You Should Give Negative Feedback

Something that almost goes without saying, no one likes receiving critical feedback. We are social creatures, and whether we realize it or not, we crave acceptance from our peer groups. But giving negative feedback is almost as hard as hearing it. To get the most out of your team, you should give negative feedback.

As hard as it is to hear, critical feedback delivered with good intentions should be considered a positive. Afterall, it means your boss wants you to improve and is taking the time to share something that is difficult with you. It it humbling, of course. Will it help you grow, absolutely.

As an executive, you’re in a position where you’re likely giving more feedback than ever. And it’s important you do so. The initiatives you’re leading are critical to the company’s success. If you aren’t giving feedback on a regular basis, you need to ask yourself why. Relatedly, if you’re only giving positive feedback, you could be creating unintended consequences without realizing it. Critical feedback is important for the success of the company.

According to research from the University of Chicago Booth School of Business, You Can Handle the Truth: Mispredicting the Consequences of Honest Communication, so many managers dread sharing negative comments, they tend to simply avoid it completely. They assume that sharing their honest assessment will end up having negative consequences.

According to assistant Professor Emma Levine, “We’re often reluctant to have completely honest conversations with others. We think offering critical feedback or opening up about our secrets will be uncomfortable for both us and the people with whom we are talking.”

“Taken together, these findings suggest that individuals’ avoidance of honesty may be a mistake,” the researchers write. “By avoiding honesty, individuals miss out on opportunities that they appreciate in the long-run, and that they would want to repeat.” The study found noted that the people providing the feedback found the conversation to be more enjoyable than they had anticipated. Those receiving the feedback responded more positively than expected. The fear of a negative reaction was overblown.

Confirming this finding, Zegner/Folkman conducted a survey that  57% of respondents preferred receiving negative feedback. “When asked what was most helpful in their career, fully 72% said they thought their performance would improve if their managers would provide corrective feedback.”

The study also points out the key factor to delivering critical feedback, how you do it, “92% of the respondents agreed with the assertion, “Negative (redirecting) feedback, if delivered appropriately, is effective at improving performance.” In this regard we find it telling that the people who find it difficult and stressful to deliver negative feedback also were significantly less willing to receive it themselves.  On the other hand, those who rated their managers as highly effective at providing them with honest, straightforward feedback tended to score significantly higher on their preference for receiving corrective feedback.””

Once again, this last finding is backed up by another survey. According to the 2018 Predictive Index People Management Survey, good managers were cited as providing the right amount of feedback 77% of the time. Only 2% of good managers didn’t give any feedback. Bad managers on the other had provided too little feedback 81% of the time, and only 5% were said to give the right amount of feedback.

For critical feedback to be received, it must be from a place of trust and good intention. If handled in this way, your top team members will embrace and look for this type of feedback. Seeking critical feedback indicates that the person wants to improve, cares about their career, and is looking to move forward with new skills. Additionally, those seeking critical feedback tend to have more confidence in themselves and their work.

To realize the benefits of delivering or receiving negative feedback, it has to be part of the culture. At Sheer Velocity, we talk about culture a lot. There’s a reason for that, it is arguably the most important aspect of a successful executive. Creating a culture that values honest, transparent communication (good or bad) with the intent of performance improvement while also demonstrating respect and support, will result in an organization with high job satisfaction, lower turnover, and improved performance.

To learn more about giving feedback that drives results or creating a strong company culture in general, send us a note