Your direct report, Alex, has done a menial task you delegated to them, and also took it a step further. Their peers positively openly approve of this behaviour.
What would you do in this situation?
Thank you for your own contributions this week which made up 10% of the answers. We learned from them and many link to the explanations for the situation so we will weave them in
We were glad to see no one chose Option A - to not give any positive feedback. An article in HBR from 2017 “Why Do So Many Managers Avoid Giving Praise?” says: “Our findings suggest that if you want to be seen as a good feedback-giver, you should proactively develop the skill of giving praise as well as criticism.”
63% of us chose Option B - to acknowledge that you have noticed the extra step by publicly complimenting Alex. Assuming Alex did not have to follow strict guidelines, or they followed them and did it better, it is important to positively reinforce this action. Positive reinforcement gives Alex the impression that improvement and initiative are appreciated in your team. Giving this feedback immediately fosters a continuous feedback culture. When praise is received closer to the action its impact is much higher. Finally, making positive reinforcement and continuous feedback a habit you are setting yourself up for an easier time when you might have to give constructive feedback in the future.
A great suggestion from the community related to this this week was that, especially at the moment, positivity is needed so do not restrict its use.
The second most popular option, with 25%, was D - to wait until your next 1:1 to discuss this with Alex along with any other feedback between now and then.
This is very similar to Option B, but by deferring the feedback for a week, your feedback will not have such powerful positive reinforcement as when given immediately. It is more likely to be lost among any other positive or negative feedback given during 1:1.
A fantastic point made by a member of the community this week was to match the level of praise to the size of the task: Being that it was a menial task completion with a bit of extra work, a small acknowledgement of appreciation I feel would match the level of effort while still showing appreciation and value.
Only 2% of us chose C - tell Alex in your next 1:1 that you appreciate their effort, but it would be good if next time they ask if the next step was necessary.
If you did not want Alex to take the next step, you should have told them. Acknowledge your error and repeat that their intent is appreciated.
A few members of the community added that we must consider the impact of Alex taking the further step: If the next step was positive, then praise immediately but if steps on toes or was unhelpful then explain why and how they could avoid this situation again/how to correct any actions that were unhelpful.
Here are a few additional points from the community that we wanted to share: