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Performance Feedback that Employees Welcome

I have to admit that I am one of those people who becomes uncomfortable when someone says positive things about my work. Of course I do want to get feedback to know how I’ve done, and I prefer positive feedback over the alternative. For me, I like to hear someone say something specific about the work rather than some comment about me.

For instance I prefer: “I really liked the idea you had for implementing OBM as a participative initiative rather than a management-driven process.”

This is not as good for me: “The idea for implementing OBM as a participative rather than a management-driven initiative was brilliant. You’re very creative.”

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How to Become a Positive Reinforcer

Most supervisors and managers want to be liked and respected by their employees. Many of us don't have a likable personality; we are not well suited to be supervisors. We either don't have the social skills or we are too impatient or we are too perfectionistic. But, we have the job and we're doing our best.

We're told supervisors who get the highest levels of performance from their employees use positive reinforcement (R+, positive verbal comments about employee job performance). The problems is, positive reinforcement does not work – your efforts to R+ someone are not effective – if you have a poor relationship with the person you are trying to R+. Your relationship with an employee does not improve just because you try to make positive comments about something they have done on the job.

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Corporate Culture as an Extension of Leader Behavior

If you Google “Organizational Culture,” you get over 4,000,000 search results. Wikipedia has one of the first results, and as you scan the description you immediately began to blanch with confusion. If you work in a corporation that will soon undertake a “culture change” initiative, you may begin to tear up. Here is the first paragraph of Wikipedia’s description:

Organizational culture, or corporate culture, comprises the attitudes, experiences, beliefs and values of an organization. It has been defined as the specific collection of values and norms that are shared by people and groups in an organization and that control the way they interact with each other and with stakeholders outside the organization. Organizational values are beliefs and ideas about what kinds of goals members of an organization should pursue and ideas about the appropriate kinds or standards of behavior organizational members should use to achieve these goals. From organizational values develop organizational norms, guidelines or expectations that prescribe appropriate kinds of behavior by employees in particular situations and control the behavior of organizational members towards one another.” —Wikipedia

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Be Positive, but Be the Boss

Always try to say positive things about their work when you are going to ask them to do something extra, or something onerous that no one else wants to do. You have to set them up right or they may try to back out.

Don’t attempt to learn too much about the actual work they do. All that detail gets boring. Knowing the job is their business. If you make a few mistakes – so what. You have a big job and a lot on your plate.

Only make comments about the obvious performance elements of their job, like productivity. Try not to address the details of their work – like the challenges they have to overcome to get the job done. Best not to get into the weeds.

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