The Reason Why Feedback (Even the Positive Kind) Can Backfire

By May 29, 2018For Talent

Feedback is often bittersweet. While it’s a great tool for helping us to grow and develop, sometimes constructive criticism can be hard to swallow.

Personally, I always focus on the negatives. While a feedback session may be filled with praise, you can guarantee that I will hone in on the one or two pain points that were mentioned in passing. Weeks later they will be the things that I remember, not the encouraging words.

It seems like I am not the only one who thinks this way.

Research conducted by Kluger found that feedback could actually hurt performance.

After analysing 607 experiments on evaluation effectiveness the study found that feedback caused performance to decline in 38% of cases.

It’s interesting to note that this happened on both positive and negative observations, mostly when the feedback threatened how a person saw themselves.

FeedbackThis is something I can definitely relate to. I like to think that I am creative, honest and a hard-worker. I particularly struggle with observations that jar with those points.

Another reason that feedback often backfires is because it signals that the boss is in charge and he/she is judgemental.

This can make employees feel stressed and defensive. Instead of taking the feedback on board they start to downplay the importance of the person giving the feedback or even the feedback itself.

How many times have you brushed off something your boss has said in an evaluation? Do you usually scoff at their advice or consider it?

How can we make feedback better?

The researchers suggest asking questions and listening instead of delivering blunt feedback.

Through an experiment, they found that good listeners made their respondents more self-aware and less anxious. They also reported higher clarity.

So, if you’re giving feedback at work put your phone away, maintain eye contact and give your colleague your full attention. They are much more likely to take what you have to say on board.

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Author Alice Murray

Alice Murray is a Content Creator at Jobbio with a passion for Employer Branding and Graduate Culture. She's a keen traveller and a self-proclaimed lazy runner.

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