The Power of Positivity

A successful organization should power positivity at every level

Ensuring positivity is crucial when empowering employees to constructively develop within an organization. As a manager praises the areas in which one has scored well, an employee will realize they are valued within the organization and will, therefore, be more open to receiving critiques. Basically, a positive attitude will create an environment for feedback to be openly discussed and ensure that employees feel valued enough to receive feedback in the first place.

Understanding one’s value is a major motivating factor in encouraging an employee to thrive. McGregor (2014) states:

“If negative feedback has the potential to discourage even the best performers and the most industrious employees, then managers need to be especially careful that what’s intended as praise doesn’t get misconstrued as criticism.”

Academic research on the perception of positive feedback has been somewhat contradictory since it is seen as more of a sociocultural phenomenon than something tangible that can be substantiated by research. For example, Brett and Atwater (2001) found that individuals tend to show negative behavior to negative feedback, but rarely are inspired by the reception of positive feedback. These findings are critical since the presentation of feedback that has the ability to inspire or discourage an employee. An employee’s emotional and behavioral actions may hinder their ability to effectively receive feedback and constructively improve on it.

To mitigate perceptions of negative feedback, Kluger and De Nisi (1998) suggest tailoring feedback to goals at the task level and less directed at the individual. This approach allows for the individual to feel less victimized by negative feedback and more motivated to improve the developmental goals. The research concluded by Hattie and Timperley (2007) states that feedback is more effective when it builds on positivity and improvements from the previous trials. In other words, improved performance is correlated with setting direct goals focused on development. These positively framed goals are then able to be interpreted as solutions for improvement, and not direct criticism.



Brett, J., & Atwater, L. (2001). 360-degree feedback: Accuracy, reactions and perceptions of usefulness. Journal of Applied Psychology, 86, 930-942.

DeNisi, A. S., & Kluger, A. N. (2000). Feedback effectiveness: Can 360-degree appraisals be improved? Academy of Management Executive, 14(1), 129–139.

Hattie, J., Timperley, H. (2007). The Power of Feedback. Review of Educational Research, 77(1), 81-112.

McGregor, J. (2014). Study finds that basically every single person hates performance reviews. Washington Post. 27 January 2014.