Most employees want to know how they are doing. As a manager, you need them to know how they are doing. When they are doing their job well, they want their manager to acknowledge their contribution. When they are not doing their job well, most people are open to corrective feedback delivered with tact and professionalism.
Some feedback is intended to reward or praise optimal behavior with the hope of compelling one to replicate that behavior. You need to catch employees doing things well and immediately offer “positive” feedback. It is important to draw a very clear link between the behavior and the reward, being as specific as possible.
Other feedback is intended to redirect sub-optimal behavior and offer positive encouragement to change. Delivering “negative” feedback is difficult, but you owe it to your employee to help them get better. While providing your feedback, be sure to re-clarify your expectations and model the skill or behavior. Don’t just recognize excellence, recognize improvement as well. If you don’t give them credit for trying, they may stop trying.
Perhaps the worst condition of all is the absence of feedback. If you ignore poor performance and fail to provide sufficient feedback, the poor performance will be replicated. If you fail to capitalize on opportunities to reinforce optimal behavior, you risk extinguishing their motivation.