The Positives of Negative Feedback

5 months ago by Sophie Stones

The Positives of Negative Feedback


We all like to think we’re doing a good job and hearing the opposite can sting a little, however the perception that nobody wants to hear any negative feedback at all could be false. In 2014, the Harvard Business Review published a study by Jack Zenger and Joseph Folkman, shocking everyone with the results, which claimed 57% of employees actually prefer corrective feedback to praise.

The study which stated that “no one likes to give negative feedback, but everyone wants to hear it”, suggested that it’s actually Managers who need to get over their aversion to negative feedback and not their employees. In fact, 72% think their performance would improve if their Managers summoned the confidence to provide corrective feedback.

When it comes down to the numbers, they actually back up the theory. A University of California study recently discovered that teams that debate and critique each other’s ideas produce an average of 25% more ideas than those that do not. The need to please appears to be a great motivator in this instance, however the key is to ensure that feedback isn’t all negative.

“An employee who is able to take negative feedback and act on it will likely be more valuable than an employee who never takes risks in the first place.”- Rebecca Thorman, Career Writer

Peppering the constructive criticism with compliments can ensure none of us feel like critique is a personal attack, whilst ensuring the comments actually stick. On its own praise rarely makes a difference to our performance, except to give a reward for hard work. However, it is interesting to note that those who prefer negative feedback are in the top percentile for confidence, so giving a little boost every now and then could be beneficial for when standards drop.

Whether it’s negative, positive or a little bit of both, feedback is crucial when it comes to doing a good job. The best way to damage engagement is to give no feedback at all.