Two studies look at motivation and whether it’s better to pat workers on the back or boot them in the backside.
Beginning with the emotional side of the issue, HR consultant Towers Watson asked a sample of workers what got them to do more for their employers and made them feel more connected and loyal. The overwhelming number said positive feedback from a direct supervisor was the main motivator.
In other words, employees responded better to being told what they did right instead of what they did wrong.
Your first reaction might be: “Well, when they do something wrong, the best thing to do is tell them about it.”
The study doesn’t dispute that. But here’s the kicker: 60% of employees said they more often got negative feedback and less often got positive feedback. So, either:
- Most employees are doing the wrong thing most of the time, or
- Most managers go heavy on the criticism and light on the compliments.
A second study by Marcial Losada, director of the Center for Advanced Research in Ann Arbor, MI, quantified the differences in worker reaction to positive and negative feedback. To summarize, the study correlates high performance to higher ratios of positive feedback.
Both studies boil down to a simple principle: People respond better to “nice job” than they do to “you stink.”