone, make the extra effort to give some specific, positive feedback.