Does negative feedback really work?

Does negative feedback really work?

Peer reviews are regarded as an important form of giving feedback, as colleagues know your day-to-day better than most managers. However, according to a recent study, negative appraisal from colleagues rarely leads to improvement. So, is negative feedback well worth the fuss at all? Does it even work in real life?

Negative feedback is intended to drive the worker’s improvement and growth. Actually, the naked truth is a bit different: when people receive disconfirming feedback from a colleague, they rather move away from the coworker who had given it, and look for other social networks.

It seems that although negative feedback is supposed to help, it is rather considered as a threat. When it comes to receiving a disconfirming feedback, the most often reactions are anger, blame, denial, just to mention a few… As the feedback is perceived as a psychological attack, and the sustainability of the positive view of one’s self is threatened, the person thrives to find social connections that help them maintain that positive view. If they don’t have them, they start to look for a new social network immediately.

The psychological background

What happens during a performance appraisal? Light is shined on the things we cannot see about ourselves. When we receive disconfirming feedback, we cannot maintain the positive view of ourselves any more. In theory, it should motivate us to improve on that field where we are not that good. But in fact, it just drives us go find people who will not shine that light on these things.  

What’s next, then?

The key is to give the feedback in the context of a broader, preferably positive and confirming relationship. We are human. We need to know that we are valued and that our contributions are generally positive. This way, workers should be given broader affirmations about their inherent goodness and value. Employees need a validation of whom they are, they need to feel that they are valuable to the organization, and they need to improve.

Your experiences

Did you bump into the same difficulties within your team? How does negative coworker feedback work in your corporation? What works and what does not? Please share with us your experiences and pro tips. We are listening eagerly.


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