Is Positive Feedback Effective, If So Why Do Leaders Avoid It?

Zenger/Folkman, leadership consultants, found that nearly 8,000 managers (or 44%) reported they “found it stressful” to give negative feedback. Z.F. also found that an entire fifth avoids it entirely. But perhaps most shocking, 40% said they never gave any positive feedback. The study concluded that a leader’s willingness to give positive feedback was the top indicator of whether their subordinates consider them effective and honest communicators.

Some research has indicated that giving positive feedback helps subordinates feel like they are learning and growing which leads to increased confidence and competence.

A Gallup survey concluded that managers who communicated their strengths to their employees found employees far more engaged in their work.

Z.F. indicated their studies found reasons for avoiding positive feedback include it being thought of as “un-macho” and a sign of weakness in male dominated industries, while others reported they feared it as being perceived as “blowing smoke”. Others simply may want to avoid familiarity with people that work for them and who they may have to fire or feel they are avoiding the roll of “judge”.

Positive feedback and constructive criticism are two leadership tools that are certainly worth the so-called risks, which are often only perceived as real risks when none exists.