Many of us take vitamin supplements to provide certain health benefits and to ensure we won’t become deficient if we don’t get those vitamins naturally from our daily diet. Vitamin P, more correctly called flavonoids, is found in a number of foods and herbs, ranging from red peppers to tea. It fights the effects of oxidation and free radicals in the body, which are associated with aging, cellular damage, and certain conditions like cancer.
Obviously we can’t intervene with an employees’ actual vitamin intake, but what about the concept of ‘work vitamins’? Are there emotional nutrients that employees should get at work in order to boost their productivity and prevent burnout, cynicism and other serious workplace ‘diseases’? Are they getting enough nutrients now, or do we need to provide supplements?
Let’s say that, in the workplace, Vitamin P stands for Positive Feedback. We know that simple things like saying ‘thank you’, giving praise for a job well done; or pausing occasionally to celebrate accomplishments, important milestones, or finished projects—give employees a morale boost. But, as leaders, we get so busy with our urgent activities, emails, required training and ‘musts’, that it is hard to keep up with what we consider to be the ‘nice-to-have’s’ like giving positive feedback. Are your employees getting enough Vitamin P? Considering your busy schedule and the rise of criticism in society, the chances are slim. In fact, your employees may even be starved for positive feedback.
Our society seems to have gravitated toward criticism rather than praise as a norm. We are all professional critics now—‘Yelp’ food critics after a restaurant meal, ‘Rotten Tomato’ movie critics after watching a flick, and sometimes armchair political critics at night. These critiques are often more heavily weighted with negative, rather than positive, comments. Even though political discussions are wisely and appropriately avoided at work, the tendency toward criticism and some of the brash interaction styles and techniques may be bleeding over into the workplace more than we realize. Where has all the positive feedback gone? We don’t often see it in the media we consume and we may see it less and less in the workplace unless we make an intentional, concerted effort to reverse that trend. We may be unintentionally critiquing our employees quite a bit more often than giving them positive feedback.
It’s not surprising that we’re simultaneously experiencing burnout in the workplace. A Wall Street Journal article says, “Burnout begins when a worker feels overwhelmed for a sustained period of time, then apathetic and ultimately numb.” It also says, “Everyone’s job is now an extreme job”, and cites ‘steep turnover and higher health costs.’ Mini-sabbaticals are one solution offered, but there are likely simpler solutions. Most of us feel better about our jobs when we receive regular encouragement, so we inherently understand that giving employees positive feedback is a ‘must-have’ rather than a ‘nice-to-have’. If we’re too busy to compliment, encourage and help our employees find purpose in their jobs, we’ll be spending ten-fold that time dealing with stress complaints and absenteeism, or recruiting and training new employees to take their place.
Do you give enough positive feedback to your employees and to your family members? Get some statistics of your own. Keep a tally-sheet for one day. Place one tally mark next to a person’s name each time you praise them or give them positive feedback. You may only place a tally mark if the feedback is sincere, is the type of praise that person prefers (public or private?) and is not followed by a criticism. One manager I know puts praise reminders in his phone. That may seem forced, but we use reminders for everything else—why not for positive feedback? The main point is to develop a method to ensure you’re celebrating employee accomplishments and coaching them for positive performance as well as improvement areas.
I dare you to heap the praise and positive feedback upon your employees. You simply can’t give too much. As long as it is true and real, delivered in a way that each employee prefers, and efforts are made to distribute feedback to each team member over time, it’s hard to go wrong. Supplement your employees with enough Vitamin P to ensure you have a healthy, happy, productive team.
Do you give and receive enough positive feedback in the workplace? Let’s hear your comments.