The Power of Positive Feedback – and How It Can Fuel Employee Behavior

© Tan Kian Khoon -
© Tan Kian Khoon -

Usually a contagion is a bad thing – unless we’re talking about the effects of positive psychology in the workplace.

Positive psychology is a terrific theory: “Create an environment in which employees can be happy through positive actions and reactions and employees will be more creative and productive.” But how does this actually play out in a real office?

A recent article in Fast to Create looked at positive psychology in practice at Havas Worldwide London, helmed by CEO Russ Lidstone who comments on the impact at Havas:

When times are tough, there can be a tendency to focus most on what needs improving. What I’ve been trying to do is create a more positive framework for feedback within the agency –  time to ask what’s good that’s been achieved today and to recognize and bolster employees and colleagues.”

Positive strokes, not a negative spiral

Consultant psychologist and professor Neil Frude is also cited in the article, further explaining this focus of positive psychology:

‘Positive psychology’ is about playing to strengths – enhancing positive emotions, rather than the old approach of using psychology to fix problems.”

Instead of a negative spiral of constant criticism, fault finding, and blame, we as leaders and managers have an opportunity to create a positive contagion (to use Dr. Frude’s word) of praise, appreciation and recognition of success, progress made, and desirable behaviors demonstrated.

Does that mean criticism never has a place in the workplace? Of course not.

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We also learn from our errors and need criticism to understand when and where we can improve. But never forget, it takes five positive points of praise to balance out the impact of one negative (if necessary) criticism.

How is attention focused in your workplace? On the positive or the negative? Which approach do you find more effective in driving desired outcomes and business results?

You can find more from Derek Irvine on his Recognize This! blog.

Derek Irvine is one of the world’s foremost experts on employee recognition and engagement, helping business leaders set a higher vision and ambition for their company culture. As the Vice President of Client Strategy and Consulting at Globoforce, Derek helps clients — including some of world’s most admired companies such as Proctor and Gamble, Intuit, KPMG, and Thomson Reuters — leverage recognition strategies and best practices to better manage company culture, elevate employee engagement, increase retention, and improve the bottom line. He's also a renowned speaker and co-author of Winning with a Culture of Recognition. Contact him at


1 Comment on “The Power of Positive Feedback – and How It Can Fuel Employee Behavior

  1. I believe that positive feedback to can influence employee to be more productive in their responsibilities. I also believe that training and proper instruction is also important to minimize problems.

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