Don’t freak there is NO math in this post…
But before I get into feedback ratio’s let me give you some background on why today is a little different on the reMix.
Did you know there are a ton of organizational research resources out there? Even if you don’t have the capability of tracking and analyzing your own data you can still take advantage of research that is out there. That is what I try to do. I read a lot of research and white papers in the hopes of gleaning some practical application for us regular HR pros. Today, I’m writing about it. If you like it I may make this a regular series…so please tell me if you do!
Today, I’m highlighting a blog post from the Harvard Business review that talks about the perfect ratio of positive to negative feedback.
A quick snapshot of their findings (read the entire post here):
After surveying a number of teams, researchers found the highest performing teams were those that provided 5.6 positive feedback comments to every 1 negative comment. Too much positive feedback and team performance is negatively affected; vice versa with negative feedback.
Another interesting finding dealt with leaders who receive negative feedback:
“Specifically, our aggregate data show that three-fourths of those receiving the lowest leadership effectiveness scores who made an effort to improve, rose on average 33 percentile points in their rankings after a year. That is, they were able to move from the 23rd percentile (the middle of the worst) to the 56th percentile (or square in the middle of the pack).”
This is an interesting finding as the authors point out, people who receive the worst feedback have nowhere to go but up:
“A few colleagues have raised their eyebrows when we’ve noted this because we’re strongly in the camp that proposes that leaders work on their strengths. How do we reconcile these seemingly contrary perspectives? Simple: the people who get the most negative feedback have the most room to grow. It’s far harder for someone at the 90th percentile already to improve so much.”
So this is great info but how can we apply it every day at work? Read on for some of my suggestions and make sure to drop a line in the comments with your own thoughts on how we can use this info.
1. Negative feedback is good. Often we shy away from giving negative feedback because we are afraid to hurt feelings or we think if we praise good stuff the bad performers will get the message (they won’t). Here is strong evidence that constructive negative criticism can be helpful, especially when we save it for situations where someone or their project/team has truly gone wrong off the rails.
2. All kinds of problems come with only giving positive feedback. If you only give positive feedback team mates are less likely to take your praise seriously because you never differentiate between what is status quo and what is truly great. Don’t shy away from negative feedback but give it at the right time (see number one above). The research shows to much positive feedback is just as bad as too much negative feedback.
3. Keep it in proportion. How on earth can we make sure we are proportionate with our feedback? I am a big fan of diaries. Not long “Dear Diary” entries. I’m more concerned with building awareness. I’ve done this twice before and each time it has helped me build awareness around my behavior (what I eat and what I spend my time doing). You don’t need to keep them forever but the idea is to make yourself aware of your actions. When you start tracking stuff this happens pretty quickly.
What about you? What are your thoughts on positive and negative feedback? How would you take the above research and apply it? Tell me your thoughts in the comments!