Feedback is one of those parts of workplace life that is often easier to talk about than actually give. There have been numerous studies revealing its impact upon things like employee engagement and productivity. Of course, this very much depends upon the nature of the feedback we receive.
Rutgers University professor Daniel Goleman explains in a recent Harvard Business Review how receiving criticism can trigger anxiety and negative emotion. These feelings then result in us shutting down emotionally and barring our way from coming up with a constructive means of improving.
A better approach, Goleman says, is to talk to that employee about their dreams instead. Using neurology, he believes he’s found the way to delivering improved performance is to talk about positive goals and dreams as this then opens up the individual to new possibilities.
This desire for reinforcing the positives was something emphasised in The Progress Principle, which claimed that the secret to positive employee engagement was making progress at work. A new paper supports this conclusion, reminding us of the dynamic impact upon our wellbeing of positive events.
Participants in the study completed four two minute surveys every day over a 15 day period. The four surveys were conducted at intervals, with the first completed 2 hours after arriving at work, with subsequent surveys completed at two hour intervals. In each, participants were asked to record whether they had experienced anything positive in the preceding period, or indeed anything negative.
It emerged that negative events unsurprisingly correlated with heightened stress during that period. Positive events however not only resulted in less stress for that particular period, but also for the following one.
Participants were also fitted up with blood pressure monitors throughout the day. The aim was to see whether higher systolic pressure was present during days with negative events. Systolic pressure is regarded as a good indicator of physiological stress. You can probably guess the findings.
The research spiced up a little half way through, when participants were offered an intervention via a positive reflection exercise they could complete at the end of the day. This required participants to look back on three good things that happened during the day and jot them down in a diary.
This process had no impact at all on blood pressure, but it did result in fewer reportings of stress related symptoms by the participants. These symptoms would often return whenever participants forget to do the reflection. Now, it should be said, these effects were not especially large, so caution should be had when applying too much weight to the findings, but nevertheless they join a zeitgeist supporting the positive reinforcement of the kind of behaviours you want to see, and the positive impact success has on our corporate wellbeing.