Giving Immediate Positive Feedback

by Dave DeJohn

In the last newsletter, we presented Part 1 of Giving Immediate Positive Feedback consisting of Positive Feedback and Immediate Feedback. In this issue, we present Part 2: Setting a Positive Tone in Feedback and Feedback Model.

Setting a Positive Tone in Feedback

Feedback is more effective if you make it personal. Setting a positive tone in your feedback is key to making that happen by using “I”, not “We”, Not Over-Doing it, Ensuring the Feedback Fits, and Speaking From the Heart.

You can knock down any barrier of us-against-them by using “I,” not “we.” Notice the difference:

“I appreciate how you locked out the circuit panel before you changed the light switch…”


“We appreciate how you locked out…”

Do you see the difference? Who’s “we”? If you use “we,” workers may think you represent management and you’re a spy.

Or they may even think you have a multiple personality disorder. If you do, fine. Just ask the more positive one of you to use “I,” not “we.”

Also, never overdo it. If you start listing every single flaw you saw, you run the risk of diluting the important thing you seek to encourage.

So if the biggie was a desirable lockout behavior, don’t start going down the list of eye protection, face protection, hearing protection, lifting legs, wearing gloves, et cetera, et cetera or you’ll lose your effectiveness. Focus on one or two of the prominent behaviors.

Next, make sure the feedback you’re providing fits. It may seem obvious, but don’t tell someone they wore face protection when they didn’t. And if everyone always wears hearing protection, don’t celebrate someone wearing ear plugs of it as if it’s that big a big deal. It will seem fake.

Please, don’t read to your co-worker. If you take your list and say, “You did good on eye and face protection, hearing protection, ladders, kept eyes on work, eyes on path…” it will have little meaning to the worker.

Finally, always speak from the heart. If you’re impressed that a worker wore safety glasses, don’t rave on as though the person just discovered a cure for cancer. Just tell the worker you appreciate seeing the eyes being protected and mean it. Sincerely.

Feedback Model

Effective feedback is a two-way conversation. It would be easier to just tell workers what you have to say and move on. But after you get the hang of it, you’ll find that they will be much more open to your feedback when you listen to what they have to say too. Here is a feedback framework to use as a tool in discussing about your observation.

First, describe the behavior you observed, such as, “I noticed you kept your back straight when lifting that pallet.” Don’t say, “You were safe” or “You did a good job.” Such statements are not clear descriptions of behavior. “You wore your safety glasses” describes more specifically what you saw.”

After you describe the behavior, state the impact of the behavior you observed. This part will keep your feedback genuine. For example, “using your legs will save your back.” Then put it all together, “I noticed you kept your back straight while lifting that pallet. Using your legs will save your back.”

Believe it or not, here’s the part most new observers have problems with — saying nothing. Wait. Pause. Let them respond. Maybe they agree. Maybe they don’t. Either way, if you never pause to give workers a chance to talk, they’ll never engage. So, again, after putting it together as in, “I noticed you kept your back straight while lifting that pallet. Using your legs will save your back,” PAUSE. Offer them the floor.

Finally, the next problem newer observers have is listening. Remember, the best way to listen is with your ears, not with your mouth. Listening will at least let you know where the person is coming from. They’ll be more willing to listen to you if they know you’re willing to listen to them. Again, after putting it all together in, “I noticed you kept your back straight while lifting that pallet. Using your legs will save your back,” PAUSE and LISTEN.

Remember, the goal is to make this a conversation. A positive conversation. To do so, try the feedback model anytime you’re giving feedback. Describe what you saw the person doing, state the impact, then