Positive Feedback

In this structured sharing activity, the participants generate relevant and useful ideas about positive feedback, based on their experience and expertise.


The participants independently think of advantages and disadvantages of frequently giving positive feedback. They repeatedly pair up with each other and share their opinions. They form teams and record one advantage and one disadvantage of giving positive feedback. Later, the teams exchange their pair of outcomes and invent a technique for increasing the advantages and decreasing the disadvantages.


To generate a list of advantages and disadvantages of giving frequent positive feedback and to come up with a strategy for increasing the advantages and decreasing the disadvantages.


Minimum: 4

Maximum: Any number

Best: 16 to 32


15 to 40 minutes

Supplies and Equipment

  • Index cards

  • Timer

  • Whistle

Room Setup

This activity is best conducted as a stand-up session. Leave plenty of space for the participants to move around and work in pairs.


Announce the paradox. Get everyone’s attention and make this proclamation: “People who receive frequent positive feedback tend to become motivated and more productive.” Immediately follow up with this contradiction: “People who receive frequent positive feedback tend to become complacent and less productive.” Invite the participants to reflect on these statements and think of both sides of the dilemma related to frequent positive feedback.

Form two subgroups. Ask the participants to count by twos. Tell each participant to remember whether he or she is a one or two. Tell all participants to stay in their seats for now.

Reflect on the topic. Ask the participants with number 1 to write a list of advantages of giving frequent positive feedback. Ask the participants with number 2 to write a list of disadvantages. Ask each participant to work independently, setting aside personal preferences related to positive feedback. Pause for about 2 minutes.

Play Sample

At a recent workshop, Mark, one of the participants with Number 1, came up with these advantages:

  1. Frequent positive feedback enhances the self-esteem of the receiver.

  2. Positive feedback captivates employees’ attention because they usually anticipate negative feedback and criticism.

  3. Positive feedback makes the employees feel competent.

  4. Positive feedback increases the level of happiness in the workplace.

  5. Positive feedback is contagious. People who receive it tend to give it to others.

In the same session, Alex was a Number 2. Here are the disadvantages that he came up with:

  1. Frequent positive feedback sounds insincere and phony.

  2. Positive feedback does not give suggestions for improving the employee’s job performance.

  3. Positive feedback makes the receiver wonder if you are manipulating him or her.

  4. People stumble when they give positive feedback because they do not have enough experience in delivering it.

  5. Positive feedback makes people anticipate a negative comment.

  6. Positive feedback makes shy people feel embarrassed.

Pair and share. Ask each participant to stand up, walk around, and find someone with the other number. Ask these two participants to take turns to share the advantages and disadvantages they thought of earlier. Discourage the participants from debating with each other. Instead, ask the participants to explore the paradox with an open mind by respectfully listening to the other. When done, ask the participants to find new partners and continue the sharing activity.

Form teams. After the participants have interacted with five or six different partners, blow a whistle to get everyone’s attention. Ask the participants to organize themselves into teams of four to six members.

Share the information. Ask the members of each team to exchange different advantages and disadvantages of giving frequent positive feedback based on their earlier conversations.

Record one advantage and one disadvantage. Distribute a blank index card to each team. Ask the team members to jointly select an important advantage and an important disadvantage and write them on the same side of the index card.

Exchange the cards. Ask each team to give the card (with the advantage and disadvantage) to the next team. (Ask the last team to give its card to the first team.) Tell the teams to study the two items written on the card.
Invent an optimal approach. Ask each team to come up with a creative idea for increasing the advantage and reducing the disadvantage listed on the card. Invite the teams to briefly write down this idea on the back of the card.

Play Sample

Mark’s team received a card that contained these two statements:

  • Frequent positive feedback enhances the self-esteem of the receiver.

  • Frequent positive feedback makes the receiver feel overconfident and stop trying to do better.

This is the recommendation that Mark’s team came up with

Give objective and factual feedback, specifying what behaviors should be maintained and what behaviors should be improved.

Read the optimum approach. After a suitable pause, ask each team to read its recommendation. Ask the other teams to listen to the recommendation and decide whether it would work with the advantage and disadvantage listed on their cards also.

Conclude the activity. Thank the participants for their inputs. Encourage them to note down one or more of the strategies and apply them in their workplace.