Be Thankful for Feedback: Both the Positive & Constructive

As we approach the end of the year, many companies will be conducting annual reviews in the weeks ahead. While annual reviews are a source of anxiety for many employees—the Growth Divide survey found that 54% of employees report feeling anxious or stressed during their performance review period—they are also a key time for feedback, and that’s something everyone should be thankful for!

SEE ALSO: Reinventing Performance Management: Customer Stories

To put it in perspective, let’s examine some stats regarding feedback. A Harvard Business Review survey asked office professionals if they would prefer praise/recognition or corrective feedback. More respondents (57%) said they prefer corrective feedback rather than praise/recognition (43%). And when it comes to career growth, 72% of respondents said they believed their performance would improve if their managers would provide corrective feedback.

Gallup highlights the value of using feedback to further develop an employee’s strengths. Employees who receive strengths-based development see an increase in engagement by as much as 23%. And employees who received strengths feedback had 14.9% lower turnover rates than employees who received no feedback. When managers receive strengths feedback from employees and peers, their teams show 12.5% greater productivity and 8.9% greater profitability than managers who don’t receive strengths feedback.

Employees who received strengths feedback had 14.9% lower turnover rates. Click To Tweet

Why is this? The work of psychologist Carol Dweck provides insight into how feedback affects our mindset. Dweck makes the distinction between a fixed mindset and a growth mindset. A fixed mindset essentially believes that traits/talents/skills are inherent, while a growth mindset believes that people are capable of change and that these traits/talents/skills can be developed.

Dweck’s research shows that the type of feedback we receive can dramatically alter our mindset. By focusing on a person’s efforts—process praise—rather than their characteristics—generic praise—teachers/managers/coaches can encourage a growth mindset. Rather than offering generic praise (or feedback) such as, “You’re good at making presentations”, managers should focus on the behavior that allows for success. Process praise could look like, “You worked hard on that presentation” or “You found great data points to strengthen that presentation.”

It’s not about whether feedback is positive or negative, it’s about how that feedback is delivered. Click To Tweet

Researcher Dr. Julia Lee and her colleagues summed it up well in a psychology study at Harvard University: “By activating people’s best self-concepts and highlighting examples of them making extraordinary contributions, we found positive changes in their physiology, creative problem solving, performance under pressure, and social relationships…”

So, it’s not about whether feedback is positive or negative, it’s about how that feedback is delivered. Managers should strive to deliver feedback in a way that develops confidence and encourages a growth mindset. After all, 92% of office professionals in that Harvard survey agreed that “negative (redirecting) feedback, if delivered appropriately, is effective at improving performance.”

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Hopefully, organizations will keep this in mind when providing feedback during annual reviews and throughout the year ahead.

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