Communication: Why We Shouldn’t Say ‘Good Work’: A Management Myth Debunked
Communication: Why We Shouldn’t Say ‘Good Work’: A Management Myth Debunked
Post written by Paragon Interiors   June 13, 2018

I think we have all had the experience where we have spent a lot of time and effort producing a piece of work that we are really proud of… Comes time to present the concept, proposal or solution to our Manager/s and their response is ‘good work, well done’…

There is something as inherently and wholly unsatisfying about a ‘good work’ comment as Milo cereal is after a craving for rich chocolate cake. Good work says ‘great effort but I really don’t care about the detail’. Good work says ‘this is my expectation of you, I wouldn’t expect anything less’. Good work expresses a vague acknowledgement of your effort but does not give you the information that you need to grow and develop.

In the past, one could expect to wait an entire year before hearing any valuable feedback about how they are doing on the work front in an annual performance review. Nowadays, however, with rapid changes in the world of work and the need for quick, effective decision-making, employees need to be developed and empowered to solve problems. The resultant increase in collaborative work, has created an environment that calls for clear and regular feedback. And in order for growth to really take place, there is a need for a balance of both positive and negative feedback.

So, from a Management perspective, how do we provide feedback in a constructive, meaningful way so as to ensure that we both challenge and motivate members of our organisations (Perrin, n.d.; Boston University, n.d.):

  • Firstly, examine your reasons for providing the individual with feedback – is the objective to improve the person’s performance going forward or to make them feel guilty about shoddy work? Providing feedback whilst you are hangry (hungry and angry) is not a good idea! Rather take a step back, gather your thoughts, have a bite to eat and move on to the next tip…

  • Prepare for your discussion – take some time to think about and jot down what you would like to say (writing your feedback down will also help you to collate info and form a holistic picture of a person’s performance for more formal reviews later down the line).

  • Be descriptive rather than accusatory or judgemental – be specific about the behaviours and effort that you are providing comment on. Starting off your sentences with ‘don’t’, ‘stop’ and (fill in an expletive) is never a good idea. Instead of saying, ‘your communication skills are poor’, rather say ‘I have noticed that when a client addresses a question around our turnaround time, you tend to avoid answering by averting your gaze and changing the subject. This may be perceived as a lack of confidence in our processes. In future, rather say that the turnaround time depends on the volume of work required.’

  • Think behaviour, not person – attacking the person’s character is both unethical and counter-productive – leaving the individual feeling demotivated and disengaged. Instead of saying ‘you are incredibly lazy’, rather say ‘Dean, I am concerned that you did not send out the client report on time. Can you let me know why that happened? And what you can do to prevent this going forward?’.

  • Use the apple, onion, apple approach – use a balance of both positive and negative feedback by mentioning something good about the person’s performance, something that they need to work on and then ending off with a positive statement again. Packaging feedback like this will prevent an individual from immediately writing off solely negative comments as being unkind and solely positive comments as being ‘nice’ but unhelpful. Notice that we refer to an apple, an onion and another apple and do not use the plural form ‘apples, onions and apples’. Be careful not to provide the person with too much information at one time, that they might find overwhelming and difficult to apply.

  • Check for understanding – in the process of providing constructive feedback we often neglect the fact that the conversation should be two-way. Asking the person for a response and checking that they have understood the feedback that you have given them will help them to verbalise and therefore, process what you have said. This also prevents any misunderstandings or confusion.

Keeping the above in mind, let’s agree to ditch the ‘good work’ comment and commit to providing detailed feedback that celebrates successes, guides, directs and supports employee’s in reaching their full potential.


Boston University, (n.d.). Giving Constructive Feedback. Retrieved from

Perrin, O. (n.d.). 7 Examples of Constructive Feedback for Managers. Retrieved from