Years ago, I worked at an office where the only time I ever heard from my manager was if I fell short of expectations. Without positive feedback, I felt like all of my wins went unnoticed and that they didn’t matter nearly as much as my losses. This caused me to lose motivation and my productivity began to suffer. It also pushed me to leave the company and seek better opportunities elsewhere.
While it’s important to let employees know where there are areas that need improvement, it’s equally important to give positive feedback so they know where they shine. Giving positive feedback boosts morale, instills confidence, and motivates employees to do their best. It also helps you retain great people who will move your business forward.
A survey by the Society of Human Resource Management found that 80% of HR leaders work at organizations that have an employee recognition program.
Of those leaders, 89% reported their recognition program helped improve the overall employee experience. 86% said it improved employee relationships and 84% said it improved employee engagement.
There are many ways to give positive feedback, but first you must understand what it is.
What is positive feedback?
Positive feedback is the act of recognizing and praising someone for their accomplishments, strengths, and talents. Positive feedback tells an employee what they’re doing right and what they should continue to do.
“If you focus on what someone shouldn't do without also touching on the things they should do or keep doing, you're only providing half of an instruction,” says HubSpot’s Historical Optimization Team Manager Amanda Sellers. “Good constructive feedback paired with positive feedback, on the other hand, is a balanced way to paint a whole picture, resulting in more effective outcomes.”
In the workplace, positive feedback from leadership can come in many forms, such as congratulating someone on hitting an important milestone. It can also be in the form of highlighting an employee’s important contribution in a team assignment.
“My approach is that any time I get or have positive feedback about someone I work with, whether I’m their manager or peer, I pass it on,” says our Director of English Growth Aja Frost. “This is such a great way to help others understand how they’re perceived and recognize them for their work. I aim to be as specific as possible.”
How to Give Positive Feedback
Though every employee is different, it generally helps to do the following when giving positive feedback:
- Link the positive behavior to business results. For example, explaining that an employee’s understanding of social media algorithms has increased the company’s engagement across platforms.
- Reward them for their hard work with something you know they’d appreciate, such as a digital e-gift card from Rybbon or a gift from Reachdesk.
- Deliver the feedback as soon as possible after noticing the employee’s achievements or strength.
- Whenever possible or appropriate, deliver positive feedback in front of others.
- Be specific and detailed in your feedback. Include the who, what, where, and why of the matter, so the recipient can apply the feedback to future projects.
It’s also important to check in and ask about their preferences. In one of the earliest conversations I had with my manager at HubSpot, I was asked how I prefer to communicate and receive feedback. Did I prefer email, video call, virtual chat, or some other way? This has helped us communicate effectively and I definitely suggest asking your employees the same question early on.
Positive Feedback Examples
Of course not everyone knows the right thing to say in every situation, but don’t worry! Here are some examples of positive feedback that you can give in different scenarios to encourage your employees’ success.
Positive Feedback Examples
- When an Employee is Being a Team Player
- When an Employee Needs a Boost in Confidence
- When an Employee Hits a New Milestone
- When an Employee Completes a Difficult Assignment
- When an Employee Handles Conflict in a Professional Manner
- When an Employee Helps a Coworker
- When an Employee Takes on Additional Tasks Outside Their Role
- When an Employee Exceeds Expectations
- When an Employee Takes on More Responsibilities
- When an Employee has Submitted Outstanding Work
“I appreciate your commitment to keeping everyone on your team focused and up-to-date with their tasks. Thanks to your efforts, the project was completed on time and impressed our clients. Thank you so much for your hard work. That kind of team player mentality is an asset our company values highly.”
2. When an Employee Needs a Boost in Confidence:
“Hey John! You’ve been doing an excellent job lately. Since starting here, you have shown so much growth. The quality of your work improved and your ability to multitask has helped our projects run smoothly. Thank you for your hard work, and don’t hesitate to reach out if there’s anything I can help you with.”
3. When an Employee Hits a New Milestone:
“Congratulations to Sarah on leading her first social media campaign. To watch her grow from an assistant to the bold leader she is now has been an honor. I can’t wait to see more of her amazing ideas going forward.”
4. When an Employee Completes a Difficult Assignment:
“Thank you so much for completing this task. I understand it was more complicated than we initially thought and required more time. Your positive attitude through it all and your attention to detail is much appreciated. While this was your first time completing such a task, we knew you were the right person to take it on.”
5. When an Employee Handles Conflict in a Professional Manner:
“Thank you for resolving the issue with a disgruntled client today. It’s not easy to navigate conflict with an unhappy client, but you handled it with such grace. Conflict resolution is an important part of the job and you clearly demonstrated your skills in that area.”
6. When an Employee Helps a Coworker:
“I just want to thank Jeffery for training our new hire, Jessica, and helping her acclimate to both her new role and the company. Jeffery has made himself available for all of her questions and has provided excellent guidance. All this has made Jessica’s transition into the company seamless.”
7. When an Employee Takes on Additional Tasks Outside Their Role:
“I just want to give a shout out to Michael for taking it upon himself to assume some of the responsibilities of the assistant manager while we look for someone to fill the role. His proactiveness has helped us immensely, and because of that we’ve been able to dedicate time to finding a successful candidate for the role without falling behind on our initiatives.”
8. When an Employee Exceeds Expectations:
“I just want to congratulate Laura for finishing strong this quarter soaring past her goal. We initially wanted to increase our following on social media by 15%, but thanks to her hard work we increased by 30%.”
9. When an Employee Takes on More Responsibilities:
“Promoting you to director of sales has proven to be a great decision given how well you adapted to your new responsibilities. Your flexibility as you take on new tasks has really pushed the department forward. We can’t wait to see how you continue to grow in this new position.”
10. When an Employee has Submitted Outstanding Work:
“Excellent job on this report, Adrian! It’s clear you’ve taken our notes into consideration and have paid close attention to detail. The way you’ve organized your finding makes this report easy to break down with the rest of our team. Thank you for your hard work!”
11. When an Employee is Proactive:
"Thank you for getting that agenda together ahead of our meeting. Your planning skills allowed us to easily track all of this project's moving parts and focus our efforts. Thank you for being proactive and saving us time."
12. When an Employee Collaborates Well:
"I really appreciate your outreach to stakeholders to get feedback on this initiative. Their insights and feedback have been incredibly helpful. Thank you for anticipating our need to reach out."
13. When an Employee Exhibits Company Values:
"No matter what you work on, you've always done it with excellence and with our core values at the forefront. Thank you for always bringing your support and kindness to all company initiatives."
14. When an Employee Adapts Well to Change:
"Our organization has undergone so many changes this past month and I realize this has been hard on the team. Thank you for making things easier with your positive attitude and flexibility. It's made this transition more pleasant for the rest of us."
15. When an Employee Delights Customers:
"We just received a review from one of our clients you assisted last week. They were so pleased and said you went above and beyond to resolve their issue. Thank you for not only making our team proud but being an ambassador for the brand."
16. When an Employee Contributes to Meetings:
"Your input in today's meeting was super insightful and well researched. Thank you for contributing and your ideas will make this project better. Can't wait to hear more from you. Keep up the good work!"
17. When an Employee Shows Proficiency in Skills:
"I'm so impressed with your development over these last few weeks. Your willingness to learn and master new skills is remarkable."
18. When an Employee Exhibits Leadership Skills:
"Thank you for spearheading this new project. Your leadership and attention to detail made all the difference executing this new initiative."
19. When an Employee Demonstrates Growth:
"I've noticed you've taken on a variety of challenging projects lately and it's been great to see you step outside your comfort zone. We've seen a significant improvement in your skills and performance. Keep up the good work."
20. When an Employee Shows Innovation:
"Thank you for consistently coming up with new ways to solve problems. Your knack for innovation hasn't gone unnoticed and we really appreciate your efforts to improve processes for everyone."
21. When an Employee Finds Creative Solutions:
"I am really impressed with your ability to think outside the box and take risks to come up with solutions for the team. Please let me know if there is anything I can do to support your efforts."
22. When an Employee Takes Constructive Criticism:
"I know it wasn't easy having to rewrite that proposal, but the new one you submitted today shows you listened to our feedback and made adjustments. I'm impressed you managed to take those points and implement them so quickly. I really appreciate it."
23. When an Employee Shows Enthusiasm for the Role:
"Thank you for being so energetic and eager to excel in your role and solve for the customer. Your energy is contagious and motivates others to do the same. "
24: When a New Employee Learns the Ropes:
"I know you're just getting settled into your role, but I just wanted to tell you that everyone speaks highly of you and your positive attitude. Please let me know if you have any questions and keep up the good work."
25: When an Employee Knows When to Ask for Help:
"I'm really glad you came to me for assistance with this project. I know it's not easy. I'm happy to help with anything you need to ensure we continue to meet our set deadlines. Thank you for being proactive."
26. When an Employee Steps Outside Their Comfort Zone:
"Thank you so much for pitching your ideas in today's meeting. I know it can be intimidating at first but the more you do it, the more comfortable you'll get. We really appreciate you stepping outside your comfort zone to help us accomplish our goals."
27. When an Employee Gets a Promotion:
"Congratulations on your new position! You've always been a key asset to our team and we are so fortunate to see you take on new responsibilities. This promotion is much deserved."
28. When an Employee Brings Fresh Ideas:
"Thank you for sharing your ideas in today's planning meeting. Implementing those suggestions will make this project roll out go so much smoother. Thank you for taking the time to come up with solutions prior to this meeting."
29. When an Employee Motivates Others:
"I'm really impressed with your ability to motivate others and be a team player. Everyone really appreciates how you made time to allow everyone to share their ideas. Thank you for being an excellent collaborator. "
31. When an Employee Learns from Previous Mistakes
"Thank you so much for making a pivot with this project after our discussion. I know it's not easy to change a project you worked hard on. With the changes made it's sure to be a success."
32. When an Employee is Burnt Out or Overwhelmed:
"I've noticed you're burnt out and running on fumes. Your contributions are greatly appreciated and your hard work hasn't gone unnoticed. Please let me know if there is anything I can do to support you and if you'd like to arrange some much needed time off. "
33. When an Employee Gets Praise from Others:
"Thank you for all of your efforts getting this project off the ground. Everyone speaks highly of you and your team told me you are incredibly knowledgeable and a pleasure to work with. We're grateful to have you on board."
34. When an Employee Demonstrates Focus:
"I really appreciate you taking charge of this initiative and sticking with it —despite the research phase taking longer than expected. That extra step is paying off and now key stakeholders are on board. Thank you."
35. When an Employee is Calm Under Pressure:
"You've done an incredible job fixing this bug on such short notice. I know this client has been demanding and a handful. Thank you for getting their issue resolved quickly and calmly."
Timely Feedback is Key
Everyone has their own preference when it comes to receiving feedback. However, always remember to be timely, detailed, and sincere when giving positive feedback to your employees. By doing so, you’ll foster a workplace culture that promotes growth, high morale, and employee retention.
Editor's note: This article was originally published in May 2019 and has been updated for Comprehensiveness.