About Travis

Travis is the CTO of MeritShare, focusing on the technical tasks to keep MeritShare's employee recognition communities humming for hundreds of companies. Aside from all-things-geek, Travis has over 10 years experience in people management - leading software teams to deliver great experiences for millions of users.

HR Geeks: Using Losada Lines To Drive High Performing Teams

Today’s popular post of the day on LinkedIn is an uplifting story about executives at LinkedIn thanking staff and staff returning the favor by thanking ‘upward’ – back to the executives.  One point in this post stood out as its something that comes up a lot when we’re discussing employee recognition programs with clients.

What is the right balance of positive praise vs. negative feedback to give an individual in your organization?

The article referred to a mysterious term called the “Losada Ratio“.  We did some digging to find out more…

It turns out, three key researches have done extensive research into the right balance of positive praise and negative or constructive feedback in organizations.  Marcial Losada, Emily Heaphy and Barbara Fredrickson have contributed greatly to the body of research around the positivity ratio around feedback.  Losada’s research found high performing teams have a P/N (Positive to Negative) feedback score of 5.6, medium performing teams are at 1.9 and low performing teams are at 0.36.  What do these numbers mean? Losada’s study indicates that for every one piece of negative feedback that is given to individuals in high performing teams, they receive 6 pieces of positive feedback.

As Mary Poppins famously sang: A spoonful of sugar makes the medicine go down.

Looking at the P/N ratios of high performing teams vs. low performing teams, you might naturally ask, is more positive feedback always better? The answer in Losada’s research is resoundingly No.   Fredrickson and Losada published an upper band of proper ratios as well. Once you get beyond a P/N ratio of 11.6, the quality of the relationship will languish, just like it can languish on the lower end of P/N ratios.  Therefore, Losada and Fredrickson state that there is a band of optimal ratios.

Keep positive-to-negative feedback ratios between 2.9 and 11.6 to allow your teams to flourish.

Too much positive praise and you reduce the impact of it; too little praise and you demotivate your employees.

It is worth noting, there is a lot of criticism around the Losada line hypothesis and way in which the research was conducted.  Key criticism implies the lower and upper levels of the range may be somewhat arbitrary and may be different for each individual.

Regardless of the exact P/N ratio that you use in managing your team for high performance, the research is directionally clear.  Make sure you delivery more positive feedback than negative feedback, and that ratio should likely be in the 3-to-1, 5-to-1 or even higher range depending on the individual that is receiving the feedback.

8 Tips to Thank a Colleague from the University of Arizona

University of Arizona LogoToday’s post brings some great tips from the University of Arizona’s Human Resources department on ideas for recognizing and appreciating your coworkers.

You can go visit the full post on their site, here are our favorites pulled from the list:


  1. Include “kudos” as an agenda item in staff meetings. Being consistent around recognition makes it a habit and will increase the frequency of recognition among your employees over time.
  2. Add a recognition “Thank You” board to the office. It can be a bulletin board in lunch room, a white board in the lobby or, for the techies, a big screen TV in a common area that shows coworker recognition posted on a wiki or shared page provided by IT.
  3. Ask your colleague’s opinion or ideas on a project or help with a new process. Asking for advice/expertise is a more subtle form of recognition; advice says “You’ve shown to be an expert in this subject, I’d be honored to have your opinion on this” and can go a long way to making your coworkers feel appreciated.
  4. Create a picture poster of a recent team or group win as a way to reinforce team accomplishments.
  5. Wash a coworker’s car in the parking lot at lunch (year-round in Arizona, seasonal in Seattle)
  6. Write several ‘thank you’ post it notes and decorate a coworker’s cube or a team’s work space
  7. Make a personal or team gift to the coworker’s favorite charity – this can be a very personal gesture for those who align themselves closely with a non-profit or charitable organization.
  8. Thank coworkers who thank others – teamwork is about mutual respect and appreciation and do your best to encourage and foster that in your coworkers as well.

Check out the full list over at the University of Arizona Human Resources website and get out there and thank some colleagues!  If you’re looking for an easy way to thank your colleagues online, give MeritShare a try – we make peer recognition simple, fun and social and help you create a community of positive peer recognition inside your organization.

HR Roundup: What Really Matters in your HR Organization

Top Areas of Focus for HR Departments

Top Areas of Focus for HR Departments


Today’s HR Roundup comes from Forbes’: The 3 Things Startup Founders Need To Know About HR, a guest post from TribeHR’s Joseph Fung.

The post is directed at startups, but it has a broader benefits to established HR organizations as well. The premise is simple – there are some things you can delegate to consultants or fumble your way through in a new or growing HR organization but there are some things that are core to your corporate health and you cannot afford to overlook them.

The three main recommendations from the article for a new HR Organization are:

1) Cultural Fit -

Hiring the right people can make or break your organization. Technical prowess or tactile expertise is great, but if your new employee doesn’t subscribe to your company culture, agree with your company values and understand your company mission, they’ll never perform to their full capacity and could quickly turn into a disengaged or disconnected employee. Culture fit should be a requirement. You can teach skills, its much harder to change behavior and character.

2) Transparency -

Make sure your employees have the information they need to be autonomous, act in the right manner to benefit the company and perform with an understanding of your company and little uncertainly in your company direction. Fung goes on to say “Be deliberate in the time you choose to share information. Information shared too early may cause employees to shift priorities too soon, and information shared too late may undermine employee confidence.”.

3) Provide a “Why” -

This is a great one. Fung states most companies are good at describing the ‘what’ (product) and the ‘who’ (customers) to employees, but they don’t describe the “Why”. Why is about your larger mission, your vision, your core values as a company. Get your employees to live and breath your values and understand that everything they do revolves around a common mission of everyone at the company and you can turn your average employees into exceptional ones.

Interested in more information about building a great company culture and leading in a world of shorter tenured employees, generational differences in employee motivation and social recruiting? Subscribe to our Manager 2.0 Newsletter where we’ll send you weekly updates on employment trends and what is most talked about on the web in the HR space.

HR Roundup: Praise Goes Far to Motivate Gen Y

Today’s HR Roundup post is pulled from the archives.  This post went live back in 2007, but it is still more relevant than ever in determining how to motivate generation Y and, more importantly, how to continue to think about recognition as a means to motivate your workforce in general.

The post comes from SHRM’s site and covers a study from Leadership IQ regarding a survey of over 11,000 respondents.  The key finding that the post describes is that of workers age 21-30, just 39% say they are recognized sufficiently by their manager and only 30% would recommend their workplace to their friends.  Mark Murphy, the head of Leadership IQ attributes this discontent with the level of recognition and praise they’re receiving at the office, saying that 6 out of 10 of the respondents are losing motivation because they aren’t receiving enough praise from their bosses.  The same questions posed to those between 61-70 found that 47% would recommend their workplace to a friend.  That considerable jump likely isn’t the workplace itself, its about the practices of management within those workplaces in how they manage and motivate different generations of workers.

The blog post goes on to say that it isn’t simply a lack of recognition in the workforce that is the problem, its that the expectation of recognition has changed generationally – the level of praise that was sufficient 10 years ago is insufficient with the new workforce.  Managers need to understand each generation is motivated by something different.  Luckily, for Gen Y workers, often times that is a simple “Thank You” or “Good Job” either privately or in front of their colleauges – and that fix is not only quick, but its free too!

Read the full post “Praise Goes Far To Motivate Gen Y” over at SHRM


HR Roundup: Moving from HR Metrics to HR Analytics

Today’s HR Roundup brings a great post from the HR Examiner on a topic that is near and  dear to our hearts at MeritShare.  The importance of data to help drive decisions in your HR organization.

The post calls out the traditional HR metrics as something that is important, but really not actionable – cost per hire, time to fill, turnover, etc.  Instead, the author argues looking at your HR data set like a marketer would – segment your data down by job title, merge it with your other known data about performance information, satisfaction survey results, participation levels, etc and try to draw actionable conclusions from the metrics.  Perhaps satisfaction scores are a bit low across your entire organization on average, but only one of your managers has a below-average satisfaction score – might be time to reach out to that person as they are an anomaly within their department and may need a new challenge or professional change to reinvigorate them.

We’re excited to see the next round of technology change the way HR operates.  Google is already working on it and MeritShare is doing our part to contribute to the cause with our recognition indexes, organization and employee level metrics and snapshots into who is most and least engaged in the recognition program at your organization.

Learn more about HR Metrics vs. HR Analytics in the full post from Cathy Missildine over on HR Examiner.

HR Roundup: HR For Startups – 5 Items Not To Overlook

Today’s HR Roundup post comes from the Lean HR Blog post titled “HR 101 for StartUps”.

The post points out that many startups are rightfully focused on building their business, growing their team and closing their next sale.  Having a robust Human Resource strategy for your startup is probably overkill, but the post points out 5 areas you should not miss – regardless of your size.

Lean HR says the 5 HR Items Not To Overlook for your Startup are:

  1. Discrimination
  2. Wage and Hour Laws
  3. Benefits
  4. Termination Policy
  5. Employee Handbook

Visit the Lean HR Blog to Read the Full Post