Is "Good Job" Really Good?

Evelyn Tian
How often do you say Good Job? Or Great? Or Fantastic? Or Good Work? How often do you hear these around you? I am sure none of the phrases are new to you.

The phrase "Good job” and its equivalents are ubiquitous in our daily interactions, especially when offering praise or encouragement. 

Let’s peel off the layers behind "Good job" together. 
Is 'Good Job' Actually Good?  

How often do you find yourself saying 'Good Job'? Or perhaps 'Great'? 'Fantastic'? 'Good Work'? Chances are, you're surrounded by these phrases daily, and none of them are strangers to your vocabulary.

The phrase "Good job” and its equivalents are ubiquitous in our daily interactions, especially when offering praise or encouragement. 
But does this succinct feedback carry the intended weight and impact? Is it genuinely effective? Let's delve deeper into the layers behind "Good Job".

The Immediate Impact of "Good Job"

We all strive to be positive, or at least, many of us do. You might even recall an earlier blog I wrote, "I just read your article about positive emotions." Yes, fostering positivity is essential, and indeed, it would be wonderful to amplify it in our lives.  
Saying "Good job" or "Lovely!" appears to tick all the right boxes. It's positive, brief, upbeat, and straightforward. For children, it can momentarily boost confidence or instill a sense of pride. In the workplace, it serves as a quick acknowledgment of a completed task or overcome challenge.  
Yet, the very simplicity that renders "Good job" so accessible is also its greatest limitation.  

The Downsides of "Good Job" and General Praises
While intended to be positive and motivating, the overuse and vagueness of 'Good job' and similar praises can lead to several challenges: 
- Vagueness: General praises fail to provide specific feedback on accomplishments, making it hard for the recipient to understand precisely what they did well.  
- Missed Learning Opportunities: Specific feedback is vital for growth and learning. Without it, we miss the chance to reinforce positive behaviors or outcomes.  
- Lack of Personal Connection: General feedback can come across as impersonal, not truly recognizing or valuing the individual's effort.  
- Potential for Misinterpretation: Without clear specifics, praises can be confusing or misinterpreted, a problem especially in professional settings where clear communication is crucial.  
** For those parenting young children, Alfie Kohn’s 2001 article, "Five Reasons to Stop Saying 'Good Job!'," offers valuable insights into nurturing development from an early age. 
Opting for a quick "good job" is easy, but taking the extra step to make your praise meaningful can have a lasting impact.  

What’s the Alternative? - A Simple yet Powerful Tip

Enhancing our "Good Job" to be more specific can affirm character, effort, behavior, and skills more effectively. 

This doesn't require lengthy conversations. We can still keep it concise, but make it more valuable and powerful:
- "Wow, you really dedicated yourself to the regression test automation. Thank you."
- "I'm impressed by how thoroughly you prepared for our retrospective session.
- "You've exceeded my expectations in collaborating with the new stakeholder.
- "Your presentation on product strategy was insightful, especially your handling of the questions."  

As you are reading, you might want to say "Good blog" to me. Now let's shift from a simple "Good blog" to practicing more tips above into real situations.

So... what might that look like?  

- "Your work related examples made the blog relatable."  
- "Thank you for sharing your insights on the importance of specific feedback."  
- "Highlighting the drawbacks of '"Good Job" was enlightening." 
- "Learning practical tips for home and work was very useful. Truly appreciated."  
- "Your real-world examples made the blog relatable. I'll definitely try to implement these practices."  
- ....


While "Good job" isn't fundamentally flawed, its power and effectiveness is limited by its generality.

By embracing a more detailed approach to praise and feedback, we can provide more meaningful encouragement that not only acknowledges but also inspires and guides.

In doing so, we foster environments—be it at home, school, or work—where recognition is deeply felt and genuinely motivating, laying the groundwork for continuous growth and success.
Let the practice begin today...

Learn more about how to have purposeful conversations

About me - the Author

Before we delve deeper, if you've recently stumbled upon my blog and find yourself wondering, "Who is she?" "Why should I be reading her blogs?", check out this 90 seconds video or read below.
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  • I hold the designation of Certified Agile Coach (CAC) with the Scrum Alliance, the sole member-driven nonprofit certifying body in the agile space since 2001. Additionally, I am honored to have been recognized as both a Certified Team Coach and Certified Enterprise Coach with the Scrum Alliance for over a decade.
  • Since 2011, I've been privileged to mentor Agile Coaches across the globe, guiding passionate practitioners from 80 countries (as of Nov. 2023) in their professional journeys. Among my mentees are Certified Agile Coaches, Certified Scrum Trainers (CST), Accredited Kanban Trainers, and individuals who share their expertise at conferences worldwide.
  • Furthermore, I hold the Professional Certified Coach (PCC) credential from the International Coaching Federation (ICF) and am trained as a professional coach supervisor. I specialize in providing coaching supervision for professional coaches to support their ongoing development.
  • As the co-founder of the Enterprise Coaching Institute, an ICF accredited training provider, I am committed to offering coaching-based leadership training. Our aim is to empower leaders to excel by equipping them with professional coaching skills and to foster the growth of professional coaches in the industry.

I speak and keynote at international conferences since 2011 about organization transformation, Agile, leadership, agile coaching, and professional coaching.
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