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Ask not “what’s wrong” but “what’s strong”

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You may be talking to your  staff about their performance at work, but if you are anything like 68% of bosses in the United States, you will structure the conversation wrongly.

That was what a new report by psychology expert Michelle McQuaid and The VIA Institute on Character warned, after polling bosses and employees about what to include in an effective appraisal.

According to the study, having a meaningful discussion with employees about their strengths – the things they are good at and enjoy doing – will motivate and engage them more than highlighting their flaws.

Almost eight out of 10 (78%) of employees felt like they were making a difference and being appreciated when managers focused on their strengths over their weaknesses.

In addition, the employees who believed their managers could name their strengths were 71% more likely to feel engaged and energised by their work.

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However, the survey highlighted only 34% of supervisors can name the strengths of their employees and only 32% of supervisors are having meaningful discussions with their employees about their strengths.

“This survey shows that there is an important trend occurring in the American workplace that can be characterised as moving from what’s wrong to what’s strong,” Neal H. Mayerson, VIA Institute on Character’s chairman, said.

“In increasing numbers, employees and managers are recognising the importance of building upon their strengths as an important pathway to better performance.”

Highlighting the strengths of staff rather than weaknesses was also reported as integral as almost two-thirds (64%) of employees believed they would be more successful by building on their strengths rather than fixing their weaknesses.

“Employees denied the opportunity to know and develop their strengths are more likely to be the ones struggling to get out of bed in the morning,” McQuaid said.

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