What’s so positive about negative feedback?

  • Published
  • By Lt. Col. Kyle Forrer
  • 43rd Electronic Combat Squadron
Oh boy. Here we go again. Time for some feedback from the boss. I guess its time to thicken up the skin and get ready for some feedback: some positive feedback.

Yes, that's right. I said positive feedback. I'm far from perfect, so I know my boss will usually point out the things I need to work on. That's fine with me. You see, a little "negative" feedback can be a "positive" thing, especially if you receive it with enough time and the right motivation to fix it.

When you look in any successful organization, you will always find a process that provides for continuous improvement. In the Air Force, feedback is one of those processes.

Let's face it: people don't want to hear what they are doing wrong or what they could do better - especially when it comes from their boss. I also doubt that there are many supervisors out there who enjoy being critical of those they supervise.

However, it is absolutely essential for a supervisor to call it like they see it, especially when it comes to verbal or written feedback. "Negative" feedback should not be looked at as negative because it should be used to highlight things that will make us better.

We all become supervisors eventually and one of the many responsibilities of a supervisor and a leader is to provide timely, actionable feedback to those we supervise. Probably the biggest disservice we can do to anyone we supervise is to not be honest about their job performance. A poor performance report should never be the first time the ratee hears how bad they were during the reporting period. A mid-term feedback is a perfect opportunity to inform someone of sub-par performance and, just as important, show them a clear path to success.

Now, don't get me wrong. If you are lucky enough to supervise someone who is doing all the right things then tell them that. You don't need to go out and find something wrong to document on every feedback.

As a leader however, you should never be afraid to tell someone the truth, especially when the goal is to make them better. You don't need to destroy someone's confidence either. All feedback should be constructive in nature with the goal to make someone better. That's how we build a better Air Force.

All right, I admit it: I much rather have all positive feedback when the time comes, but I'm also a realist who knows nobody is perfect. So I take the feedback for what it is: a positive opportunity to make adjustments based on objective observations of my supervisor and continuously strive to make myself and the Air Force better.

So be a good supervisor and heap praise on your Airmen. That positive feedback helps motivate and builds confidence. Just make sure you don't forget to give that other "positive" feedback for those that need it. It is just as important, and by identifying problems and corrections early you give your Airmen the best chance for future success.