For every action there is an opposite and equal reaction. Giving feedback to employees is no different.
Therefore, when you encourage one thing you are discouraging another. Likewise, when you discourage one action, you are implying an encouragement of its opposite.
It has become fashionable to only and always be encouraging. That is why every child in every activity receives a participation award. It's why parents abdicate their responsibilities for setting boundaries. It's why managers find it so difficult to give constructive feedback to employees (which is perceived as negative).
In some circles, a lack of encouragement is thought to be a discouragement. But this seldom works out, because there is a pervasive lack of encouragement given anyway. So most people continue doing what they're doing, thinking it's the right thing to do even though it isn't being encouraged nor discouraged.
What a mess!
It is okay to discourage unproductive and wrong behaviors when giving feedback to employees. This does not have to be done under the guise of encouragement. It is okay to discourage directly, when your intent is constructive.
Many self-indulgent and enabling behaviors are the result of others unwillingness to be discouraging. The problem, however, is that a lack of discouragement ends up being an encouragement.
So here are examples of times when it's okay to be discouraging with the knowledge that you are also being encouraging. You discourage what isn't working and encourage what would work better.
How to Give Constructive Feedback to Employees
1. Don't encourage efforts that go nowhere.
Instead, redirect and encourage more productive efforts. Discourage the things that do not work and encourage the things that do.
2. Discourage self-limiting, unproductive and self-destructive choices.
Encourage positive choices.
3. Discourage self-indulgent emotions that go overboard.
Encourage a reality check, one that will cause effectiveness that ultimately results in an improved emotional state.
As a leader, try not to think of your feedback to others as positive or negative, encouraging or discouraging. Think instead of the outcomes of your feedback.
Encourage means to put courage into and discourage means to take courage out of. If you are thoughtful and deliberate in the feedback you provide, you will steer courage toward the places that most need and deserve it.
This blog post is part of the CONNECT! Community’s September focus on connecting by encouraging others. As a leader, you will be able to more effectively CONNECT2Lead when you actively and enthusiastically embolden and ennoble others. Be sure to subscribe to the CONNECT2Lead Blog for weekly tips and techniques on leading with a people first approach. To God be the glory!