Performance Feedback: Don’t Just Say “Good Job”

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If you are a people manager, you should be familiar with the concept of performance feedback.  If you are not familiar with this topic, or are not actively providing it to people on your team, then read this blog. You need to start providing performance feedback, because it is a key skill employed by great managers, and will be a frequent tool in solving behavior and performance problems.

Performance Feedback is the act of discussing with your team members whether they are performing according to expectations, and what they should do differently or keep doing.  It is typically given individually, but can be done as a team, as long as the feedback is on the level of the team, not the individual.  Consider that an advanced skill.  Let’s look at individual performance feedback for now:

When giving performance feedback, focus on what, specifically, the team member did, whether it met the standard of performance you were expecting, and what the team member should do differently or continue doing.  Here’s an example of poor performance feedback:

Manager: “You did a great job.”

While this is a good example of positive reinforcement, this is a bad example of performance feedback. It does not describe what the person did, nor did it describe whether or not it met the expectations, or how it contributed to meeting/not meeting expectations.  Additionally, there were no recommendations for what should be done in the future.  If you say, “Good job” to someone on your staff, you really are just reinforcing the belief that everything they are doing is good.  In addition to some good work, a staff member may, for example, be acting unethically in a way you don’t know about (yet), so when you send out the “good job” message, you may be inadvertently encouraging some very bad behavior.  Those behaving badly are looking for reinforcement of their bad behavior, and will use any input from you to justify it.  Good job!

The alternative to “good job” is to at least make an attempt to articulate what it is in your head when you have the urge to say, “Good job.”  You can say, “Good job” still, but add, “for that.”  How about:

Manager:  “When you drilled down with the developer to determine which bugs they would be able resolve by the end of the week, and provided the status to the team, that helped to resolve a problem that
has been lingering for a few weeks.  Good job for doing that.”

Manager: “When you developed a new way to measure the outcomes of our program, it got a good response from my Senior Director. I shared with her that you’ve done a few things to improve how our program evaluation operates.  Good job for doing that!” (This one has more enthusiasm—it’s OK to be enthusiastic.)

Note how at least there was an attempt to isolate the actions that earned “good job” from the manager.  The employee knows what it is that was done, and will continue to do it.  . . .and won’t confuse it with the other things that might not be as much of a good job.

Click here to see my thoughts on what to say when you want to say “Bad job” (or worse) to your employee.

Are you in the habit of saying “Good Job?”  Do you add what it was in particular that was good?

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About Walter Oelwein
Walter Oelwein, CMC, CPT, helps managers become better at managing. To do this, he founded Business Performance Consulting, LLC .


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