September 11, 2017
In the recent article “Surprising Research Says Negative Feedback Is Effective (and We Might Even Prefer It),” author Joe Hirsch cites research by the leadership firm Zenger Folkman that showed:
“By roughly a three-to-one margin, [employees] indicated that getting suggestions for improvement and being alerted to mistakes did more to raise their performance than positive feedback and praise. When asked to name something that could help advance their careers, fully 72% thought their performance would improve with more frequent and authentic appraisals from managers—even if that meant swallowing difficult news along the way.”
Because of the potential downside of poorly delivered negative feedback, managers contemplating this and other research cited in the article would be wise to recognize that not all negative feedback is equal or productive.
The takeaway message shouldn’t be that you can amp up the negative feedback and watch your employees grow and flourish.
The takeaway from the article should be this: You should make giving feedback—including negative feedback—a part of everyday work life. And, you need to know how to give negative feedback in a way that generates positive results—not disengagement, resentment, and confusion.
Negative feedback is helpful when it meets these criteria:
Employees are likely to see negative feedback as valuable, constructive information they can use to perform at their best and grow professionally—if it’s done skillfully. Delivering negative feedback effectively isn’t merely a skills issue, though. It’s also a relationship issue. While employees might value negative feedback from a manager they respect who doesn’t display much caring and concern, managers who do show they care about employees will enjoy even greater receptivity to their feedback. Thus, the wise manager will focus on cultivating both their skills and their relationships with employees.